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Author's profile photo Timo ELLIOTT

Driving Innovation with Automation: Increasing Efficiency, Lowering Costs & Discovering New Opportunities

The history of human civilization is all about using technology to do more with less. Take agriculture, for example – from shovel to plow to tractor, we put the latest technology to work to reduce effort and maximize yield. Or think about transportation – horses, then carriages with multiple horses, and finally automobiles dramatically increased our speed and range.

Now businesses are turning to automation not just for physical labor, but for mental labor as well. Repetitive tasks like matching invoices or processing payments are a perfect match for robotic process automation (RPA). When businesses make smart use of intelligent technology, they can improve outcomes for customers, employees, and the business as a whole.

Automation Enabling Innovation is the theme for this episode of SAP Business Technology Platform Better Together: Customer Conversations series.

This episode features a remarkable transformation tale from Uniper, an international energy company with over 10,000 employees. Uniper has seen amazing results through human-centric approach when it comes to automation driving innovation, including a 90% time savings on their job-requisitioning process – and collectively applying this across their customers, employees and the entire business.

We sat down with Uniper’s Achim Löbke, Head of Architecture and Optimization, and László Gergely, International Project Manager, for a thought-provoking podcast and then again for a LinkedIn practitioner’s conversation.

  • For the podcast, Achim and László joined Tamara McCleary, CEO of Thulium, and Mark van Rijmenam, Founder, Datafloq. Achim and László discussed the market forces that are driving innovation, how Uniper strategized and implemented its plan, and the benefits their employees and customers have seen. Mark added his insight on how this technology is aiding transformation across industries, and what the future holds for automation.
  • In the LinkedIn session, Achim and László dug into the challenges and successes they saw throughout Uniper’s innovation journey. They credit the company’s “start-up mentality” with keeping the organization flexible and open to new ideas, without the inertia that can bog down change in enterprise-level organizations. Uniper’s tale of success is definitely a must-listen for businesses looking to embrace innovation through automation.

Here are a few key takeaways from the conversation:

Mindset and Methodology Boost Technology

The team at Uniper credits their success not just to adopting the right technology, but also to creating a culture that supports innovation. What’s more, they have invested in partnerships that help make the best of the technology they have.

“You can have the best technology in the world, but it will only work when you have a great team and a great collaboration,” says Achim.

László observes that Uniper’s working relationship with SAP was a major part of the equation, too. “In 2018 we created the SAP Lab Initiatives,” he says. There are Uniper developers and SAP developers sitting together, working on innovative technologies… and they work like one team. It doesn’t matter who is coming from which company.”

Employee Morale is a Crucial Component

László, Achim, and Mark agree that it’s essential to make sure employees understand and embrace the changes that automation will bring. It’s not just mindset and morale, either — it’s helping employees shift their skill sets and acquire the training they need to take full advantage of the new processes. “For the employees, it’s an opportunity,” says Achim. “They can get these digital capabilities, and can upscale themselves in that direction.”

“It’s a given that automation will have an effect on your workforce,” says Mark. “I think you should help them understand why you’re doing what you’re doing… and if at some point you move to a phase where AI might take over a person’s role, then you need to help that person change their skills and move to a different role. You want to use those employees who have been a powerful force within your business.”

Data Is the Foundation

Achim observes that Uniper’s journey began with getting a handle on the organization’s data. “We created a data lake within our unit,” he says, “and with this, we were so flexible and agile that we could make a portfolio for our customers that was much more successful than we ever were in the past… we were able to innovate much more beyond other companies in our industry.”

Organizing and consolidating data is a key first step for Mark, too. “If you want to automate your business, you need to start “datafying” your processes,” he says. “You need to understand which processes you can turn digital, into binary code, so that you can start to analyze and eventually automate them.

László agrees that analytics is the catalyst for innovation: “Augmented analytics is one of the biggest opportunities — it can shorten time for decision-making, help gather new insights, reduce risk, and help create new chances,” he says.

With smart data analytics in place, and a culture of innovation to support new initiatives, Uniper was able to identify opportunities for automation throughout the organization, from the plant to the customer service center.

Looking for more customer success stories around Driving Innovation with Automation?

  • Hewlett Packard Enterprise – Intelligent technology helps HPE automatically resolve IT issues to enable smooth operations across its technology landscape.
  • Shapoorji Pallonji accomplished a digital-first transformation that includes making their automated processes the backbone for a scalable, sustainable business model.

Go to to check out the podcast and the LinkedIn session, as well as the other episodes in the series.

As we continue to explore these customer conversations, I want to hear from you, too. Let me know what topics you would like to see covered in future episodes. I also welcome your feedback on what questions we should be asking our guests. What are you dying to know?

You can also contact us if you’d like to be a guest on an episode.

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