First of all: what is/was SAP iRPA 1.0?
Intelligent Robotic Process Automation (iRPA) is an SAP technology, used to automate repetitive manual processes via software bots (virtual desktop assistants that can work fully autonomously 24/7).
This way, businesses can reduce manual, time-consuming and often boring work and mobilize employees to focus on tasks with higher value.
Discover the advantages of this technology in another blog post.
SAP launched iRPA 1.0 in the first quarter of 2019. Two years later, it is time for SAP iRPA 2.0: a technology enabling hyperautomation. SAP iRPA 2.0. is an update of the existing software so existing customers can therefore make use of these new possibilities straightaway.
Before diving into the different aspects of SAP iRPA 2.0, it is important to first get an overview of the solution itself. SAP offers three components to design, execute and monitor your bots.
This tool allows you to build different scenarios and automations, without requiring any coding or development experience. In iRPA 1.0, it was called the Desktop Studio, since it was an application that needed to be downloaded on your local machine. Together with iRPA 2.0, the Cloud Studio was launched. Since it is a web-based tool, no installation is required. The target group has also shifted thanks to the Cloud Studio. Whereas the Desktop Studio was requiring quite a lot of technical knowledge, the Cloud Studio is easy-to-use and way more intuitive, allowing citizen developers and business process experts to create their own automations.
The Desktop Agent is the component that is responsible for the actual execution of a bot. The Desktop Agent is an application that can be installed on a local machine to execute bots in attended mode or on a server to execute bots in unattended mode.
Last but not least, is the Cloud Factory. It is a service from SAP Business Technology Platform and allows users to monitor and orchestrate their bot executions. In the Cloud Factory, one can configure for instance which user can execute which bot at a certain point in time.
On top of that, SAP also offers pre-packaged content in the SAP iRPA Bot Store. For instance, those packages are scenarios to automate the creation of sales orders in S/4HANA from Excel, which can be imported into the Cloud Factory and are operational without any further adjustments. Of course, it is also possible to customize it to fit your specific needs. Overall, it will be less time-consuming than developing a bot from scratch.
iRPA 2.0 deep dive: Cloud Studio
As you might have noticed by now, the major changes can be found in the brand new and supercharged Cloud Studio. Not everything is new in comparison with the Desktop Studio, but the way of working has changed drastically.
With the recent release, SAP has improved the ease of automating your processes via iRPA. People without coding experience or technical background can start automating as the tool is super user-friendly and simple to use. As a result, SAP iRPA empowers end-users to create automated flows themselves. In what follows, we will dive into the Cloud Studio, where we will discuss more in-depth the capturing of applications, building automations and testing automations with input parameters.
The first step to take when building a software bot is capturing the different applications and screens a bot has to perform actions in. As was the case for the Desktop Studio, a Chrome extension needs to be installed in order to capture web applications. With a dedicated wizard, capturing applications is easier and faster than ever before. Criteria will automatically be added to the selected components to make the application/screen/item unique. If necessary, one can also make use of the rich automation criteria like parents/ancestors, must exist/must not exist, etc., in order to capture more complex items like lists.
The next step, which used to be the most technical one, is building the automation itself. Or in other words: tell the bot which tasks it has to execute. In the Cloud Studio, one does only need to know the basic development concepts: a sequential step, an if-else statement and a loop.
By simply dragging and dropping prebuilt activities into your workflow, the bot will know what to do. It is even possible to define input and output parameters so data can be transferred from one step to another. Next to the SAP iRPA Core SDK, there are development kits available for Excel, Outlook, Word, SAPUI5 and PDF. And if that still does not fit your needs, there is the “custom script” node to add some lines of custom code.
The last step is to test your automations. With a visual and intuitive timeline, debugging your project has been made a lot easier. Furthermore, the capability to provide input data to your automation, both simple and more complex data structures, makes it possible to test (parts of) your automation dynamically within multiple contexts, creating a real environment in which your bot should operate in.
SAP iRPA 2.0 is not just an update like any other. It has been created and designed for specific target groups. Not only expert developers can build their bots, but also the employees that know the business processes thoroughly. By giving them an intuitive and easy-to-use tool, where no custom coding is required, scenarios for RPA will be much faster recognized and developed. For us at Amista, this is the next step to hyperautomation.
By Michiel Neefs, Technical Consultant
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