Creating Business Value With Intelligent Automation

Oliver Betz

Intelligent technologies can change how we work and live. Too many business users spend too much time each day on repetitive, boring tasks that they do not need to do and, more importantly, do not want to do.

Using intelligent technologies like machine learning and artificial intelligence to automate as many mundane tasks as possible can have a massive impact on workforce morale, allowing workers to focus on things that add real value — like talking to customers, developing business plans, proposing new business initiatives, and generally doing more meaningful and fulfilling work. Most enterprises want to leverage automation capabilities for that very reason: They can free up skilled employees to work on more challenging, interesting, and profitable projects.

As businesses invest in intelligent technologies and automation, many are learning that employing intelligent technologies piecemeal across their hybrid environments restricts the potential return on their investment. While it is possible to achieve some level of intelligent automation with a best-of-breed approach, where stand-alone intelligent applications cover a dedicated use case, businesses will achieve the highest return on efficiency and cost savings when they automate business processes from end to end. This requires a best-of-suite approach to cloud ERP.

Why the full suite

In order to get ahead, today’s IT leaders need to work towards having intelligence embedded into processes on every level. For example, when purchasing material, the goal would be to have embedded intelligence support the entire purchasing experience. The system should automatically detect what supplier is preferred, propose a material, and then maybe engage a human to handle the negotiation. Eventually, intelligent technology will become seamlessly embedded in the process of normal daily work in this manner, providing the right information upfront and supporting the user in taking the right action.

One of the biggest missed opportunities in implementing dedicated automation versus a full ERP suite is the ability to thoroughly capture customer feedback data. Integrating customer experience data from a company’s service center into a cloud ERP solution can help businesses understand behaviors, buying decisions, and unsubscribes and potentially change the product or service in response. So, in the example above, if the material the intelligent technology system selected was not well-received by the end user, the ERP system would be able to incorporate that feedback and recommend a different option moving forward.

Enterprise on auto-pilot

Intelligent automation in the enterprise has several parallels to autonomous vehicles. Both are likely a long way from becoming reality, but the promise of these technologies cannot be overstated. There are abundant opportunities to begin laying the foundation for full autonomy in the future by making strategic decisions now.

Another parallel between ERP and autonomous vehicles is the debate over autonomous decision-making. Someone has to define algorithms and how systems should behave, what rules they should follow, and what priorities to value. A human programmer needs to decide how systems are made and what the autonomous decision-making process looks like. It is not good enough to simply ask customers to trust decisions that were made in a black box when they could have repercussions for their business.

For intelligent technologies to take over in the enterprise, the first step is for not just end users but also business leaders and employees to establish trust in the technology. The best way to do this is for employees and customers to begin working with the algorithms and understanding them. For example, some customers may want to train an algorithm themselves and take control. In this case, it is worthwhile to empower customers to be as hands-on as they want. Understanding builds trust, and over time, as trust increases, businesses will be able to dial up their use of intelligent automation.

While end-to-end business process automation may seem like an impossible task, it’s closer to becoming reality than most realize. Beginning to build trust for automation technology among employees and customers is one key component of setting the foundation for automation. Standardization is the base for automation. If you have fully customized, tailor-made processes, it is hard to achieve a decent level of automation. Businesses need to standardize their processes first, introducing a state-of-the-art cloud ERP, before leveraging the benefits of built-in automation to achieve process optimization and cost savings.

Know that automation, like autonomous vehicles, is coming – and those who lean into the opportunities this presents now will benefit in the long run.

Discover more about the modern ERP system that utilizes AI to transform business processes.

This article originally appeared on IT Toolbox and is republished by permission.

Oliver Betz

About Oliver Betz

Oliver Betz is senior vice president and global head of product management for SAP S/4HANA at SAP SE. In this role, Oliver assesses customer and market requirements and drives the SAP S/4HANA product strategy. Under his leadership, his team discovers key market trends and collaborates with customers and partners globally to define SAP’s next-generation ERP solution, helping customers gain competitive advantage. Oliver’s team also supports SAP´s field organization, industry analysts, and the SAP partner ecosystem to assess client requirements and demands and map them with the SAP S/4HANA product roadmap. He began his professional career as a software developer and consultant and joined SAP in 2000 as a technical support consultant.