Beyond productivity: Automation boosts cost efficiencies, employee satisfaction, customer experience

In a market that increasingly requires on-demand services, organizations must be able to respond quickly to stay competitive.

One way to improve efficiencies and productivity is to adopt intelligent robotic process automation (RPA), a software technology that automates rules-based actions performed on a computer.

In this virtual roundtable, hosted and moderated by Singapore Business Review’s Contributing Editor Simon Hyett, it was discussed how organizations can benefit from SAP Intelligent RPA (SAP iRPA). 

Forming the panel of speakers are industry leaders from Cloud4C, an SAP service provider: Aseem Gupta, Head of SAP Business; Sunil KP, RPA Practice Head; and Hemant Rachh, GTM Lead, APJ & GC, Intelligent RPA; and Kamalakar Gunupati. VP – SAP Engineering, Automation, & Delivery. Cloud4C is a cloud- and platform-agnostic service provider with headquarters in India and with offices in 25 countries.

RISE with SAP: Transforming business

Under the RISE with SAP service, SAP iRPA is an automation suite that uses software robots to replace repetitive, computer-based human tasks, such as clicking, interpreting text communications, or making suggestions. RISE with SAP is a fully managed and cloud-based business transformation service that, according to the SAP website, guides the journey toward a digitally intelligent organization.

Using the SAP S/4HANA Cloud as the software for this automation, “the implementation will eliminate repetitive efforts of old legacy systems and will enable significant gain in business performance,” said Aseem Gupta, Head of SAP Business at Cloud4C.

“The orchestration and monitoring are on the cloud, which gives a business complete scalability. You can start with one bot today, you may have 100 bots tomorrow. You need not worry because central orchestration and monitoring are on cloud. The execution is on-premise with a lightweight desktop agent as an application. It's completely secure. All your business data remains within your IT landscape,” added Hemant Rachh, GTM Lead, APJ & GC, Intelligent RPA.

He related that the pharmaceutical company, Zuellig Pharma, in Singapore, which started its SAP iRPA journey one-and-half years ago, was able to quickly respond to the astounding volume of orders for medications using the automated, zero-touch sales processing from end to end. 

Standard Chartered Bank in Singapore also deployed the SAP iRPA for its financial reporting process, enabling it to generate more than 300 reports published every quarter, Hemant Rachh added.

According to Kamalakar Gunupati, “everything we perform is based on...standard operating procedure (SOP). Each service request, task, and activity is tagged on the SOP, and completely automated or semi automated. As soon as the ticket or a service request lands, the scanner scans it, identifies and performs the activity if it's completely automated.”

He added that if any minimal human intervention is required to complete the task, then the request is forwarded to the engineer responsible for those particular tasks. “We have gone with the minimal human touch, and are trying to eliminate the human errors in day-to-day operations.”

He also said that the SAP iRPA features a Self-healing Operational Platform (SHOP), down to the smallest microservice. At any given moment, the AI and machine learning algorithms have the ability to scan more than 10 million checkpoints in Cloud4C and SAP’s data to find and correct any deviations whether it is related to security, managed services, cloud integration, or infrastructure, among others. These microserves “are actually helping us achieve our goal of minimal human touch.”

In support, Sunil Kumar, RPA Practice Head at Cloud4C added that this “RPA is helping them achieve efficiencies, meet customer requirements, and improve the customer experience,” adding: “It's not only about the automation. It always touches upon the customer experience, the processing time, the competitiveness, and how fast you can respond to the customer requirement.”

RPA: Beyond automation

Operational efficiencies and productivity, however, are not the only benefits that intelligent RPA brings, said Aseem Gupta.

According to Aseem Gupta, as the customers adopt the new-age SAP solutions, it is equally important to capture the automation opportunities through a thorough analysis during the business process reengineering phase.

“If you engage with a company like Cloud4C, you start taking advantage of the managed services platform, wherein your support operations become extremely cost-effective, and at the same time, extremely well-served in terms of system landscape availability,” Aseem Gupta continued. “Over a period of three to five years, we can really assure you of a cost reduction of 10 to 15% on an annual basis.”

For Hemant Rachh automation is not only about productivity or efficiency. It is also about how businesses respond quickly to augmentation.  Automation enables a company with limited resources to grow by eliminating manual, repetitive, and rules-based tasks using software. This not only reduces human error but also allows workers “to focus on the higher-value, strategic tasks.”

Another advantage is maximising an organisation’s investment in its entire IT system. Companies often operate complex IT environments consisting of multiple modern web applications and legacy systems. Hemant Rachh asked, “In such an environment, how do we ensure that the automation delivered the scale and growth? This is where automation adds a lot of value.”

Hyperautomation: RPA on steroids

In certain scenarios, organisations opt for complete hyperautomation, which utilises multiple technologies such as RPA, machine learning, conversational artificial intelligence, business process management, and packaged software, amongst others. This disciplined approach identifies, assesses, and automates as many business and IT processes as possible.

“This is where SAP, as a business technology platform, provides the complete suite of technology to realise those hyper-automation scenarios. Like HP realised with SAP, we also have essentially accelerated the journey,” Hemant Rachh said.

SAP offers a range of prebuilt content that allows organizations a good starting point for complete automation. “With SAP intelligent RPA, any business gets more than 250 plus prebuilt bots that can accelerate the automation journey.  There are many quick-win use cases for each line of business or each function in the organization like sales order creation, invoice generation, or service request creation. We have a defined roadmap where we are going to add more and more prebuilt bots for SAP applications,” he added.

Starting an automation journey 

When starting the automation journey, Sunil Kumar explained that the most important element is understanding the business of the customer. Once the customer provides a goal, the service provider develops a feasibility study that highlights the automation architecture and viability, and its corresponding benefits.

Once the study is validated by the client, a proof of concept is performed for one of the processes and demonstrated to the customer. “This demo helps the functional process owners to understand how automation can be used within their individual departments for enhancing their operational efficiency,” Sunil Kumar said.

The software robots, once approved, are deployed in the UAT environment for testing and then deployed in the production environment. “The desired results can be achieved within six weeks to six months, based on the number of processes,” he said.

Kamalakar Gunupati added that intelligence monitoring or predictive health checks are automatically enabled, using all logs captured from all systems, not just the SAP. This enables the service provider to develop self-healing procedures.

“If for some reason an application went down, it used to be manually brought up, which used to take about 10 to 20 minutes. Now with our box and with SHOP, it automatically starts up within two to three minutes,” Kamalakar Gunupati said.

There is no question that automation is the way to go if a business wants to grow, and Aseem Gupta does not see roadblocks in the adaptation of automation.

According to Aseem Gupta, shifting to cloud is inevitable for big businesses as they move toward full digitization. The more pressing concern, however, is determining the objectives, developing the key drivers, and reassessing the process moving towards the cloud.

There is no question that automation is the way to go if a business wants to grow, and Aseem Gupta does not see roadblocks in the adaptation of automation.

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