The complexity of companies’ IT landscapes is increasing. At the same time, companies are facing a series of challenges that can be better addressed with innovative digital solutions. But IT teams lack the time and resources to further develop the IT infrastructure because they are already busy with routine tasks and manual activities. Furthermore, operations consume unnecessary money that is then lacking for innovations.
There's little doubt: Since crucial business processes in many companies depend on functioning SAP software, IT departments spend a lot of time and effort on pure SAP operations. However, in discussions with our customers, I repeatedly find that they often spend too much time on purely routine operations and, as a result, less on process optimization. And they have the feeling that they have to be "always on" as a rapid reaction force. One reason is that SAP administrators are doing too much work manually. And it’s not necessary, because routine tasks such as updates, changes, and patches can be automated in the background. This not only saves time, but also reduces the error rate and downtimes, while improving performance and security, which can suffer from delayed and incorrect manual administration. In addition, the already scarce time of IT specialists can be put to better use. They would be better off applying their expertise to the further development and modernization of the IT infrastructure and driving innovations forward.
In one of its numerous reports, the American SAP user group ASUG, which includes more than 130,000 SAP experts, looked at the question of how the automation of SAP operations can increase innovation and optimize operations. The correlation is clear: More automation of SAP operations leads to more innovations. The study "ASUG Pulse of the SAP Customer 2020" concludes that 83 percent of innovators have automated their business processes. The study also confirms that automation has an impact on costs. A good two-thirds of respondents who do not have an automation strategy complain about high costs. And they have to deal with a lack of resources and consistency problems in managing SAP landscapes more often.
So, those who want to free themselves from routine tasks, should opt for automation. According to an SAPinsider benchmark report, some companies are already doing just that. But more than 200 SAP users surveyed for the report don’t seem satisfied with the implementation. Nearly two-thirds of respondents use Robotic Process Automation (RPA) solutions, machine learning, or artificial intelligence (AI) for SAP-based processes. But only 30 percent are satisfied with their current solutions. They are not achieving the desired effect of giving employees more time for activities that create more value for the company. Those who operate their SAP landscape in the cloud can benefit from their cloud provider's SAP automation expertise. Provided the cloud operator offers more than just computing capacity.
There’s plenty of automation potential for the optimization of SAP operations. Repetitive routine tasks such as applying kernel patches, change deployment, or standard maintenance can be performed without manual effort. SAP has also integrated AI functionalities into S/4HANA that make SAP applications smarter. AI enables the automation of more routine tasks. T-Systems is also automating a large part of its routine processes, using predictive analytics and AI. We have set up around 100,000 automated processes for our managed services that perform simple and recurring tasks in the background. For example, they fix errors or perform database and operating system upgrades. AI tools monitor more than 350 parameters at the application level in real time, which are crucial for a smooth SAP operation. A major benefit is that unplanned downtime is reduced by up to 70 percent.
Those taking advantage of the opportunities that automation offers can also benefit from a side effect that is often underestimated. Mundane routine tasks frustrate most SAP users in the long run. It's just not much fun to struggle day after day with processes that seem superfluous. They wonder why they have to run the same checks over and over again. Freeing SAP administrators from these manual tasks significantly enhances the customer experience of the complex SAP infrastructure – and creates space for value-adding and exciting innovation tasks.