How to Automate Simpler and Faster with the all-new SAP Process Automation
One enjoyable aspect of my job, in addition to helping develop products and services from SAP that can help businesses thrive, is having the opportunity to participate in announcing their general availability. Today I have the pleasure of taking you one level deeper into our innovative product through a real-life use case that our customers commonly experience.
Many of you are already aware that SAP has been promoting “hyperautomation”, which is a catch-all term to describe different kinds of low-code, no-code tools for empowering “citizen developers” — that is, people who may be experts in business processes, but who lack know-how and experience in coding. What you may not be aware of is the kind of practical impacts that SAP Process Automation can have on the way businesses operate daily, so let me share a concrete example with you.
Many companies have not yet automated the way they manage their sales order process. So how do they handle incoming paper and phone orders? Broadly speaking, the procedure goes like this:
- A sales department employee receives a sales order, then enters it manually in a spreadsheet (which they manually maintain and update as the order’s status changes).
- If an order is above a certain amount, it must be approved. Sales department employees mark such orders as “urgent” and either send the physical paper or a scanned copy of the paper or phone order via email to an approver — after first checking another spreadsheet to identify the correct approver based on the kind of sales order.
- The approver replies to the sales employee via email about the order status (approved or not). Of course, sales department employees may need to send the approver a reminder if the approver does not respond quickly enough.
- Employees enter approved sales orders into the SAP S/4HANA system for order fulfilment.
You can see that this process can be lengthy and that there are many ways in which an order can get lost or mishandled along the way. But what if companies could speed up the process and reduce or eliminate the risk of mishandling orders?
You will not be surprised when I tell you that SAP Process Automation is the solution! First, though, you need to know that before SAP makes any of its products available, we beta-test them in partnership with a few selected companies. Our testing partners have implemented SAP Process Automation for sales order management scenarios similar or identical to the one I described.
Let me walk you through how this worked for them in real life after all the automations were in place.
- An employee starts the process by providing the sales order ID and entering further details in a form.
- A bot automatically extracts the correct sales order details from the spreadsheet.
- Based on the amount of the order, it is either automatically approved or requires manual approval. If automatically approved, the sales employee enters it into the SAP S/4HANA system for order fulfilment. (This part of the process can also be done automatically.)
- If above the defined amount, decision logic automatically determines the correct approver based on sales order details.
- The approver receives a notification in their My Inbox application and approves or rejects the order.
- If the approver does not act on the sales order within the predefined time frame, they automatically receive a reminder.
- Sales employees are automatically informed about sales order approval status and when the order is ready to be created either manually or automatically in SAP S/4HANA.
But we don’t stop there. Think about the documents you might get along with the orders. The information needs to be in the system, and you certainly aren’t going to want to type it in manually. SAP Process Automation leverages other intelligent technologies, such as embedded SAP AI Business Services for document information extraction.
It’s also important to note that you can manage and monitor the entire process using out-of-the-box visibility, including the generation of reports, flowcharts, and graphs that can help employees identify trends, roadblocks, and anomalies.
So much for the before and after, but how do you actually get from manual input to automatic processing? That’s the best thing about SAP Process Automation: it doesn’t require IT specialists or developers to implement these kinds of automations — they’re available out of the box as visual, easy-to-use drag-and-drop components that citizen developers can put into place themselves, thanks to their deep business knowledge of the required steps in any given workflow. You can even leverage pre-defined content, processes or bots that respond to your company’s most common use patterns, as in the diagram below:
How did we build this? First, we created the form for triggering the process by dragging and dropping the required fields.
Then we take a straightforward approach for using a bot to extract the related order details by providing the path to the spreadsheet and defining which information should be extracted. (Note that none of these steps requires any coding!)
What needs to be done to implement manual approval? First, we include a business rule with a decision table to identify the correct approvers (which depends on the order value). We can also add further forms as needed, just like we did earlier. Finally, we add steps to automatically notify all the relevant people, trigger the sales order creation in the system, and update the order status. That’s it — and once everything is in place, a process that could take hours (if not days) can go from start to finish in just minutes. And let me say this one more time for emphasis: none of this required any coding!
So you see, for the first time everything (processes, bots, forms, business rules, process visibility, content) is available within one product, which tremendously improves the developer experience — or more precisely, the citizen developer experience, as no coding is required. You can build processes in a short amount of time while connecting and leveraging data from SAP systems.
Furthermore, your company’s IT experts are there to lend a hand. A citizen developer can devise and implement an automated process within their own department, for example, and IT can inspect and expand or adjust the automation so it can be implemented on a company-wide basis as needed. In other words, your IT department provides oversight and governance.
Of course, this does not mean that we leave the pro developers behind. But we lower or outright remove the entry barrier for process experts. They own the process knowledge but now they can also own the actual implementation. Just imagine the opportunities of this approach for your organisation!
And if you have already created processes in SAP Workflow Management or built bots with SAP Intelligent RPA, you can still use them and even make those assets part of the new processes you create with SAP Process Automation.
I’m sure you can extrapolate from this use case and envision many other ways that companies of all sizes and in all lines of business can implement SAP Process Automation to respond to volatile market conditions and the demand for fast, efficient service. I hope you’ll take advantage of this exciting new product that can help the citizen developers in your organisation optimize efficiency and speed up your workflows.
For more information on SAP Process Automation: