Guide to Everything You Need to Know About SAP Automation
SAP automation refers to the robotization of manual, repetitive business processes, specifically within the SAP ecosystem of products.
This Ultimate Guide to SAP automation will cover what SAP automation is, the components that make up the system, how ignio AI.ERPOps implement SAP automation, practical examples, and questions to consider when searching for an SAP automation platform.
- What is SAP automation?
- Why do we need SAP automation?
- What are the barriers to SAP automation?
- What are the key areas where SAP automation can be implemented?
- What are the benefits of SAP automation?
- What is ignio AI.ERPOps?
What is SAP automation?
Traditionally, SAP automation refers to the robotization of manual, repetitive business processes, specifically within the SAP ecosystem of products. In today’s world with the power of AI and ML, automation techniques have become intelligent and more powerful. Today, SAP automation refers to eliminating repetitive, monotonous tasks, and replacing those tasks with intelligent automation. A solution that can identify errors, prioritize them based on business impact, and provide resolution to identified errors can be termed as intelligent SAP automation.
Here are some real-world challenges that can be resolved by automation:
- Employees spending a lot of time monitoring activities: Be it maintaining system health or scouting for stuck IDocs, employees can end up consuming a substantial amount of time manually monitoring these. Sometimes this involves multiple stakeholders who are involved in reporting, collating information, and taking action. A lack of coordination due to the work-from-home environment can create delays and hiccups that prevents the business from running smoothly.
Instead, what if you can install a bot that can automate the process and give you all the information in a single report or a dashboard. Sounds great, right?
- Stuck with repetitive, boring, and monotonous tasks: It can be stressful at times spending hours of your day handling regular issues such as “processing sales orders” or resolving the “GR not possible” error.
AI and automation can easily take up such monotonous tasks and free up employees to keep them available for new challenging and interesting work.
- Routine requests and planned tasks: In SAP environments, SAP super users are flooded with routine service requests, change requests, password management, etc. In today’s technology-driven world, why would anyone invest time and effort in handling such requests?
Why not let technology handle routine requests and make experts available to do more challenging work? Intelligent automation adds value across the organization.
Why do we need SAP automation?
Systems, applications, and products (SAP) in data processing is an enterprise resource planning (ERP) system. SAP ERP helps organizations improve business performance and streamline their business operations. SAP ERP integrates data from different functional departments, locations, business processes, etc. It helps companies increase transparency, productivity, speed, and reduce operational costs among others.
On the other side of the coin, SAP ERP implementation and its maintenance can be challenging. Companies face numerous challenges as they try to implement SAP automation:
- Business complexity: SAP ERP software is built considering standard industry scenarios, but that is not always the case in the real world. Hence while implementing SAP ERP, various customizations are required based on the company’s setup and processes. This complicates the implementation and takes longer for the business to fully imbibe SAP products. Every company may realize benefits differently as compared to the cost incurred for its implementation and maintenance.
- Monotonous work: It is a challenge for some employees to improve themselves to move to a tech-savvy environment upon SAP ERP implementation. Moreover, SAP ERP implementation standardizes processes that makes some work redundant and other tasks may become monotonous and tiresome. This can result in poor employee motivation, leading to unsatisfied customers.
- Human dependence for 24×7 operations: Although SAP ERP helps collaborate business processes and reduces the quantity of manual tasks , they cannot be eliminated. SAP ERP is expected to help business run smoothly. An increase in standard operating procedures “SOPs” creates the need for additional expertise to handle situations and aid in efficiencies.
- Slow processes: SAP ERP provides central repositories for data across systems, however, proper coordination, timely response, and quick adaptation of the process change is important. There are multiple business processes and an issue can be occur due to error in BASIS or functional side or other modules. When an issue occurs with human dependency, data analysis becomes a challenge, slowing down the process and increasing costs.
- Reactive approach: Heavy reliance on SAP ERP to make business more efficient can promote a reactive culture that takes action when an issue occurs and not a proactive culture that anticipates problems in advance. These reactions to issues restrict the agility of the business as slowdowns can occur to remediate issues that were not anticipated
What customers that use SAP products need is a product or a platform that will help minimize SAP’s technical and functional challenges. The product or platform must also integrate with other business-related IT elements. A solution that will provide a holistic view of the business, provide insights, and reduce manual tasks, is the need of the day. In the following sections, automation and AI/ML will be explored to help resolve these issues.
What are the barriers to SAP automation?
SAP customers can be resistant to automation due to various reasons. The list below reviews some of the challenges.
- Technical debt: Automation appears like a daunting undertaking that is likely to disrupt existing workflows that have historically run for a long time.
- Compliance risks: Often operating with a traditional mindset, compliance departments are skeptical of automation routines for fear of risking a compliance mistakes without human oversight.
- Inadequate experience: In-house or partner teams that lack an adequate understanding of how each business process contributes to an end-to-end workflow preclude the ability to implement clean and consistent automation code.
- Siloed efforts: As the need for automating ERP operations comes to the forefront, siloed efforts arising from internal teams or implementation of partial solutions from vendors on a small scale hinder the momentum for one-stop automation.
Excel your ERP operations with automation’ that will guide on how to bypass the barriers to ERP automation
What are the key areas where SAP automation can be implemented?
While the scope and boundaries to implement SAP automation can be great, let’s try to identify key areas in SAP where SAP automation can benefit the most.
- Background – SAP administrators are responsible for smooth SAP systems – SAP® BASIS is often considered the foundation of the SAP landscape. SAP is used by various entities of a business to perform various tasks such as shipping, billing and logistics, manufacturing control, and so on. SAP BASIS is used for the maintenance of basic jobs that underline the entire SAP ecosystem. BASIS is more than just a simple administration tool; a large company can have multiple SAP servers across the globe running different versions, systems, and modules of SAP. This is where an SAP BASIS administrator (or usually a team of BASIS administrators) comes in. SAP administrators are needed to troubleshoot issues and ensure smooth functioning of the entire SAP system. SAP BASIS administrators work to ensure all the components and systems of SAP are communicating effectively with each other with minimal performance issues. They are responsible for keeping the SAP landscape healthy and up to date. This includes activities such as daily maintenance, job scheduling, planning, and so on.
- Challenge – Manual handling of BASIS administration tasks is inefficient and loaded with challenges – Manually handling all BASIS administration tasks is an inefficient way to handle SAP operations. With a huge landscape and complex system integrations, manual handling becomes difficult. Considerable hours of manual effort is required by the BASIS team to maintain a daily health check of the SAP system. Moreover, some repetitive activities make it tedious, causing a risk of missing important information. Furthermore, when incidents are raised, there is a huge dependency on the teams to resolve them soon and this timely resolution becomes a challenge. Now, organizations are moving their infrastructure to the cloud. In this process, organizations usually get trapped in the hybrid models where a few systems remain on premise, while others go in the cloud. Managing SAP both in the cloud and on premise makes BASIS administration even more complex.
AI and analytics
- Background – Artificial intelligence extracts information from raw data using algorithms to provide insights – Data is either quantitative (numerical) or qualitative (non-numerical) information collected to answer questions or understand a situation. Analytics is the statistical analysis of collected data that reveals patterns, correlations, and cause-and-effect relationships between different factors. Artificial intelligence (AI) refers to the simulation of human intelligence in machines that are programmed to think like humans and mimic their actions. Data is the foundation for any AI algorithm or technique. The basic function of AI algorithms is to find out or extract the hidden information available in the data. Data analytics and artificial intelligence make it possible to link data to gain insights on a wide range of business areas like customers, business growth and performance, procurement spends, quality of the service/product delivered, and so on. These new technologies are no longer limited to only technology firms. Many companies are adapting these technologies to gain a competition edge.
- Challenge – Vast data from SAP systems remains unused, – When it comes to organizations using SAP, they receive a lot of data from SAP. For instance, organizations monitor their technical landscapes using the Solution Manager and that, in turn, provides a huge amount of data in the form of alerts and KPIs. Other examples include IDoc data as thousands of IDocs get processed daily, which produces a huge amount of data. Similar is the case of ABAP dumps. -Enterprises often face challenges to gain insights from this huge data. If this data is not analyzed properly then the organizations may miss out on critical information, which can lead to further challenges. Moreover, both solution manager and data dump are going to consume space in your datacenters. Analyzing this data manually is inefficient when the world is adopting AI.
Supply chain operations
- Background – Goods and services companies need an effective supply chain for boosting revenue – A supply chain is a network between a company and its suppliers to produce and distribute a specific product or service. This network includes different activities, people, entities, information, and resources. Having a good supply chain has a boosting impact on business. Smooth supply chain operations can directly improve customer service and indirectly improve the cash flow. Managing the supply chain operations efficiently is a goal for any organization to maximize customer value and achieve a sustainable competitive advantage.
- Challenge – Challenges in SAP operations can lead to multifold supply chain operations issues – There are multiple challenges in managing the supply chain efficiently starting with complexity due to multiple channels to market, high costs, everchanging gap in demand and supply, and so on. In addition to this, when it comes to SAP, there can be further challenges such as unmanageable IDoc failures or poor functional health of the processes such as O2C (order to cash) and P2P (procure to pay).
Security and compliance
- Background – Security compliance is imperative to ensure protection of data – Every digitally-driven enterprise must stay compliant to protect their organization, maintain efficiency, prevent penalties, and guard against surprises that disrupt business operations. For most businesses, protecting valuable customer data is a top priority. It is important for organizations to ensure security and compliance to maintain reputation, avoid fines, protect data and critical information, and so on.
- Challenge – SAP contains a lot of sensitive information that is risky to manage by a human resource – When it comes to SAP, security and compliance becomes even more important as SAP has a lot of data – from your customers to employees, vendors, payments, billings, and so on. Moreover, there is a need to segregate the access based on role and authorizations. It is important to identify the compliance breach risks and prevent them for happening. When you depend on a human resource to handle this completely, there is always the risk and possibility of errors and mistakes.
Data sanity and management
- Background – Users raise service requests for issues in normal service delivery – A service request is defined as a request from a user or a user’s authorized representative that initiates a service action that has been agreed upon as a normal part of service delivery.
- Challenge – Handling many service requests manually is challenging and can result in SLA breaches – When it comes to service requests in SAP, they are usually large in number. In addition, people expect a quick resolution of the requests. The service team is usually overloaded with these requests such as cost center creation, sales office creation, creation of purchase groups, and so on. Completion of these requests has a dependency on multiple groups and handling this manually is usually a challenge. Many times, SLAs are breached, and this impacts business.
Read this whitepaper ignio AI.ERPOps product building blocks to understand how ignio AI.ERPOps is built to address these challenges.
What are the benefits of SAP automation?
SAP automation can solve several challenges that manifest across the business layer. Here are some of the key ones:
- Reduced need for manual effort: SAP automation eliminates the need for manual oversight, like resolving and releasing a stuck transaction instance (IDocs), handling service requests like password change or role access update, and so on. This frees up valuable time of experienced talent for more valuable tasks.
- Consistency and accuracy: Automation can bring complete consistency and accuracy to accounting/payroll, data entry, and record-keeping aspects of processes executed within an ERP environment, thereby bringing down the rate of manual errors to zero. This also improves the accuracy of the core business logic that drives operations.
- Improved employee experience: By eliminating the need for manual oversight in repetitive and monotonous scenarios, SAP automation can significantly improve employee experience, reducing their fatigue levels.
- Better compliance adherence: Despite the apprehensions and contrary intuition, SAP automation can enhance compliance adherence when the necessary guardrails are implemented to maintain traceability and transaction records within the system.
- Productivity and efficiency gains: Lastly, SAP automation can bring major productivity and efficiency gains to business operations. By speeding up processes and reducing inter-departmental dependency for clearance, SAP automation results in faster execution, high-accuracy master data, and improved productivity levels.
What is ignio AI.ERPOps?
ignio AI.ERPOps by Digitate is an AI-based insight-driven product for autonomous SAP operations, catering to SAP technical and functional domains. It improves business outcomes by detecting anomalies, providing analysis with recommendations, and performing actions.
ignio AI.ERPOps acts as a virtual assistant and helps in reducing the hassles that usually SAP ERP faces. It helps remove knowledge silos and reduce dependency on SAP experts, which, in turn, improves MTTR (mean time to resolve) and leads to faster resolution of issues. It improves business outcomes by detecting anomalies, providing analysis with recommendations, and taking actions. The product enables accurate and on-time financial reporting, sales forecast, billing, and shipping, which makes your enterprise intelligent and agile.
Learn more about ignio AIERPOps here https://digitate.com/ignio-ai-erpops/