Business process improvement has been a top enterprise concern of late, and SAP has heeded the call with Process Insights, a new process mining tool announced during last week’s Sapphire event.
With Process Insights, SAP aims to help customers streamline their operations by reporting on the speed and efficiency of existing business processes before benchmarking them against 300 key performance indicators (KPIs) generated from aggregated SAP customer data.
The tool, which will use SAP's Intelligent Robotic Process Automation to recommend improvements, leans heavily on data SAP has amassed about what makes any given process efficient for its customers, SAP CEO Christian Klein said during a media and analyst Q&A.
“This brings that knowledge into one tool to allow customers to not only measure and benchmark their business processes but use this expertise and these insights to design the business processes in a way that helps them to grow the business, automate, and drive productivity,” he said.
Process mining software examines enterprise data sources to give customers a fuller picture of how their processes are running, where there are bottlenecks, and where there are opportunities to streamline. When paired with robotic process automation (RPA) software, vendors promise customers the ability to identify inefficient business processes and opportunities to automate them.
SAP has a wealth of business process information connected to its popular enterprise resource planning (ERP) software, and with its acquisition of business process management software provider Signavio in January and RPA vendor Contextor in 2018, it now has all the pieces in place to model, mine, and eventually streamline those processes for customers.
“This follows the archetypical model of SAP to react to a missed capability,” Constellation Research principal analyst Holger Mueller says. “Buy a smaller competitor; replace the partner; tout the solution as essential.” The partner Mueller refers to here is process mining pioneer Celonis, which recently raised $1 billion in funding at a valuation of $11 billion and already counts the likes of Uber, Dell, L’Oréal and AstraZeneca as customers.
Gartner analyst Paul Saunders agrees that SAP is late to the process mining game, adding that “they should have had this five years ago when they launched S/4HANA, because this is the hardest thing for companies to understand and change.”
Despite being late to market with this sort of capability, the company believes it will have a huge leg up on the competition—at least with existing customers who already run large parts of their business (from accounts to finance to procurement and logistics) on SAP, and mining those processes for better efficiency should be fairly straightforward.
“The solution provides business professionals with out-of-the box capabilities to very quickly analyse business processes that run through SAP ECC and SAP S/4HANA systems and get tailored recommendation on how to fix or improve them," Wassilios Lolas, global vice president for business process intelligence at SAP told CIO.com via email. "However, for non-SAP systems, organisations are able to benefit from our recent acquisition of Signavio that is able to provide analysis and modelling."
Where the vendor will need to prove itself is in how it blends these SAP data sources with external systems so that organisations can get a full picture of their end-to-end processes.
“SAP customers don’t live in a world of just SAP processes. They live in a world where the business processes, from order to cash, hire to retire, procure to pay, campaign to order, are almost always outside of SAP,” Ray Wang, principal analyst at Constellation Research said. “Just like analytics, where the data outside of the system is as important as the data inside the system, process intelligence works the same way, so an SAP-centric tool doesn’t necessary help a customer.”
SAP Process Insights will be made generally available to customers in the third quarter of 2021 and there will be a six-month free trial offered under a new promotional offer.