5 years already? An interesting journey in Process Automation at SAP
November 19, 2018 is a date I will remember forever.
Indeed, that exact day SAP was announcing the acquisition of Contextor, a small French software vendor specialized in Robotic Process Automation, aka RPA.
I was Chief Marketing Officer for Contextor since January 2017, and as I had never worked for a company as a big as SAP in the past, To be honest, I was a bit cautious during the first weeks of our integration process, but all of the new colleagues I met were very kind, and SAP as an employer looked good. So, end of 2018 was the beginning of my personal journey at SAP, and I have to say that it has been greatly interesting, because I’ve seen from the very inside the evolution of SAP strategy in the Process Automation space. I’ve been part of this move, working hand in hand with amazing colleagues and managers, and I can measure how relevant we at SAP are now in Process Automation.
This is why I would like to tell you here the main steps of this journey from both a personal and SAP-related perspective.
Nov. 2018 – Nov. 2021 – SAP Intelligent RPA
End of 2018, SAP acquired Contextor to accelerate its entry into the Robotic Process Automation market: indeed, an internal team in the SAP Leonardo unit had already developed the core of a cloud-based RPA solution, and Contextor was bringing ready-to-use technical components, such as the desktop studio and many connectors to third party non-SAP software.
We worked very hard for 6 months to integrate all of these components in an hybrid cloud-based solution, and also to prepare all of the marketing and communication assets we needed to support the product launch. Finally at SAP Sapphire 2019 in Orlando we successfully launched SAP Intelligent RPA. That was my very first time at SAP Sapphire, and I’ve been amazed by how big this event was!
We spent 3 very busy days at our booth, answering questions and making demos for many customers interested in SAP’s new RPA solution. In particular, I remember that Apple’s CIO came to our booth. We did a demo for him, he looked very interested and right after he asked: “you showed me a demo on a Windows desktop, but do you have a Mac version?“… We were so sorry to explain him that we were only supporting Windows for the Agent running the automations and the visuel Studio to create them… But finally we will soon have a macOS version, so Apple could start leveraging RPA capabilities from SAP, now part of SAP Build Process Automation as you will see a bit further…
Intelligent RPA to automate tasks and processes in various areas, sharing with us a lot of success stories. We also had a lot of meetings with customers from different industries and regions of the world, and also with partners, and many of them told us: “We want a unique and simple tool covering all of the process automation space, from simple task automation to end-to-end corporate process design, operation and monitoring”. All together, we agreed that Business Process Management and Robotic Process Automation were in fact 2 sides of the same Automation coin.
We presented that vision at SAP TechEd 2019 in Las Vegas, and we got very positive feedbacks from customers and partners. Many of our hands-on sessions for SAP Intelligent RPA were overbooked and had to be done 2 our 3 times each, and I’ve been very positively surprised to measure such a positive response from the ecosystem of SAP developers.
That’s why we decided to move forward in that direction, even if the software industry and analysts were seeing RPA and BPM as 2 different categories…
Dec. 2021 – Nov. 2022 – SAP Process Automation
Again, we worked in a joint team to integrate SAP Intelligent RPA for the RPA part, SAP Workflow Management for the BPM part and some low-code capabilities inherited from SAP Ruum, and at TechEd 2021 we launched SAP Process Automation. The purpose of this solution was clearly to support our customers in their Hyperautomation journey with a low-code solution covering the entire process & task automation spectrum.
Earlier in 2021, SAP acquired AppGyver, a Finnish startup who was a pioneer in no-code development. And guess what? We had new ideas on how to move forward together in the low-code/no-code space, to offer our customer a broader solution to develop new applications, automate their processes and, cherry on the cake, create business sites. So again, we got back to work to integrate AppGyver, SAP Process Automation and SAP Work Zone to create a broader and seamless low-code solution for our customers…
Dec. 2022 – now – SAP Build Process Automation (with Enterprise Automation)
TechEd 2022: Drum rolls… SAP Build is out!
In a few words, SAP Build brings a unified low-code solution portfolio which enables empowers, no matter the skill level. SAP Build is designed to support users of every skill level including those with little or no formal coding experience. The three core components are:
- SAP Build Apps, enabling the creation of enterprise-grade apps with drag-and-drop simplicity
- SAP Build Process Automation, to automate processes and tasks visually
- SAP Build Work Zone, to design business sites using a visual editor and pre-built templates
The SAP Build unified lobby simplifies access to SAP Build Apps, SAP Build Process Automation and SAP Build Work Zone, provides advanced lifecycle management and monitoring capabilities. Sharing of reusable application artifacts such as UX components, workflows, automations, data models and business logic facilitates creation of compossible and sophisticated applications.
It was a great step forward, of course. But if we consider the whole range of expectations of our customers regarding Process Automation, we see that they are even broader than what SAP Build Process Automation alone can provide. In particular, our customers need to clearly understand what the bottlenecks or flaws in processes are, and to precisely evaluate the positive impact of fixing these issues, if possible with automation.
That’s why in December 2022, we took part in Intelligent Automation Summit, an event gathering more than 200 experts in the field of process mining and process automation.
We got a lot of insightful discussions with business process experts working in many industries that have nurtured our strategic vision for even better process automation at SAP. We showcased the capabilities our customers may need for collaboration around business processes, with modelling of processes and journeys, analysis, and mining, and also governance and automated execution. Considering the interest we raised with such offering, we decided to go further. That’s why we have launched our Enterprise Automation initiative. What is it exactly?
In order to truly achieve greater efficiency, our customers need to better understand how their business processes are executed today, where they’re still inefficient, and to find out how they can be improved.
This is where SAP Signavio comes to play, providing powerful, integrated platform that helps you quickly realign your organization and bring changes to life at an accelerated rate. Once this is understood, our customers then have to implement efficiency gains through seamless integration of diverse capabilities available in complex IT landscapes. This is where not only SAP Build Process Automation but also SAP Integration Suite play a key role. And all of this is seamlessly leverages AI to automatically help and suggest what’s relevant to do, with a vast library of pre-built content – available through the SAP Business Accelerator Hub and also natively in SAP Build – to simplify automating SAP and non-SAP components in our customers IT landscape.
Enterprise Automation has been unveiled during SAP Sapphire 2023 keynote by Julia White, our Chief Marketing and Solutions Officer:
This approach immediately aroused great interest among our customers and partners:
And recently at SAP TechEd 2023 we put focus on Enterprise Automation with a broad line-up of sessions, including a strategy talk with Bhagat Nainani – Senior Vice President, Product Development, Business Technology Platform – as well as a roadmap session, hands-on workshops, customers stories, lectures…
From an SAP BTP perspective, as we’ve seen, we started 5️⃣ years ago with a simple RPA product and we gradually improved our offering to better fulfill the needs of our customers: we offer now a unique and comprehensive AI-powered solution for discovering process inefficiencies, integrating applications, and automating processes across heterogeneous enterprise environments. This move won’t stop, as a lot of new improvements are on the way, and with no surprise especially around Artificial Intelligence… stay tuned!
From my personal perspective, I’ve been very lucky to be part of this process automation journey, and I’m happy to continue supporting this strategy as a product manager in the SAP Build team, with a focus on creating content and feeding social channels to foster awareness and accelerate adoption of Process Automation within SAP customers. I’ve already done more than half of my SAP journey: indeed, as I’m now 60 years old, I have only 4 more years to work before my retirement, and I’ve chosen to gradually reduce my working time I’m now working only 3 days a week, Monday-Wednesday, to have more time to enjoy activities with my family and friends. But even if I’m working less, I’m still very enthusiastic to be part of SAP in the BTP area!
PS: I would like to take this opportunity to express my gratitude to all the kind colleagues I’ve worked with so far, and there are too many so I can’t name them all. For me, SAP really stands for Super Awesome People. Special thanks to Sebastian Schrötel, Diana Rösner and Csaba Korenyi who have been my direct managers so far and helped me navigating and moving forward in SAP organization with a great deal of understanding. 🙏🏻