The market for robotic process automation (RPA) is growing dramatically — as is the hype that robots will solve all of our automation needs, take our jobs, and control our lives. To see past the hype and understand the true business value of RPA, you first need to understand what RPA is and what it is not.
RPA is software designed to automate repetitive, rule-based tasks and processes in structured data environments, typically mimicking user interface interactions, or by connecting to APIs. It should not be confused with artificial intelligence — technology that can spot patterns, solve problems, and learn from analyzing both structured and unstructured data sources.
Many repetitive data management tasks, such as invoice processing, journal entries, and pricing changes are prime candidates for RPA, and companies are already seeing dramatic productivity gains (see Figure 1).
RPA will indeed have a profound impact on the global workforce, but in many cases, rather than replacing people, RPA solutions will assist them — eliminating repetitive data entry tasks, boosting morale, and enabling them to carry out higher-value work.
Use the Right Tool for the Right Job
Not all RPA tools are created equal, however. Generic RPA tools, as the name suggests, work across multiple data sources, including SAP ERP systems. These tools record and execute their robotic scripts through the SAP GUI, making them prone to failure when something as small as a change in screen resolution occurs.
In addition, building in exception handling, wait times, and other factors can be a time-consuming process that involves specialized technical resources that can cause budget and time overruns, or even outright project failure.
SAP-specific RPA solutions, on the other hand, are built specifically to automate SAP system processes. So while it’s simple for non-technical staff to record processes through the SAP GUI, the robotic process runs in the application layer without the need to render the SAP screens. The result is not only a more robust solution, but also performance gains of up to 400% compared with executing processes via the SAP GUI.1
SAP-specific RPA solutions also enable a user to quickly step in to fix any data errors using familiar software such as Microsoft Excel — resulting in faster rollout, lower deployment costs, and better return on investment (ROI). According to ISG Research, more than half of RPA budgets last year were spent on third-party companies like consultants and IT service providers, so finding the right solution and partner is important.
Proven Productivity Benefits
While RPA may be a new term in the market, companies like Winshuttle have successfully deployed SAP-specific RPA technologies for over a decade — with proven results.
Figure 1 shows the average processing time saved by eliminating manual data entry via the SAP GUI across thousands of Winshuttle customers.
The key to success with RPA is to choose the right process to automate, and then find the right tool for the job. Make these choices carefully, and this technology can yield real productivity gains.
Winshuttle offers SAP-specific RPA technologies as part of a comprehensive SAP data management suite that can be used to automate any SAP process, from simple to complex. Learn more at www.winshuttle.com/rpa4sap.
1 400% performance gains calculated by processing an MM02 transaction with Winshuttle software in batch input mode, versus GUI scripting mode (approach used by most generic RPA tools). [back]