Introducing SAP Process Automation

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

After completing this lesson, you will be able to:

  • Explain the benefits you gain by using automated processes
  • Discuss current process-related challenges and how SAP Process Automation supports you
  • Derive use cases for process automation
  • Set up your own environment

Introduction to SAP Process Automation

In the earlier unit, Business Process Primer for Citizen Developers, you learned about business processes, the various roles and stakeholders involved, and the importance of business process management (BPM). We reviewed business process management software, the process automation maturity spectrum, and factors for complexity of implementing automation. This background knowledge will be useful for you as we now go deeper into your specific processes and technology for your daily work.

At the close of the previous unit, we also explained hyperautomation, which is a business-driven, disciplined approach that organizations use to rapidly identify and automate as many business and IT processes as possible. This is supported by various advanced technologies, tools, and platforms such as:

  • Workflow Management
  • Artificial intelligence (AI)
  • Machine learning (ML)
  • Robotic process automation (RPA)
  • An increasing range of low-code / no-code (LCNC) tools
  • …and many more.

In this lesson, we will focus on one important new tool for hyperautomation, SAP Process Automation, including use cases and an example scenario. Finally, we will get everything set up to ensure that you have the full hands-on experience.

What is SAP Process Automation and why use it?

Earlier, you learned that low-code and no-code helps you build the apps you need at the speed your business demands, using visual drag and drop tools for application development. In addition to building apps, let’s now see how you can automate business processes that are also powered by low-code / no-code (LCNC)– or to be more precise, let’s see how you, as business process expert and citizen developer, can digitize your workflows using LCNC.

First, let’s clarify why you should consider automating your business processes at all.

Things to consider for Business Automation are:

  1. You have certainly already experienced the rapidly changing, very volatile market conditions we are all experiencing. This turbulence makes it necessary for you to adapt your business processes much faster than ever before, or to produce completely new ones. And it’s better to run them in the cloud, so everyone can access them.
  2. On the other hand, you also want to ensure these processes can easily and securely be connected to the relevant business applications in your organization. Think about extensions you would like to build on top of standard processes, or about a specific repetitive, mundane task you want to replace.
  3. You could involve your IT department to develop these business processes for you. But that may take a long time, and cost more than your organization is willing to spend. Therefore you, as a new citizen developer – and the expert when it comes to the business challenge to solve – should acquire the tools that will let you deliver a solution yourself.

This is where SAP Process Automation is relevant in your world – with the new citizen automation user experience, you will get access to a vast new scope of opportunities for running your day-to-day workflows. As a business process expert, you know the processes best and now you can also automate them yourself.

Keeping in mind what you learned about the process automation maturity spectrum in the first unit of this learning journey, you are probably wondering which of your business processes are potential candidates for automation, or if there are any limitations.

First, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel. This means you probably don’t need to mess with business processes that are already automated, and you especially don’t want to touch standard business processes running in applications such as your company’s enterprise resource planning (ERP) system, SAP S/4HANA. Although an exception to that may be when it comes to automating some repetitive tasks within the business applications. And of course, when you want to add further approval levels, for example.

On the other hand, you are not limited to a dedicated line of business or industry. You can use SAP Process Automation anywhere and take advantage of native integrations with SAP applications. We’ll revisit this in the next section of this lesson.

For now, however, let’s talk about where you can begin to increase your capacity to drive innovation using the capabilities of SAP Process Automation in your daily work. You will learn about these features in detail in the upcoming lessons:

  • Process – the ability to create processes using only drag and drop tools.
  • Advanced workflow – do you already have workflows in SAP Workflow Management? No problem – reuse them.
  • Form – what information do you want the user to see, and where do they need to approve or reject certain requests.
  • Business rules – include policies, guidelines, and regulations in the process flow.
  • Intelligence – make use of some machine learning (ML) capabilities.
  • Automations – feel like you are working like a robot? Let a real bot do the work.
  • Process visibility – answer questions about how your processes perform.
  • Task center – one inbox to handle all the tasks created by the process.

And finally: content. Expedite time-to-value by making use of prebuilt, directly usable packages, including templated automations, workflows, processes, process visibility dashboards, forms, and actions.

There is quite a lot you will be able to do.

Simply put, with SAP Process Automation you can:

  • Simplify automation with visual drag-and-drop tools and best practices content.
  • Automate faster with business context in a unified workflow management and robotic process automation solution.
  • Operate confidently on a trusted, enterprise-grade multi-cloud platform, the SAP Business Technology Platform, taking care of things like security, authorization and so on.

The last point is rather something for your IT department to think about, but it’s good for you to know that you can build without creating the risks we discussed in an earlier unit about Shadow IT. Your IT department will instead be very happy to have you help lighten the load of long IT backlogs, without risk!

To conclude, you will see a lot in the upcoming units about learning how to automate your processes. But there is one thing you will definitely not see: a line of code.

What to Consider First, When Automating Your Processes?

So, we’re excited and ready to automate process XYZ.

Ah, but wait a minute.

There is a saying that if you digitalize and automate a broken, inefficient business process, you will end up with a digitalized and automated broken and inefficient business process.

In other words, think about what you want to improve first. What problem do you want to solve? Which business requirements are there? Who are your stakeholders and how are they involved? Is it a new process or are you fixing a process?

You may already have some results from a business process analysis that you can use as a starting point. Or, you have experienced the problems on your own and you know what needs to be done. The important thing is that you have mapped out a view of what your target process looks like, so that you can decide if it is straightforward enough to get started or if it is more complicated and better tackled when you have more experience.

Though you can use SAP Process Automation in every industry, in every line of business, for simple and complex workflows, there are some typical scenarios and use cases that are ideal for automation, for example:

Scenarios in which you can:

  • Automate manual, repetitive tasks such as copy-pasting data into a spreadsheet.
  • Digitalize manual and semi-automated processes, for example: capital expenditure approvals.
  • Automate when there are a high-volume of process steps, think of entering sales order data.
  • Automatically aggregate data from multiple systems, purchase record updates.
  • Extend and adapt the standard flows of your business applications (SAP or non-SAP, on-premise or in the cloud), for example adding several level of approvals for a sales order.
  • Automate end-to-end cross-application workflows, that span several systems (for example your ERP and your human resources (HR) systems), in employee onboarding processes.

Some use cases that lend themselves to automation include:

  • Lead-to-cash – for example, capital expenditure approvals, invoice approvals, account opening.
  • Hire-to-retire — for example, relocation, visa permits, HR employee self-services, managing contingent workers.
  • Design-to-operate – for example, updating master data records, document approval, lead generation workflows.
  • Source-to-pay – for example, return order process, incident management, procurement data collection.

Take stock of where you can see room for process improvements in your daily activities and your team, making sure to involve all relevant stakeholders so that you have a 360-degree view, to think about how automation might make a process flow more efficient.

Process Automation Example: Sales Order Management Approval

There are many use cases where you can make a difference using SAP Process Automation. For this unit, we have chosen a specific example that you might find relatable. We’ll show you how the example process will be enhanced by using additional capabilities to respond to new business requirements. You’ll see how automation will make your work more efficient.

The example process is a Sales Order Management approval.

But first, what is a sales order?

A sales order is a document which confirms a sale. It is generated by the seller after receiving a purchase order from the buyer. This document contains information regarding the sale such as the item, price, quantity, and buyer details. This information is vital for the sales and operational aspects of a company.

Sales orders from different customers often need to be handled differently. For example, a sales order above a certain amount may need to be approved before it can be delivered to the customer.

The non-automated sales order process can look like this:

  1. A sales department employee receives a sales order from one of several different channels. The employee enters the order into a spreadsheet (which is manually maintained and updated by different employees as the order’s status changes).
  2. If an order is above a certain amount, it must be approved. Sales department employees mark such orders as "urgent" and either send the physical paper order, or a scanned copy of the order, or phone order via email to an approver — after having checked in yet another spreadsheet to see who the correct approver is (depending on the kind of sales order).
  3. The approver replies to the sales employee via email about the order status (approved or not). Of course, sales department employees may need to send the approver a reminder if the approver does not respond quickly enough.
  4. Finally, employees enter approved sales orders into the SAP S/4HANA system for order fulfilment.

This process contains many manual steps, and emails are sent back and forth. This is not a good experience for the sales employee, nor for customers whose orders might be delayed or even lost during the manual process.

Using SAP Process Automation, we can change this with you!

Introducing SAP Process Automation: Lesson Recap

You must be getting curious now, eager to get your hands on SAP Process Automation. Well, the wait is over – you start to do that in the next lesson.

You will build on what you learned so far in this lesson, namely – what is SAP Process Automation, why should you use it, what kinds of processes should you think about automating? Now that you’ve been through that thought exercise, you can start building your no-code flows.

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