The Era Of Automation
The pace of advancement in automation is accelerating across every industry, and SAP consulting is no exception. Both SAP and its customers are embracing automation in various forms to drive digital transformation, spur innovation, reduce costs, and enable new business models.
As an SAP consultant, understanding automation and how to apply it on SAP projects and in client landscapes is quickly becoming a mandatory core competency. Those consultants who master automation will be indispensable partners for future-proofing client success.
How SAP is Providing More Automation Capabilities
Because the level of data collected during all business activities and through customer interactions is increasing, businesses of all kinds are turning to automation to reduce their data processing workload, freeing up employees for more strategic and value-added tasks.
SAP is heavily investing in building more automation (combined with AI and machine learning) into its intelligent enterprise solutions. Bots and automation capabilities can be found in products across most of SAP’s portfolio of products and services. For example:
SAP S/4HANA features intelligent robotic process automation for automating repetitive back-office tasks and manual data entry.
SAP Business Technology Platform capabilities like workflow management enable no-code process automation.
SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation tools like SAP Contextor allow for easy bot deployment.
SAP Fieldglass features robotic process automation to automate contingent workforce transactions like time sheet processing and invoice creation.
SAP SuccessFactors uses chatbots and natural language processing to support HR services like benefits enrollment and vacation requests.
SAP Ariba supplier management solutions provide guided buying experiences with procurement bots surfacing preferred suppliers and contracts.
SAP Logistics Business Network automates document handling and freight procurement with integrated RPA.
One of the innovative features of SAP’s Low-code/no-code development platform SAP Build is that it allows non-ABAP specialists to develop automations for an SAP environment. Processes can be automated with a drag-and-drop system using pre-built packages, RPA bots and connectors for non-SAP systems. This means that citizen developers can now help in the drive to automate processes, freeing up the backlog for IT departments.
With each new SAP product release, more automation is built in to help handle the proliferation of business and customer data in SAP systems. SAP is also using automation capabilities through APIs so they can be leveraged across the enterprise.
This evolution of automation provides huge opportunities for consultants to help clients put these innovations into production to reduce manual work and costs while accelerating processes. Those with automation expertise will be heavily sought after, as the carefully applied use of automation ultimately brings businesses higher revenue, by reducing operating costs like FTE and others.
Leveraging Automation in SAP Implementations
Beyond educating clients on the need for them to use built-in automation, consultants can also apply an automation-first mindset to their own professional practice in SAP implementations and migrations.
Using process mining using technology like Signavio, SAP customers can analyze system event logs to discover automation opportunities. Mining current processes enables consultants to redesign systems to take advantage of automated processes. Analytics-driven process mining helps clearly visualize process variants and commonalities across global operations to focus harmonization efforts for smoother rollouts.
Robotic process automation (RPA) can then be applied to automate repetitive tasks like data migration and validation. Bots handle the heavy lifting to free up resources.
Test automation minimizes the substantial workload of manual testing and accelerates quality assurance procedures. SAP project assets like test cases and scripts can be repurposed for future implementation projects.
Automated monitoring and testing tools improve the development and speed of integration testing as code progresses through CICD pipelines towards production.
Machine learning techniques can also be leveraged during design workshops to provide a baseline for performance and estimate the ROI for automation of workflows.
Other use cases for automation in implementations include:
Using intelligent document processing solutions like SAP Intelligent RPA to rapidly digitize and extract data from client legacy system reports and paperwork to help seed the new SAP system.
Creating chatbots developed with SAP Conversational AI to support new SAP system training and change management by providing an always-on resource for employee questions. Other accessibility features like text-to-speech can be activated using automation to smoothly support users during and after go-live.
Deploying RPA for common project tasks like status reporting, data loading, and ticket creation to boost team productivity.
These, and other techniques give project teams the ability to scale delivery while reducing risks. Automation efficiencies also lead to lower implementation costs, and so are an important part of making a business case for SAP projects.
More generally, leveraging automation during SAP projects both large and small delivers productivity and quality gains while positioning the client for innovation and optimization post-implementation.
Embracing Ongoing Automation of Business Processes
Consultants should continuously advise clients on identifying automation opportunities before, during and after implementations.
Adoption of monitoring and sentiment analysis can pinpoint remaining manual processes ripe for improvement. Dedicated automation testing cycles towards the end of implementations identify gaps for further RPA or bot opportunities once live. Surfacing use cases helps build the case for ROI to fund further automation efforts.
This ongoing enablement could cover training business users on built-in automation features of new SAP solutions. Applying integrated automation across the intelligent enterprise is an even more valuable use case.
For example, using RPA to automatically transfer goods issue data from SAP EWM to Accounts Payable in S/4HANA for invoice creation, or having chatbots in HR Service Delivery create help desk tickets in SAP Solution Manager.
Driving enterprise-wide automation is a huge opportunity for consultants to provide tremendous added-value as trusted advisors guiding transformation. The ROI from implementation of automation demonstrates to clients the value of SAP consulting projects.
Use Cases For Automation In SAP
Here are some examples of use cases where automation enabled successful SAP implementations for major companies:
The American retailer Walmart implemented SAP S/4HANA and leveraged RPA bots to automate the processing of millions of documents related to vendor negotiations annually. This eliminated substantial manual effort while improving contracting throughput by 20%.
Airbus rolled out SAP S/4HANA to 170 legal entities across 49 countries. It automated over 500 test cases using Test Automation Framework, reducing QA time by 30% during implementation.
Wells Fargo, a national bank in America, migrated 150 million accounts to SAP S/4HANA. It built over 1000 bots using SAP Intelligent RPA to automate data validation, testing, and system reconciliation processes. This reduced go-live risk and cut migration time by nearly half.
The telecoms company Vodafone migrated to SAP S/4HANA centralized in a private cloud landscape. It automated testing of the interfaces between 100+ global operating companies using Tricentis Tosca, reducing testing effort by 80%.
Nestle implemented a new global SAP template across markets. It used automated regression testing and AI-powered test case generation to thoroughly test 500+ interfaces, accelerating deployment by 30% with zero defects.
These examples showcase how strategic adoption of automation enabled major brands to accelerate SAP project delivery and save substantial cost through reduced manual processes. The results speak for themselves: automation pays dividends.
Automation Will Shape the Future of Consulting
Automation is redefining what SAP consulting entails. Client expectations, required competencies, delivery models, and the nature of projects are all being impacted and redefined.
Delivery models will evolve to focus more on rapidly enabling automation within SAP systems versus traditional monolithic implementations. Modular agile deliverables centered on specific automation use cases will dominate
The nature of projects will also shift from purely technical builds to more process optimization and enhancement. Clients will engage consultants for assessing automation readiness, identifying use cases, detailing ROI, and guiding change management as bots and AI augment human workers.
Increasingly, clients will expect every SAP project to have an automation-first mindset baked in. Any manual processes or repetitive tasks identified in workshops should have automation options presented. Introducing automation early in implementations lowers costs and prepares for innovation. Possessing automation-first knowledge and mindsets will elevate consultants as they enable clients to embrace automation.
Creative and analytical skills will become more important to envision how to best apply existing automation capabilities to transform processes and experiences. Demand for these strategic skills could rebalance compensation towards functional roles.
Having deep expertise across automation tools like SAP Intelligent RPA, Signavio, and SAP Conversational AI will become mandatory for SAP consultants at all career levels. Demand for automation-focused roles like Process Automation Architect will be extreme.
Those who fail to skill up will be left behind as demand for automation-savvy SAP experts continues gaining momentum. The future of SAP deployment belongs to those who can implement and apply automation effectively at scale.
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