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Author's profile photo Sebastian Schroetel

Empowering everyone to build and deploy business applications and process automation in the Intelligent Enterprise

In our Community Call, Max Wessel, SAP’s Chief Innovation Officer, and I shared our vision of the personal, flexible, and open future of enterprise software—a future where any business user can build, run and integrate business applications and process automations using no-code/low-code tooling. I’d like to revisit some takeaways from the conversation and answer a few more of the questions that came in from the audience.

Today’s customer challenges

Development and operations teams today are under high pressure to develop applications the business needs to make its workforce productive, its partners connected to the resources they need, and to deliver the apps to the marketplace that will make it competitive. As the variety of business processes increases, many IT departments struggle to keep up. To allocate the limited resources most efficiently, IT departments focus on delivering value at scale by automating and optimizing business-critical core processes. As a result, many specialized processes run in shadow IT, in self-built email and Excel routines that are not automated, not integrated and fall beyond the scope of IT’s governance. Low-code/no-code tools help businesses tame this long tail of IT backlogs by empowering business users to quickly and robustly create customizable solutions with clicks, not code. ​


Shaping the future of enterprise software

Today’s business users expect enterprise software to meet their individual needs, to adapt to changing business models and processes, to be robust and interconnected yet also secure. Enterprise software must make things easier, cheaper, and faster for users to get true value out of their process automation. Embedding low-code/no-code tooling into our solutions is the first step of making this vision a reality and providing users with a new level of flexibility. With software design that embraces modularity, flexible solutions enable customers to configure and consume software to meet the specific needs of their users and deliver custom experiences. Gartner forecasts that more than 65 percent of all app development functions will be built by low code (including no code) programming by 2024. In addition, about 66 percent of large corporations will utilize a minimum of four low code tools and platforms.

And we see this vision being realized already at SAP across the Business Technology Platform, for example with SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation (RPA) for core process automation and Ruum by SAP to tame the long tail of not yet automated business processes. Ruum can be integrated with SAP Cloud Platform Workflow Management (formerly known as SAP Intelligent Business Process Management), where the extensions of the SAP core live. This allows customers to automate the entire process landscape – from core, to extension of core, to long tail and departmental.

Combine intelligent technologies for end-to-end automation

According to Gartner, hyperautomation and the democratization of technology are among the Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020. At SAP, we listen to our customers who demand easy-to-use tools to develop business apps and automate their business processes. By opening our current tools to everyone in the enterprise, we extend our reach beyond software developers, empowering business users with no coding skills, but functional expertise and technical acumen to become citizen developers and build their own automations.

To support this mission and help automate tasks in end-to-end business processes, SAP Intelligent RPA has been offering a new bot building and execution experience in beta since June 2020. A new, simplified cloud-based design studio enables business users to create and deploy software bots as digital assistants or digital workers that automate repetitive tasks through a low-code approach. The low-code tooling speeds up implementation time and allows a quick return of value to customers. More than 100 prebuilt bots are available off-the-shelf from the SAP Intelligent RPA store to help automate tasks in end-to-end business processes such as “invoice to cash” in finance, “procure to invoice” in procurement, and “hire to pay” in human resources.

By embedding intelligent capabilities such as machine learning to handle unstructured data or SAP Conversational AI based on natural language processing for chatbot interaction, SAP Intelligent RPA bots can help achieve a new level of operational process excellence. Let’s take the example of creating a chatbot: SAP Conversational AI and SAP Intelligent RPA complement each other. Conversational AI allows the user to communicate with an IT system in natural language, while Intelligent RPA executes the command. The integration between SAP Intelligent RPA and SAP Conversational AI is fully bi-directional: the chatbot asks for information from the user, triggers the RPA bot to fetch the needed information from the IT system, for instance an SAP ERP, and then refers back to the chatbot to provide a natural language answer to the user.

Accelerating process automation through an open ecosystem

When considering how to make things easier for our customers to leverage the full potential of process automation, we benefit from our broad partner ecosystem. While we concentrate on choice and innovation in areas where SAP has unique capabilities, we partner elsewhere for other technologies.

A good example is optical character recognition (OCR) capabilities to extract data from unstructured documents such as PDF files sent by email to feed into an SAP application. SAP collaborates with technology partners such as ABBYY and OpenText to provide customers with the best possible solution for their individual automation requirements. Alternatively, customers can deploy SAP’s own SAP Document Information Extraction solution. By embracing an open ecosystem externally and internally through cross-functional teams, organizational agility increases. To prevent a customer’s automation efforts from outpacing its governance policies, it’s particularly important to have strong guidelines in place.

Robust governance is essential

When businesses are moving fast and teams are given the autonomy to excel, robust governance is essential for seamless agility. Democratizing the development process with low-code/no-code tooling changes the relationship between IT departments and the business. While IT now focuses more on serving and supporting the digital transformation process instead of delivering ready-to-use solutions themselves, the responsibility of governance and IT security remains. It’s not the purpose of low-code/no-code technology to have business users operate in an uncontrolled environment. IT is still in charge of what happens throughout the entire technology ecosystem — who is allowed access, where business users are allowed access, what they are allowed to do there, what tools they are allowed to use. For no-code/ low-code tooling to be successful, built-in preventative safety mechanisms allow agility and flexibility for business users to do the right things, but hard to do the wrong things.

Emancipate from IT

At a time where working from home is the new norm, and IT systems are supporting employees remotely, applications built with minimal or no programming capabilities have the potential to emancipate some amount of automation and configuration from IT. As a result, we can open the creative pursuit of an IT organization to tackle the more complex problems that can unlock enormous value for the intelligent enterprise.


Learn more about SAP Intelligent RPA


Learn more about Ruum by SAP


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      Author's profile photo Paul PINARD
      Paul PINARD

      Great article Sebastian Schroetel, and thank you for mentioning SAP Conversational AI!

      Would you mind adding the "SAP Conversational AI" tag to your article so our readers can see it as well?