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Organizations using SAP are very much in need to find solutions that cut down time and reduce errors when data is being captured. Understanding these needs over a period has resulted in the development of a few solutions; some of them are internal while some rely on third-party integrations. Organizations can develop custom code in ABAP and implement it organization-wide. This requires hiring and training of Developers with the required skill set, software development, software maintenance and managing change requests. Third-party integrations allow data to be ported easily from excel for SAP transactions. But such integrations do not contribute in getting an entire process automated as clicks and other UI interactions cannot be automated.

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can be used to improve efficiency in recording and performing SAP transactions with faster development, accurate results and improved ROI. With RPA, users have the advantage of automating the entire process using a mix of technologies like Optical Character Recognition (OCR) for document capture, image recognition and simulating click activity. Also, RPA platforms can work with a different type of applications like MS Excel, Salesforce, etc. allowing for seamless integration with SAP when required.

Why it isn’t that simple?

SAP automation as of today isn’t straightforward as automating with excel or web applications. Most RPA platforms use the Windows Automation Framework. The SAP GUI isn’t a standard interface which means the elements on its GUI cannot be easily used for automation. Luckily, these RPA tools provide image automation options that can be used to automate process workflows. With skill and effort, it is possible to automate most SAP processes.

Then, there are business process challenges. Vendor Check SAP Automation Use-Case is a perfect example to offer a glimpse into the various complexities involved in a process to be automated. In this case, a myriad of tax laws applicable to vendors across various geographies increases the complexity level.

Organization-wide implementation of RPA is a huge challenge. Most processes in the SAP system are interdependent. A price change in article master may impact the work breakdown structure calling for new rules in inventory management. This, in turn, affects the Purchase requisition and Accounting. As a result, unlike RPA in other domains, RPA in SAP requires more emphasis on Bots’ Orchestration. It mandates the setting up of RPA factory and RPA center of excellence. The former can be used to establish ownership to manage bots and the later to accumulate know-how and knowledge that can help optimize and better serve the needs for future deployments.

However, the benefits that can be achieved far outweigh these challenges.

Bots for SAP Migration?

SAP will be withdrawing its support for all previous versions before S/4 Hana by 2025. This entails migration from existing ECC systems to S/4 Hana which is disruptive, expensive and takes time. There is a huge scope for RPA to be applied in this migration effort. UiPath has already created tools that process mine the existing ECC systems and provide machine-readable process definitions to robots. These can then be maintained in a Business Process repository. The tools will help create a library of pre-built automation specific to the SAP ERP stack. They will be capable of dataset extraction with complete configurability through external files. The whole migration effort testing could be automated using RPA.

This is just an example of how RPA is already moving up the value chain, from simple task automation to automating migration efforts, be it SAP or from in-premises to cloud. There are all indications that as the technology matures, RPA will be applied for higher value complex tasks and making it live up to the hype it is worth.

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