Why is Blue Prism the Best RPA Platform for SAP?

By Ed Pyun posted 14 days ago

  
illustration of three people touching screens

The RPA market was the fasting growing segment in the enterprise software market according to Gartner in 2019 growing by 63% (1).  Even in 2020 despite the challenges created by the COVID-19 pandemic, the RPA market grew by 12% and will still be able to grow by double digit rates through 2024 (2). Although customers have been slower in adopting RPA for SAP systems, Blue Prism can support fast and resilient automation for SAP.


Why is Automating SAP Challenging?

With the growth of RPA, why have we not seen similar adoption in automating SAP?  There are three 3 reasons that make automating SAP more challenging. 

  1. The SAP GUI, which is the most common UI being used by SAP customers, is unique and can be challenging to automate. The SAP GUI screen elements are difficult to interact with so many RPA tools will likely have to use screen-scraping, send function keys, relying on X-Y coordinates, and use code to interact with the SAP screens.  Using these techniques require a larger development effort.  Also, the resulting automation is typically not resilient and requires frequent maintenance to keep the automation working.   
  2. SAP is the most comprehensive and customizable ERP application. It can support all the functions of an organization (finance/accounting, sales, procurement, manufacturing, HR, etc.) in a single application.  One of the main reasons that it is the most popular ERP application because customers can heavily customize their SAP system to meet their specific business needs.  SAP customers are constantly making changes to improve their SAP system as their business grows and changes.  These changes to their SAP system can occur as frequently as weekly or daily.  On top of the changes made by customers, SAP provides regular updates as they make improvements and fix bugs to their core SAP system.  As a result, all these changes occurring constantly impacts automation stability and customers will have to quickly maintain their automation to keep up with the changes.
  3. SAP is a mission critical application and SAP customers tend to be cautious as a result. Having digital workers running SAP processes automatically can be concerning to SAP users since it will likely impact a high number of transactions.  Most SAP users have likely experienced some automated processes (like data migration tools, middleware, custom batch input sessions, etc.) that had a bug and created many errors.  Since SAP is a customers’ system of record, they probably spent a significant amount of time to correct these errors which could potentially be in the millions in a worst-case scenario.   

As a result of these 3 challenges, customers have been slower in adopting RPA for SAP systems.

How Blue Prism Addresses the Main Challenges

To support SAP’s own internal automation capabilities, SAP provided a SAP Scripting API starting in version R/3.  SAP ABAP developers could create their own SAP programs using this API to execute SAP transactions by emulating user interaction with a SAP system.  Even if a SAP system is heavily customized, this API is very stable and resilient so changes to the SAP system usually did not impact the automation. 

Blue Prism built an interface specifically to interact with this SAP Scripting API in 2013 so Blue Prism could support fast and resilient automation for SAP.  Many of our customers having been automating SAP for years using our SAP Identification Mode which leverages this API.  Blue Prism automation is easily developed by point and click using this SAP interface.  Blue Prism is the only RPA platform that can automate SAP with no coding, screen-scraping, and sending function keys which simplifies the automation development.  Another benefit is Blue Prism automation built for a SAP ECC system will also work on an SAP S/4HANA system if a customer does not significantly change their SAP processes.  

To provide even more value when automating SAP, Blue Prism released in 2020 a library of pre-built automation that executes around 400 of SAP’s most used transaction codes.  The Blue Prism Accelerators for the use of SAP ERP provides a shortcut so any SAP automation development does not have to start from scratch.  These accelerators were built leveraging the SAP Scripting API and developed following Blue Prism best practices so they are easy to use and of high quality.  Also, any customizations can be quickly added using the SAP Identification Mode.  These accelerators are fairly complete as they include interacting with required screens/fields, relevant data items, intelligent wait stages, and exception stages to support proper error handling.  These SAP accelerators can save up to 90% development effort in creating SAP automation.  Many of our customers are averaging around 80% savings in development time when using these accelerators.  This can significantly help the business case around developing automation for SAP.

What are the Benefits of Automating SAP?

Here are some of the benefits customers could realize if they automated SAP:

  • Less Human Effort – The main value of employing digital workers is returning hours to the business so a significant time can be saved on a large ERP system like SAP.
  • Increased Employee Satisfaction – Digital workers could be targeted to work on the repetitive and mundane tasks in SAP which will give SAP workers time to do higher-value tasks.
  • Faster Execution – Digital workers not only work faster, but they can scale so customers can leverage digital workers to help SAP workers significantly more work. Digital workers can work 24/7 and weekends so more work is done.
  • Quality of Your SAP System – Digital workers will not make errors so and the updates to the system will be faster so the quality of the system will be higher.

These benefits can be attained for normal operations, but also for upgrade projects.  No matter where you start your SAP automation journey, there is an opportunity to re-use your SAP automation since Blue Prism automation for SAP will work on both an ECC and S/4HANA.  For example, any SAP automation built prior on an SAP ECC system, the automation could be easily re-used with some modifications for an SAP S/4HANA project.  The automation could continue to be re-used for normal operations after migrating to S/4HANA and for future upgrade projects as well. 

 

References


  1. Available at: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2019-06-24-gartner-says-worldwide-robotic-process-automation-sof
  2. Available at: https://www.gartner.com/en/newsroom/press-releases/2020-09-21-gartner-says-worldwide-robotic-process-automation-software-revenue-to-reach-nearly-2-billion-in-2021

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