Founded in 1969, Darmstadt (Germany) based Software AG is an enterprise software company with more than 10,000 customers in over 70 countries. Software AG offers clients the freedom to connect and integrate any technology—from app to edge. Amongst its range of technology offerings, Robotic Process Automation is one of the key elements that has demonstrated outstanding results in digitalization projects. In an in-depth conversation with Tom Thaler, Product Manager at Software AG, we learn that there is just more to RPA than automation.
In conversation with Tom Thaler, Product Manager, Software AG
RPA as a technology has truly come of age and is expected to become mainstream in 2019. As a player in the RPA market, how has Software AG grown and adapted to the changing customer landscape?
That’s correct! In fact, RPA is increasingly finding its way into the daily operations of many companies. Software robots are working together with employees to give them more time to focus on the important things. At the same time, most companies struggle to scale – only 4 percent reach a 50-robot scale in their automation projects. We want to change this by focusing on the right processes to produce the maximum possible value.
At Software AG, we have been providing our customers with the necessary tools for a successful digital transformation for many years - from planning, process design and optimization with workflow & integration platforms, to the connection, control and analysis of IoT. RPA is an important element that can be used independently of existing APIs.
This technology is predominantly in demand by specialist departments to solve relevant business problems – not just automating redundant and less-loved tasks of individual employees. It is about solving bottlenecks in business processes in order to create noticeable effects on customers and employees. Our solution addresses the pure robot implementation and also thinks the business case from end to end-from the potential and requirements analysis over the design, implementation and rollout of the robot landscape, to the proof of success and the proof of ROI.
RPA is going to usher in a new era characterized by high personalization, improved delivery of customer value, greater convenience and rapid delivery of needs. What kind of products does Software AG provide to customers meet these organizational goals?
These goals are indeed essential. Achieving them requires a structured approach that focuses on value maximization right from the beginning and is supported by the right tools. We deliver both.
We use established approaches such as BPA and Process Mining with our ARIS solution to identify and prioritize the automation opportunities from an outcome perspective. We then apply discovery bots on the employee computers to automatically capture the actual step flow in all details (intelligent Task Mining). This is the basis for the
robot implementations. Experience shows, that up to 70 percent of RPA project resources are spent on pre-automation – we automate most parts of this phase and are therefore able to significantly speed up RPA progress with less resources.
An important step is to comprehensively document the RPA landscape in detail and make it accessible to all relevant stakeholders. Employees from both business and IT need to understand what is happening – what is done by robots and how the robots are doing it. For this, we have a unique RPA-modeling approach, which allows sharing the relevant knowledge with the entire organization.
At software AG, we have been providing our customers with the necessary tools for a successful digital transformation for many years
There is immense focus on incorporating AI/ML within RPA for intelligent automation. Tell us about your services, solutions and flagship offering that differentiate Software AG from its competitors?
AI and ML are critical to successful RPA projects. This is why we talk about intelligent RPA. Core areas, where we work intensively with AI technologies, are in the phase of pre-automation with Process Mining and Task Mining, but also for the robots themselves.
Our ARIS RPA Task Mining engine, powered by Kryon, applies ML to find patterns in the employee’s interactions with the application systems they use to execute their business processes. Based on this, Process Mining uses AI to automatically reconstruct the observed process behavior and variances as a visual representation. The AI-based root cause miner identifies the reasons for actual issues and bottlenecks, which delivers the basis for a sustainable process improvement before it comes to implementation. This is important, as we don’t want to automate a poor process. Instead, we need to optimize first.
From Task Mining, we can derive a working robot with only one click – this partially “automates the automation”. Of course, the robot must be refined and configured, but this is already saving several working days in the robot implementation. Finally, our AI boosters enable extracting key data from scanned documents, irrespective of them being handwritten text. Also, deep text analytics, such as sentiment detection and much more, are enabled. In short, AI is a key technology in all phases of our RPA lifecycle.
Security & Governance is expected to be among the top differentiators for vendors within the RPA space. How do you overcome these challenges?
Security and governance are much more than storing passwords securely, behaving securely and monitoring robot activity. The main thing is to ensure that the robots work reliably. Let’s consider a classic situation, as we see it again and again.
Imagine a company with many robots working with SAP. Let’s say the ERP system needs to be updated for security reasons, or to ensure compliance with new regulations. Often, the impact of the update, especially at the interface level, is unpredictable because IT doesn’t know which robots are potentially affected – the robots stop working. A very stressful situation arises where fixing is required, and critical processes can’t be executed in the desired way.
Now we have developed a methodology to describe the robot landscape with all information about the systems used, ownerships and activities. Everything is stored in a structured repository that can be analyzed from different angles. Hence, a good documentation of the robotic landscape is key to successful management of RPA.
In addition, you need to ensure that the robots execute the business processes in a compliant manner with regards to legal regulations and business rules. Our solution secures this automatically with our built-in conformance checking engine.
Years of delivering transformation would have resulted in a number of triumphant success stories. Tell us one!
A very impressive story is GOL, since they are focusing on their most critical processes. GOL LinhasAéreas (GOL) is a Brazilian airline operating primarily in Latin American countries but also with international flights. Since GOL’s founding, one of its biggest challenges was being able to continuously review and adapt schedule plans in response to operational requirements.
Hundreds of daily updates must be done in two asynchronous systems (the route network management system and the reservation and ticketing system) because they are not integrated. Updating data in the reservation and ticketing system was time-consuming and demanded many manual tasks to be performed by dozens of highly skilled professionals. This impacted the availability of tickets and limited commercial decision-making for new routes and new business opportunities.
”Our process mining and dashboarding tools help to pitch the RPA success story to the top management to ensure buy-in, ownership and budget for growth”
Prior to RPA automation, processing 1300 flight changes required 20 working days. Currently, the RPA robot can process the same workload in only one day. After the project was deployed, GOL eliminated the backlog of systems updates and is now able to plan flights three months in advance.
What further innovation do you plan to include in your RPA technology offerings?
We will continue to focus on supporting the entire RPA cycle with our software at all stages. We have already seen that it is not enough to simply implement a robot. The added value only comes from a holistic view of the end-to-end processes. This makes RPA in itself a process - you could call it process-driven RPA. We want to offer our customers a best-practice solution that enables them to get the most out of RPA and scale with it.
In the future, it will be possible not only to identify the problems of today's processes, but also to solve them - both professionally and technically. The goal is to analyze highly complex issues, which is usually the domain of human beings. With the amount of available data, and today's machine and deep learning approaches, we have the best prerequisites in the marketplace.