For many organizations, business process intelligence (BPI) has become the frontline tool for understanding operational performance, enabling the review of operational activities and the identification of any disruptions. Using data generated by daily processes, organizations can pinpoint the moment performance decreases, productivity lags, cost creeps, response time slows, and compliance slips.
Although this use case for BPI has been largely adopted, most companies still fail to recognize its full potential, which can only be realized by processing large volumes of operational data. However, recent advances in process mining, predictive analytics, artificial intelligence (AI), machine learning, process automation, and other intelligent technologies are turning BPI into the next frontier for business growth. These new capabilities not only show bottlenecks from “raw” data, but they also enable organizations to quantify and understand deviations, predict future events and outcomes, and recommend immediate and proactive actions to seize opportunities and fend off risks without human intervention.
How can businesses take the leap from business process management to this more prescriptive model – enabling them to see and predict points of failure early or take advantage of new opportunities strategically? By using an enterprise-wide, connected framework of open and cloud-based solutions, services, tools, and content resources – all supported by a unified platform.
Binding the Enterprise with BPI
Companies are digitalizing processes with cloud solutions to tackle critical operational and market challenges, such as shortages in supply, labor, lead time, and bandwidth. This approach has channeled what would have been years of innovation and change into months. And more importantly, it has allowed organizations to take their processes and BPI to new levels as they extend their sphere of influence and become a more interconnected contributor across their supply chains and industry ecosystem.
SAP partners can take advantage of this opportunity by leveraging the application development, integration, data and analytics, process automation, and AI capabilities of SAP Business Technology Platform (SAP BTP). The platform is designed to provide the latest BPI services and automation while maintaining critical SAP business context across different data models, systems, and lines of business.
With SAP BTP, BPI can be used to provide customers with predictive insights and drive automation with greater transparency and accuracy. Take, for example, the seemingly continuous loop of design-to-operate processes in manufacturing. Multiple steps and touchpoints are required to help ensure qualified people, relevant skills, and quality checks are in place to deliver products that keep customers impressed. Traditionally, technologies covering product and quality management, business planning and analysis, digital manufacturing, and environmental sustainability and safety were used to understand performance gaps and find the root cause.
Today, SAP partners and savvy manufacturing industry customers are working with SAP BTP to implement automation with BPI. They’re extending the intelligence generated along the design-to-operate process by embedding a robotic process automation (RPA) service at four critical points: component procurement, inbound delivery, production, and logistics.
Once the product is designed, quantity is set, and a master production timeline is defined, these customers can use an automated learning assistant or chatbot to create plans and schedules and pass them over to the procurement organization. An Internet of Things (IoT)-enabled alert triggers a workflow to check supplier availability and capacity; locate the appropriate components across multiple applications, Web sites, spreadsheets, catalogs, and documents; and then create a purchase order for materials needed. Using this chatbot before purchasing supplies for subassemblies helps ensure that the correct part is ordered at an optimal price point and from a supplier that can deliver as requested.
Another chatbot can be created to support the automated triggering of inbound deliveries and tracking. The bot reviews supply shipments with pending updates, logs on to the transportation providers’ Web site to check real-time status, and updates the business system. It also notifies stakeholders when exceptions emerge, details potential outcomes of delays or shortages, and recommends steps to mitigate any risks.
Automation with BPI can also help ensure manufacturing plants can scale production as quickly as customer demand and business requirements shift. For instance, a connected plant can facilitate intelligent manufacturing execution by scanning orders and customer service requests to update enterprise data. This information on detected changes or exceptions is then immediately sent to demand planners, so they can assess forecasts and decide how to boost or lower capacity across multiple plants.
One more use case gaining attention is route determination automation, especially as organizations seek to fulfill increased pressure for better sustainability performance, controlled costs, and on-time delivery. When a customer order is picked and packed on the production floor or at the warehouse, a chatbot can trigger an assessment of the best route to deliver the package. These recommendations are based on existing logistics plans, newly placed orders, and other orders waiting to be picked up by the logistics provider.
Driving Progress by Reimagining the Value of BPI
Even though the potential for process improvement with BPI is well-known, most organizations have yet to turn that knowledge into tangible systems driving insights and real-time automation. They have consistently and transparently documented their processes, but many still need to translate these early steps into process intelligence solutions and automation across key lines of business ‒ including design to operate, procure to pay, and order to cash ‒ to gain greater resilience, agility, and responsiveness.
For that reason, there is a significant opportunity for SAP partners. They can use SAP BTP to support fact-based optimization, proactive shifts, and well-informed decision-making across their customers’ critical lines of business. But more importantly, the automation potential of BPI can be fully leveraged to provide immediate, tangible benefits that drive future business growth.
To learn more about how SAP partners help businesses transition to the cloud with a unified technology platform, read “Turning the Cloud into a High-Powered Innovation Engine” and “Business Planning and Analytics: The Difference between Surviving and Thriving.” If you’re interested in software partnership opportunities with SAP, check out SAP PartnerEdge, Build. If you’re already a partner, check out these exciting initiatives: Hack2Build and SAP Co-Innovation Lab.
Tom Le is global vice president of Partner Solution Advisory at SAP.