You have probably already heard about robotic process automation or RPA (Robotic Process Automation). This technology can automate different steps in business processes to free people from performing repetitive tasks that do not add value, so they can focus on added-value tasks.
Although we are now experiencing the RPA 'boom', this software has already been on the market for two decades, and considering its growth rate over the last years, it seems that it still has a long way to go. Gartner forecast in September 2020 that worldwide robotic process automation software revenue to reach nearly $2 billion in 2021. Moreover, they emphasized that the global pandemic and the resulting recession have increased the interest of many companies in RPA.
"90% of large organizations globally will have adopted RPA in some form by 2022 as they look to digitally empower critical business processes through resilience and scalability while recalibrating human labor and manual effort." predicted Gartner.
Business Processes Automation
As an SAP BPC consultant with more than 5 years of experience working for large enterprises, I have worked with many companies which used different SAP modules to load data to SAP BPC, as a result I know that many of these repetitive tasks can be both physically and mentally consuming for the staff, which is why I acknowledge that the application of RPA software can bring many benefits to companies.
Here are some examples of how RPA software can improve your business processes:
Process customer forms, master data, aggregates invoice data and triggers invoice on sales order and goods receipt.
Auto-capture and read remittance info from checks, emails, and web portals, match payments with open invoices.
Process logistics paperwork,shipment tracking , expediting of orders, supplier follow ups and update ERP and WMS systems.
Auto-extract information from vendor invoices and purchase order details from ERP. Robots can then perform a 3-way matching of invoices.
Automate pre- and post- payment validation and reconciliation; notify exceptions; monitor and identify potential duplicate payments.
SAP IRPA vs UiPath
In the technology sector, the market is full of adaptative solutions based on each company's needs. In this case, given my experience with SAP, we are focusing on two of them: SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation, the native application of the historic Walldorf-based business, and UiPath, a company founded in 2005 in Romania and which, according to Gartner, is one of the leading companies in the RPA market.
SAP Intelligent RPA
SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation is the German company's solution released in April 2019 to automate repetitive manual processes in both SAP and non-SAP applications. The main strength of this tool is the compatibility and integration with SAP software, especially with its ERP module (implemented in more than 15,000 companies around the world) which is of vital importance since most RPA implementations are focused on the automation of processes in such systems, as they are intimately linked to the core business of companies.
On the other hand, in principle, one of the disadvantages that this tool may have is the price, since it uses the pay-per-use modality, which facilitates access to the solution at a relatively low initial price, although if it is not properly governed, it can increase the costs quickly and significantly.
UiPath is the fastest growing technology company in America according to the Financial Times "Americas' Fastest Growing Companies 2020" report, which evaluates American public and private companies based on their revenue growth between 2015 and 2018. One of the biggest advantages of this tool is the partnerships with more than 250 technology allies and its powerful integration with almost all major product and application companies, such as SAP, Microsoft, Oracle, Workday, AWS, and Salesforce among many others.
On the contrary, it is worth mentioning some customer testimonies regarding the experienced customer support deterioration over the last years, probably due to the great efforts they have put in growing as a company. However, this technology has numerous open forums and, more importantly, UiPath Academy, a free online academy that currently contains 130 courses and 12 development plans.
To conclude, we have seen that both RPA solutions have pros and cons which, depending on the implementing company, may have a lesser or greater impact on its business. Having said that, both tools seem to be good solutions to automate manual repetitive processes in a simple, efficient, and scalable way. In my opinion, SAP Intelligent Robotic Process Automation seems to be the ideal solution for companies that have their entire ecosystem focused on SAP, which would be giving a step forward to what SAP calls 'The Intelligent Enterprise'. On the other hand, if the company only has some SAP modules in place, possibly the most logical step would be to implement UiPath since its great compatibility with most of the enterprise products offered by the major vendors makes it the ideal solution to automate different tools.
P.S. During the development of this article, I tried to find some real customer stories of RPA software applied to SAP BPC. However, despite finding some experienced consultants in this field, I was not able to get their feedback.