Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is an overlooked technology that can significantly improve business efficiency. SAP users usually go through several rote, time-consuming processes that take up a significant portion of their time. RPA can help with automating those processes, freeing up time for users to spend on other details. RPA is useful in several cases, but to determine whether a task can be automated, users should address the following questions:
- How routine is the job? If the task can be performed after the system throws specific events, then we can check this off.
- How time-consuming is the mission? If the job doesn’t take up a significant amount of time to get done, then it might not be worth it investing time in automating it.
- Are there Standard Inputs that the task requires? If the job needs more thinking to provide inputs and doesn’t use a canned set of prompts, then automating it may be difficult.
- Does the Task need to be adapted each run? If adaptations need to happen between runs, then automation becomes more complex and might not be worth the time investment.
- Is it economically feasible? If the volume of transactions being dealt with is significant, then the cost of implementing the automation might be considered negligible.
If the task fits all of the above criteria, then it’s the right candidate for automation.
Utilizing RPA the Right Way
There are several cases where RPA is an ideal solution to spending undue time on a task. These five scenarios demonstrate how RPA can improve the efficiency of a business by applying it to a particular department.
1. Evaluation of Suppliers
To determine the best value a company gets for its money, keeping track of vendors and evaluating them is a critical part of the process of choosing the right vendors for the job. Vendor evaluation usually has a handful of criteria that need to be explored and compared, such as:
- Price of goods
- Delivery time
- Verification of invoices
- Price changes over time
- Quality of products
- Receipt for goods
The standard workflow for developing an evaluation system for suppliers would require the user to run reports that draw information directly from the SAP system. Data can then be exported to spreadsheets, which allow for easy comparison between suppliers. RPA can be instrumental in offering a quicker and more efficient way of producing these spreadsheets.
2. Monitoring Workflows
Workflows in SAP tend to be complicated. Application implementations in SAP all have approval workflows, and these differ from company to company. Because multiple approvals happen in each workflow each day, there may be a tendency for workflow breakdowns to occur. Sometimes, a workflow breakdown could stall a business-critical application from being approved. To deal with these issues, workflow consultants need to monitor the system, implementing restarts where necessary so that the workflow can resume its original path. An RPA could be applied as an observer performing routine restarts of the workflow as required and informing a consultant if the restarts were unsuccessful multiple times. This is especially useful
3. Monitoring of Interfaces
Across any SAP application, there are several SAP and non-SAP interfaces. For example, in p2p lending, a resource planner could implement a SAP interface for the lender and a non-SAP for the borrower. This is one of the advantages of p2p lending and, While these usually interact well with each other, there are cases where interface conflicts occur. If this happens, the interfaces don’t usually inform the clients that a problem occurred and it takes a bit of digging by support staff to get an idea of what happened. The system is reactive and only applies after an error is detected. A more proactive system can be implemented using RPA that scans interfaces continually to identify and flag suspicious behavior automatically. If an interface fails, the user can inform support staff directly, and they can pinpoint the problem immediately leading to better response time and more uptime for the system.
4. Checking Data Consistency
Live production environments rely on data being right for them to function. If data inconsistency exists, it could shut down the entire system, or ensure that it never starts. In most practical cases, diagnostics would require a user to run multiple modules and export the results to database sheets which can then be perused. RPA programs can provide constant data consistency verification so that in the event of a data consistency error, staff would have an idea of where that error occurred and be able to rectify it immediately.
5. Following Up on Purchase Orders
Most businesses send out purchase orders to clients and then set follow up reminders. The follow-up procedure ensures that the client receives the request and that the vendor accepted and confirmed the order. Usually, checks are done to ensure that purchase order follow-up is done on each order so that none are lost in the clutter. An RPA system could be used to generate reports on all open purchase orders. From there, purchasing departments can get a feel for what purchase orders need to be followed up external to the SAP system, and what outstanding orders remain open.