Driving Intelligent Automation and Self-healing across the SAP® stack: Arago’s HIRO™ for SAP® Operations

Amidst the noise around innovations and digital technologies, it is easy to get confused about whether juggernauts like SAP® will keep their strategic relevance. The more cynical commentators will argue that ERP is like pouring the concrete for the foundations of a new house. You might do refurbishments and extensions, but you are unlikely to move again. On a more serious note, the notion of ERP is changing fast and SAP® is changing with it. New use cases include leveraging Machine Learning, the Internet of Things (IoT) and predictive analytics from the SAP® Leonardo portfolio. Yet, for SAP® itself the most pressing use case is convincing existing customers to migrate to S4/HANA while convincing new customers to leverage functionality beyond the HANA in-memory database. Nevertheless, there is still a lack of clarity as to what the most relevant use cases for HANA are.

Alfred Ermer and Christian Rost
The brains behind Arago’s HIRO™ for SAP® Operations: Alfred Ermer and Christian Rost

The path forward for SAP® is toward their vision of the Intelligent Enterprise. The building blocks for the Intelligent Enterprise include the Intelligent Suite (largely S/4 HANA as the digital core), Intelligent Technologies (predominantly technologies from the Leonardo umbrella offering) and Digital Platform (SAP® Cloud Platform and SAP® Data Hub, a data management environment that integrates data from a variety of sources and makes it available for the applications). This vision is not easy to explain in a few words, and we have not seen mainstream use cases as yet. Rather, the value add for enterprises is about embedding intelligence at every step of a process to overcome inefficiencies such as organizational silos, data swamps or process breaks. Put another way, Intelligent Enterprise is a journey where the learnings have to be taken one step at the time. With that, it doesn’t have to be the lengthy transformation project that clients tend to be wary of. SAP® is very clear that this journey is not about technology, but about identifying the right use cases and outcomes from the use of that technology. For SAP´s clients, this transition from the monolithic world of R/3 to the orchestration of a broad set of disparate capabilities (be it acquired or developed by SAP®), carries complexity and more risk.

That provides the backdrop for our discussions. The key strategic value of HIRO™ is that customers can undertake transformation step by step and that the platform can adapt to any change in the environment. Thus, in the case of HANA migrations, clients don’t have to figure out all the details upfront, but the HIRO™ platform will seamlessly support any new requirements. Therefore, with our ecosystem mindset, we preserve and work with the client’s existing technology infrastructure. We have demonstrated to the market our credentials in IT Automation (with automation rates reaching 90%). Typical use cases are helpdesk support and network monitoring. Yet our foray into supporting clients with their SAP® operations is little known. Our HIRO™ for SAP® Operations analyses and solves problems across the entire IT stack based on digitalized expert knowledge. These are reasons enough to catch up with Alfred Ermer, who heads up our fully owned subsidiary Da Vinci, which is aimed at automating SAP® environments. Alfred will talk us through how we are optimizing HIRO™ for SAP® Operations.

Alfred, Arago’s SAP® activities are a bit of a hidden gem. Could you summarize the strategic objectives of your team and how much you have progressed in client discussions?

For decades, SAP® is turning business processes into code and has become the quasi standard in the ERP world. Customers run their businesses on that platform, very often end-to-end. However, although SAP´s solutions are highly integrated, customers still need to invest significant effort and time to run, maintain and optimize both their SAP® environments as well as their SAP-based business processes.

Our objective is to unlock these resources by outsourcing to the machine first and second level SAP® support as well as business process management tasks. The rule-based, semantic reasoning approach of Arago´s AI engine “HIRO” is a perfect complement to SAP´s capabilities in order to free up the experts for more strategic tasks e.g. taking care of innovation or driving S4/HANA migrations much earlier and more efficient with own staff. In 2018 we built a plug & play integration layer for SAP® and predefined “Knowledge Packages” for application management. With our latest cloud-based version we now can even run and document complex business processes. Fig. 1 outlines how HIRO™ can detect and solve problems across the complete SAP® stack, which is our biggest differentiator.

Fig. 1. HIRO’s self-healing approach across the entire SAP® stack:

HIRO’s self-healing approach across the entire SAP stack
Source: Arago 2019

SAP® has not been seen as a front runner of Intelligent Automation. With that in mind, is Arago a change agent for SAP® or is it the other way around? And how is all of that fitting into SAP’s vision of the “Intelligent Enterprise”?

While SAP® has not always been a front runner with technological shifts (although they were early leaders in client-server and in in-memory database scenarios), they always catch up in the end and defend their market position.

In terms of automation, some software tool providers have evolved with RPA, a technology which is no longer new. You could call it a kind of “record and re-run” of UI based scripts while SAP® has only used something similar for testing. SAP® only recently acquired Contextor, a French RPA company to contribute to their “Intelligent Enterprise” vision. They now have Machine Learning capabilities from Leonardo which can learn from transactional data of the past and run SAP® transactions with RPA. What is missing is a technology where problems and tasks are solved based on human experience and clear semantic rules where there is a clear audit trail WHY a certain decision and action has been taken. This is especially important not just to comply with regulations but also for good corporate governance. Our “HIRO™ for SAP® Operations” solution can run and document problem solving end-to-end. And crucially clients can drive it all the way to become automated and self-healing. Thus, it is not a competition for Leonardo or RPA, it is more about augmenting, orchestrating and dealing with the complex issues, which is exactly where Machine Learning and/or RPA have their limitations. So, to answer your question, it is neither, rather it is simply a perfect complement.

What are the client pain points that you are aiming to address?

There are various pain points that we are targetting:

  • the requirement to spend a lot of manual effort on application management and business process management for large & complex SAP® environments,
  • the great effort spent on information exchange e.g. IDOC management
  • long problem resolution times due to lack of knowledge or resource shortages
  • permanently changing environments (due to reorganization, M&A activities, etc.) requiring a lot of effort to be spend on application management
  • budget and/or resource constraints preventing the acceleration of S/4 transition
  • SAP® AMS outsourcing contract which will end in the near future.

With Arago’s HIRO™ platform being at the cusp of innovation, what are the lessons learned from the early deployments?
Enterprises need to drive digitalization and automation to stay competitive. This is not a project rather it is a change of mindset and first movers have already entered the space. Our rapid deployment cloud solution delivers value after only 4-6 weeks and, after first experiences with our agile platform we can see that customer scenarios are really scaling up.

For organizations looking to optimize their SAP® operations, which piece of advice would you offer them? Where should they start?

It is quite simple, actually: get started with the first scenarios which pay for themselves within a few weeks and then expand into the next ones and scale up.

For more details on HIRO™ for SAP® Operations see: https://arago.co/hiro-for-sap-operations/

Tom Reuner

Tom Reuner

Head of Strategy