Unlocking the self-driven back office through AI and SAP iRPA

Artificial Intelligence
SAP
Aug 12, 2021

Self-driving cars are already cruising the highways – and robots regularly take care of physically demanding, unsafe and dirty jobs for us. Why not turn boring, repetitive, error-prone administrative tasks over to intelligent machines as well?

Why have people do it if a robot can do it better?

Automation made its appearance on assembly and production floors during the twentieth century. Since then, machines and robots of all shapes and sizes are increasingly handling tasks that pose too many risks for humans – and they are often much stronger, faster and more consistent than human operators as well.

This revolution has continued in the twenty-first century in offices around the world with the arrival of ERP (enterprise resource planning) systems like SAP and robotic process automation (RPA).

Enter the age of the self-driven back office

Many administrative tasks – think order confirmations and entering data on new suppliers – are essential business processes, but contribute little or nothing to business growth and employee development, not to mention job satisfaction. In the same way that robotic arms take care of physically demanding, unsafe and dirty jobs, RPA takes over boring and recurring administrative tasks. As your company’s administrative autopilot, RPA is an important building block of the self-driven back office.

By combining RPA technology with other digital technologies such as web scraping, OCR and AI, for example, we can add even greater value. The use of this combination of technologies is referred to as SAP’s ‘Intelligent Enterprise’, in which technologies are applied to automate tasks and, above all, to convert data into insights that drive actions taken within your SAP ERP.

What needs are met with robot-controlled process automation?

“Instead of performing repetitive administrative tasks themselves, many companies outsource them to shared service centers in countries with lower wage costs,” asserts Jos Gilissen, Finance & Business Controlling domain lead at delaware. “This is no longer necessary with the technologies and options available today. Whether your company does business in Belgium or on the other side of the world, RPA delivers costs savings and cuts down on noise and friction.”

RPA also helps enterprises improve the customer experience. If you automate processes in the background, RPA can offer better services in the foreground. “One of our customers in the textile sector uses RPA, among other innovations, to deliver tailor-made samples to its customers more quickly. Once the customer selects their samples online or in the showroom, RPA detects that selection and uses it to configure the machines producing the samples – something that used to be done manually."

Applications most compatible with RPA

RPA can be found in all administrative functions, from finance and HR to IT, master data management, quality management, sales, marketing and beyond. There are five core areas where RPA makes a huge difference:

  1. Efficiency
    “For one of our customers, we used RPA to speed up the invoicing process and make it more consistent. As a result, customers are settling their invoices faster,” Jos says.
  2. Clarity
    RPA works best with structured data. If you’re sending requests for new employees, customers or suppliers using a specific format via e-mail, RPA can easily transfer all of this master data to applications in scope.
  3. Compliance
    “One of our customers uses RPA to screen new customers and suppliers on, for example, their economic capacity,” Jos highlights. “As another example, this company also uses RPA to verify whether customers and suppliers cash flows are in line with agreed terms and conditions.” Finally also fraud detection is a domain where RPA shines, especially in combination with machine learning.
  4. Functional process automation
    Functional process automation can range from the periodic sending of sales prices, the automation of HR processes, the creation of financial provision, the processing and storage of documents (from customers, for example), and so forth.
  5. Interfaces
    This has to do with interconnecting applications. “As an example, we linked a client’s HR platform with the application used by its social security agency. In this way, RPA can offer automatic salary data processing,” Jos goes on to say.

Potential challenges to keep in mind

Implementing a self-driven back office using RPA is a relatively simple process. “However, a clear strategy is indispensable,” Jos emphasizes. “RPA isn’t an end goal, let alone a miracle solution for every problem. Instead, it’s one of the tools that can be used for digital transformation.

“The governance aspect is extremely important. As with all changes, it’s also important to involve employees early on in the process. In the majority of cases, automating tedious activities is very welcome – but this doesn’t mean that transparent communication isn’t key.”

Our RPA experts are ready to assist you, not just with hardware and software installation, but also with solutions development, training and workshops and support and guidance in the design and management of your RPA solution.

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