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Process Automation in Supply Chain hosted by Esker

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Meet the Experts

Key Takeaways

⇨ What are the business imperatives that are making SAPinsiders evaluate their supply chain process automation capabilities?

⇨ What specific strategies SAPinsiders have formulated to address their business drivers and how do they plan to execute those strategies?

⇨ What type of technology portfolio SAPinsiders envision when it comes to process automation in supply chain?


Kumar Singh (00:00):

Morning, good afternoon, and good evening, depending on where you are in the world right now. My name is Kumar Singh, and, uh, I’ll be your host as well as speaker in this post research webinar on process automation in supply chain. So, uh, before we start, let’s give attendees one more minute to join. Uh, in the meantime, if you are, uh, experiencing any, uh, challenges specifically, if you see something at my end like my, I’m not, uh, audible or any other issues, please feel free to use the chat with, uh, functionality, uh, to let me know. So we’ll give everyone one more minute, uh, and then we’ll get started.


Okay, so I think we’ll get started. Uh, for those who joined a bit late, again, my name is Kumar Sing. I’m a research analyst with SAP Insider, your host and speaker, uh, both in this webinar we’ll be sharing some of the key insights from a research report that we published in September, process Automation in supply chain. And, uh, before we jump into the, uh, the insights and the presentation, uh, I would like to thank our sponsors who collaborated with us on this research, escar and precisely. So with that introduction, let’s get started. What do we plan to cover in this webinar? So we’ll start with a research overview. Most of our research is, uh, basically very in tune with the s a P end user ecosystem. We have 700,000 plus end users, and the research agenda that we defined across taxonomies across our research areas are basically in line with the conversations that we regularly have with our end users.


So in the research overview section, we will try to understand why this topic ended up on our research agenda. Then we’ll, uh, explore some of the key insights about the current state that SAP insiders have shared with us in this research, and then jump into some of the key research highlights. So with that introduction, uh, let’s start with the research overview. And, uh, by the way, uh, if you have questions, feel free to put your, uh, questions in the q and a section. And, uh, then towards the, uh, end, we’ll basically go through those questions and I will answer them. And, uh, even after the presentation, you can, uh, actually shoot me emails with the question. So let’s start with the research overview. Why exactly did, uh, this end end up this topic end up on our agenda? So our agenda is basically a rolling agenda because technology as, uh, end user or a vendor partner, as you would know, that technology keeps on evolving at a very exponential pace.


So, so does our agenda. So we try to keep a pulse on the, uh, end user community, their pain points, what’s high on, uh, in terms of priority for them when they’re trying to invest in tools and technologies for each of our specific areas. So we conducted a research earlier this year, which was, uh, a more generic research in the area of process automation. And one of the aspects, uh, uh, key piece of information that emerged was that supply chain was one of the, uh, key focus areas, uh, when it comes to process automation for asset insiders. And that’s the reason we started exploring it a little bit. And then eventually, based on conversations with our end users, determine that this is a topic that is worthy of being a research topic in itself. And that’s how it ended up being on our research agenda. So to better understand, uh, the nuances why and how, and the roadmap that a insiders have in this area, we basically surveyed 104 members, uh, within a period of three months from July to September.


So who were the s SAP insiders who took this survey? So obviously, uh, the, the survey sample was group of s SAP insiders really focused in this area, looking to invest key decision makers, end users, uh, passionate about the topic of process automation and supply chain. But what do they look like in terms of, uh, some of the demographics? So if you look at the region, uh, majority, uh, of the number one segment of our respondents were from North America, 41% followed by EMEA close to 30%. Uh, it’s 29 points, some round rate to 29%, very close to uh, 30%. And then we had Asia <inaudible> 25%, and Latin America is 5%. So that’s the region demographic. Now, in terms of industry, you can see, uh, high-tech and industrial manufacturing, uh, was the largest, uh, uh, community that responded to the survey in terms of like the industry that the respondents come from, followed by retail distribution and consumer words.


Now, on the right hand side, what you see is an EMEA view. So specifically because almost in all of our responses, 30% or more respondents are from, uh, EMEA region. We generally do do a separate EMEA cut for all our research. So as we will go through some of the key insights, you will see the global view, which is aggregated view across all regions, and then you’ll also see an EMEA view for each of those insights. So in terms of industries, as you can see, EMEA wasn’t different. I mean in terms of percentages it was, but in uh, terms of the top two industries and the relative order of industries, it’s very similar to the global view. So that was the demographics of the survey respondents. So moving ahead, uh, how exactly do we conduct our research? So at the core of our research is a survey, and uh, that survey is designed around the framework that we call DART methodology.


So the goal of this survey is to basically understand the end user community. So we, like I was mentioning earlier, we do have these conversations, we keep on connecting with our, uh, end user community, but we also need to kind of tap a wider base and try to understand perspectives from many different segments, even within the end users of the technology, like key decision makers, as well as those who at work within the systems day to on a day-to-day basis. So the framework that we use here, uh, those of you who are familiar with our research are pretty much familiar with the DART methodology, I’m pretty sure. Uh, but for those who are new dot stands for driver sections requirements and technology, as you can see on this slide, basically what it does is we use this to design our survey, and through that survey design, we are able to capture why exactly are city insiders looking to invest in a technology, whether it’s process automation, it could be finance or taxation across our taxonomy areas.


We use this methodology and it helps us connect a technology at the ground, uh, at the basic level, all the way up to drivers that you see on the left hand side of this slide, which are basically business challenges that an organization may be experiencing. And this structure helps us not only the analyst to see what’s going on, why a SAP insiders are specifically interested in a technology, but it also helps the people who are actually absorbing our research because they, if you’re a key decision maker, you know how to make the business case to somebody who is at a CX O level because you can, using a research link, your business driver, business strategy, all the way down to technology, and it helps end users in terms of many different aspects. And this is where you translate beyond technology into peoples and people and processes where somebody who is the end user of technology, if they understand how the technology that they are using or they’re being asked to use eventually helps impacting the broader business strategy of an organization. That’s a big moral booster, a productivity booster, and it really helps kind of, uh, enhance the productivity, the, uh, resource strategy of an organization. So that’s why we really take pride in this framework and we use it regularly for generating, uh, our content and research as well as, uh, case studies and thought leadership.


So with that background, why we did the research, how we did the research and what the research demographic was, let’s explore some of the, uh, key current state aspects that emerged from the research. So the most important aspect, insiders really think that process ipo, uh, automation and supply chain is critical. So if you see here on this chart, if you sum the very important, important, it becomes almost 90% of the survey respondents saying that it’s, uh, very important or important for them. And this ties very closely to the overall process automation research that we did in April. So in that s SAP insiders very clearly highlighted that they do not see process automation anymore as something that is, uh, uh, cost savings or like, uh, uh, employee reduction kind of a solution. But they’re looking at process automation solutions more from a perspective of strategic solution. And that obviously can increases the importance of these solutions. And this is what we are seeing again, uh, like I mentioned earlier, on the right hand side of each of the, uh, charts that we will share here in this presentation, you’ll see an EMIA view as well. And though the percentages vary, the gist Stella is the same for even emea, that they are also considering process automation supply chain as very critical.


But this is the interesting, and, uh, this is a opportunity area as well. If you see, so in the previous slide we see that there’s this significant focus. If those taking the survey, I believe it’s really important, almost 90% of them, then that means that they’re kind of focused on trying to understand how they can build those capabilities or if they already have it at some level, enhance those. But as you can see in this chart, right, there is a gap. If you look at the bars in the, in the chart, whether it’s the global view on the left or the EMEA view, you’ll see most majority are, uh, within zero to 50% automated. What this means is both from the perspective of the end users or the organizations as well as vendors, there is this gap that exists that is also an opportunity. So if you’re an end user, if you’re an organization, uh, say if you are at zero to 25%, right, you have opportunities in two different uh, ways.


One is obviously that you can actually, uh, keep on building. If you already have a best in class automation built in, it’s kind of foundational that is where your zero to 25% or 26 to 50% is, then you build on that. But it’s also an opportunity to kind of step back and evaluate where you stand currently. And if you believe that what you have, uh, was implemented many, many years ago, and, uh, solutions obviously evolve at a very rapid pace technology solutions. So you feel there’s a need to kind of replace that and rebuild. So that also is a good opportunity because you haven’t gone too far with those, uh, legacies kind of solutions. So even if you are in zero to 25, 26 to 50, it shouldn’t be, uh, seen as being lagging, but rather than an opportunity that’s still in front of you. And from the vendor aspect, if you look at it, if you’re a vendor, it’s a, it’s a great opportunity. So you’ll know from the previous slide that asset insiders are very keenly focused on, uh, process automation and supply chain, but you also see that they are not there yet. Uh, many, some of them significantly, uh, not there. So there’s an opportunity for you to kind of help guide your customers or potential customers in their journey, help them understand the value process automation, supply chain and your solution in the specific can bring to them. So a big opportunity exists, even though the slide title is that a gap exists, it’s also an opportunity.


The other aspect, uh, is within supply chain, uh, sub-function. So where are S a P siders mostly focused on? And if you look here, you will not be actually, uh, very surprised seeing procurement and warehousing at the as the top two functions here. And we, uh, obviously had our hypothesis on why we, uh, talked with SAP insiders. Our respondents post the survey to validate them. And, uh, the, the validation aspects are simple, right? First of all, procurement is where it all started in terms of process automation, all the different aspects, whether it was invoice automation, procured to pay, and all that process automation kind of originated in that area. So generally in most of our research procurement or these subprocesses within procurement end up being, uh, among the top areas. But, uh, there’s this other aspect when you look at it from a supply chain perspective.


And the other aspect is that as SAP insiders, uh, thought about, uh, basically the challenges that they have been facing in their supply chain, most of them have been in terms of disruptions, uh, in terms of parts or materials that they were expected to receive from suppliers, whether it’s domestic or international. So if you look at the top two, procurement and warehousing, they kind of basically associate with those supply chain disruptions that you have been hearing about, uh, that everyone ranging from, uh, folks like us all the way, uh, to the White House has been talking about. It could be strategic parts like, uh, semiconductor chips or it could be something, uh, which is a common household item like toilet paper. But all this inventory challenge, I mean, warehouses exist to manage and hold inventory. Procurement is basically responsible for making sure that the cycle time, that inventory is procured on time and gets, uh, to the locations where it’s supposed to kind of enter the distribution supply chain on time. So those are the aspects, those are the key things that make both procurement and warehousing more critical within the current context for SAP insiders. And that’s why they have emerged here as the top, uh, focus areas.


So we saw, okay, what were the pain points that SAP insiders are experiencing and, uh, uh, what are the focus areas? But as they start planning their journey, as they, some of them even start embarking on the journey, there are obviously going to be challenges. Some of them, uh, you basically start experiencing or getting a handle on or, uh, listing out even before you start, right? So what are, what are some of the key challenges that s SAP insiders believe they are facing or they are going to face on the path towards building bestin class, uh, process automation capabilities in supply chain? So if you look at the first two, the number one is lack of internal skillset. And, uh, in most of our technology related research, we are, uh, uh, frequently seeing this emerge as one of the top challenges. So it’s not surprising whenever you’re looking at niche areas, and if a, if a topic ends on our re ends up on our research agenda, it’s definitely, uh, something that’s hot, uh, that, uh, organizations are focused on.


And when there is more demand for a specific technology, uh, there’s obviously more demand for the skill set in that technology. And that’s why we see lack of internal skillset emerging as a, a key challenge. But the interesting one is end-to-end automation solution. And what exactly does that mean when it emerges as a challenge? And we asked, uh, s sap p insiders to explain that. And the concept here is that many of them have a, a plethora of solutions which are point systems or focused on certain processes or even within processes they may be focused on, uh, subprocess within the process, right? Automating a specific portion of a broader end end process and what insiders are now looking for, because most of them, uh, in at some level and in some portion of their systems portfolio have some form of automation solution. But what they want to build now is that end-to-end automation solution, like having a solution platform that kind of takes care of an end-to-end process.


So for example, uh, if there’s order management, uh, automation that they’re thinking about, how do they actually build a solution that kind of integrates order management and inventory management automation, right? So that’s the kind of view or perspective that they’re trying to build, and that’s a challenge because they are not sure how to do that. So it’s more a strategic aspect. You can, uh, say it’s a, a lack of strategy on how to build end-to-end automation for certain processes. And that is a challenge. Again, every challenge is an opportunity. So it’s also an opportunity for, uh, vendors who believe either through their solution or through the partnerships that they have, they can offer that end-to-end, uh, solution platform to their clients. Now is the good time to kind of, uh, take charge of that.


So we saw the journey so far, the pain points, the focus areas, the challenges they’re experiencing now they are embarking on the journey. Our recipient insider communities, very, very resilient. So they’re going to finish the journey, they’re going to build those capabilities, but what would be the success criteria? How, how do they envision the success of, uh, their transformation initiative? What, what would be some of the key aspects? So here you see in this chart some of the, uh, key improvement aspects that the expect from implementing process automation, process efficiency is the number one followed by quality. Uh, again, if you look at the EMEA view, uh, the four aspects of the four key success criteria are the same. The order is slightly different, but at a high level, not very different from each other. But process efficiency is, uh, the number one success criteria. And we will still go through some of the details in the subsequent slides, uh, which will help us explain why efficiency has become so critical. Because, uh, in one of the subsequent slides, we will actually explore what are some of the business drivers going back to the DART framework that we were referencing earlier, what are some of the key business drivers that SAP insiders are experiencing? And that eventually will help us understand the choice of efficiency and quality here in the success criteria.


So let’s move into that. Let’s try to get into the key insights that I derived based on the DART framework that we discussed earlier. So before we get into the details here is a quick overview. So we looked at the DART framework in one of the previous slides. Uh, I also explained how the methodology framework works at a high level. It basically helps you connect the technology and the business drivers. So you have, uh, basically technology on one hand and business drivers on the other hand, if you see other ac uh, elements of this framework, like actions and requirements will help help you fill the gap. And this overview kind of can help you see that. So if you, if you look at the drivers, right, for example, need for supply chain resiliency, right? And if you look at the actions, so actions are basically strategies that organizations need to formulate to address the drivers.


There is no doubt in the mind of anyone who is even vaguely familiar with supply chains that there’s a need for supply chain resiliency across organizations, across industries. What, what will be some of the aspects if you think about it? Visibility is an important criteria for building that resiliency. Resiliency is the ability to respond to disruptions for that, for you first need to be able to see the disruptions at the right time. So as you can see, integrating process and build visibility is an action, is a strategy. If you move to requirements, how do you execute that strategy, right? You need to have certain capabilities in place to be able to execute that strategy and end-to-end supply chain process visibility, as you can see, uh, integrating all the processes, those are some of the aspects, the requirements that you need to have to help execute the, the whole, uh, strategy of integrated processes and visibility. And then finally, on the right hand side, you have technologies that you can leverage to build those requirements, build those capabilities. So that’s a kind of a overview of the DART methodology for this specific research. So let’s get into the, the details of each of those four components.


Drivers. Uh, every supply chain research that we have done, including the one that we’ll be publishing this month, uh, on, uh, inventory, supply chain, resiliency, and agility has emerged as among the top business drivers. This was not, uh, an exception. This report was not an exception. So as you see, need for supply chain resiliency and agility, where the top two drivers here, and again, if you look at the EMEA view here, it’s not different. Agility and resiliency are among the top drivers there as well. So looking at these strategies, strategies, like I was mentioning earlier as, uh, organizations trying to understand how they can actually address those business drivers, the imperatives, the external and internal forces that they’re experiencing, right? So what are these strategies, the top strategies that they have when they think about, uh, their business drivers from a process perspective, right? You think about supply chain resiliencies, think about supply chain agility, as I was mentioning earlier, you need to have standardized processes, processes that are agile and resilient.


And that’s the key aspect, uh, that we talk about all the time. As in, uh, whenever you think about implementing technology, any technology initiative as actually in the order of people, processes and technology, technology should come last. You need to kind of define the people and the processes aspect, and that’s why process standardization has emerged as the number one strategy. So if you want a resilient, if you want an agile supply chain, your processes need to be designed that way, then you need to have visibility in those processes and you need to have collaboration and visibility in this aspect. The visibility in this third option that you see in this chart is visibility with your supply chain partners, external visibility. So these three key strategies, SAP insiders believe from a process perspective will actually help, uh, support building a resilient and agile supply chain.


So what are the requirements? Like I mentioned earlier, requirements are basically the capabilities that you need to have in place to help execute the strategies. So if you want to build your, uh, process standardization, process visibility, how do you do that? Obviously process visibility is, uh, you need to build your, uh, end-to-end processes visibility in order to have the complete visibility, uh, for process standardization. Uh, you need to improve the efficiency. I mean, if you work on, uh, designing processes that improve efficiency, uh, and are design according to requirements, it helps, uh, not only towards standardization, right? But in other aspects of visibility as well. If you think about, uh, defining and documentation, standardization is very straightforward, uh, directly associates with the standardization strategy. Integrating the processes again touches upon the, the collaboration aspect and the visibility aspect. So these are the, the requirements. Now that brings us to the, to the last, but the most important slide in terms of what are the specific technologies that SF Insiders are looking at when they think about that entire path of going all the way from technologies, uh, to, uh, the business drivers.


What, what is, what is the portfolio that they believe will actually help them get there? So if you look at the chart, uh, whether you look at the right or the left, it’s basically, uh, the same design of the chart. Uh, as mentioned earlier, left one is the global view, so we can use that as a reference point, but if you, uh, look at each, each of those bars, the blue portion of the bar is the current state, uh, where as SAP insiders are either active, they already have the solution or they’re actively working on implementing. And the black portion of the bar is, uh, their focus area, they’re planning to implement that within next couple of years. So here you can see, uh, basically couple of simple things, right? SAP insiders want to first build a foundation in terms of fundamental automation capabilities. So you can see it’s not a surprise.


They already have order management solutions and procure to pay automation solutions. As I was mentioning earlier, excuse me, when we are looking at the process automation focus slide where we saw procurement as the number one focus area, and I mentioned that these solutions in the area of procurement, uh, for example, where some of the first processes that started getting automated. So that’s one aspect, uh, that many SAP insiders already have that if you look at invoice processing, that’s another example, supplier management automation. But either SAP insiders already have these or they’re working on building these, but that’s what they consider as the foundational element. Now the key aspect is that within next couple of years, they want to move from those foundational elements to more advanced capabilities. So if you can see, intelligent automation, for example, is 47% of respondents said that within next couple of years they will be focused on that.


So that is kind of, that gives us a good overview of the journey that they have in mind where having built either through a, uh, comprehensive, integrated or, uh, those, uh, basically point automation solutions in place, now they want to layer more advanced capabilities like intelligent automation, uh, process intelligent platform data, auto management automation solutions. They want to kind of build those advanced capabilities and integrate all of that to build that end-to-end automation view or perspective that they have in mind. But if you remember, that is also a challenge for them, as in, now that we have all these point solutions, what do we do to build that end to end automation solution? So that’s, that’s a question that they’re grappling with, but they also have kind of a roadmap to start layering solutions on the foundational aspects that they have to build that end-to-end solution view with advanced capabilities like intelligent automation and process intelligence that they have in mind.


So with that, uh, we come to the end of our cell, uh, presentation. So I will be ending the slideshow here so that I can see the cautions that may come, may have come in the chat. So the caution that we have here in the chat is, uh, how exactly does process automation in supply chain get enhanced through AI and ml? So that, that’s a great question. Uh, the key aspect to understand here is that AI m and ML enabled automation falls within the intelligent automation and in, uh, some cases also in process intelligence category. So, uh, most of the intelligent automation solutions would have some form of AI and ML algorithm that enhances the capabilities beyond, uh, vanilla automation to bring some level of, uh, primary decision making into the solution. For example, uh, it may look at an invoice and uh, reconcile it with the historical pattern of the orders coming from that source and flag that something doesn’t match up. So it’s not that AI and ML capabilities need to be inserted separately, they are already kind of inbuilt, baked within some of the solutions like intelligent automation and process or intelligent solutions that already exist, uh, within, uh, some of the solutions that we saw in the technology slide are, uh, actually focus area for SF Insiders within the next couple of years. But that was a good question.


So with that, uh, we come towards the end of our webinar. Thanks everyone for joining the webinar. Uh, really appreciate your time and if you have any questions, feel free to ping me and I’ll be more than glad to answer them. Thank you.


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