Now is the time for digitalization and automation

Interview with Martin Mertens, expert for global process automation

Many companies are facing the implementation of digital transformation within their organization. In addition, the current challenges posed by Corona increase the need for more ‘digital’ solutions. The German SAP User Group e. V. (DSAG) reported last week that the current time of crisis has revealed significant deficits of companies when it comes to digitalization. Companies are too ‘inflexible’, for example in “payment tracking, delivery flows or the adjustment of production”.

The digital technologies required cover many areas: better implementation of real-time processes through fast databases, integration of cloud systems such as SAP S/4HANA, the use of apps, robotics or new digital business models. The goal is the same for all of them: to remain competitive.

For HONICO as a specialist for workload automation these changes are of course as decisive as for our customers: we talked about the topic of digitalization and automation with Martin Mertens, expert global process automation (SAP/non-SAP) of a large German sports article manufacturer. Mr. Mertens has many years of experience in process automation and has himself been in charge of the product BatchMan from HONICO for many years:

Mr. Mertens, what exactly do digitization projects in IT look like for companies in everyday life? Can you tell us something from your wealth of experience?

Digitisation projects in IT can have many facets. It always depends on the extent to which it makes sense for a department/area to automate. In the majority of cases, business approaches IT to rework and rethink “outdated” or “dusty” processes. These processes have usually been created and introduced by business experts in the past. This was certainly the best solution for a company at that time. However, as time changes and due to the increasingly scarce resources of the business experts, it is necessary to rethink and automate. This can only be achieved by IT working very closely with the business. Synergies must be created here, which then generate a business/IT process that is as lean and effective as possible.

It can therefore be said that success in digitization projects is only ever achieved when both parties, business and IT, work closely together as equals and as partners. The business dictates what the process should do exactly, but not how it is implemented in the IT environment. This is the sole responsibility of the IT department. Here there is a clear division of responsibilities. If both sides adhere to these rules and work together, a successful project is created.

What else has to be considered for such projects?

In projects it is important to pay attention to “good” documentation. To ensure this, many companies use tools to control the change processes. This serves both the documentation and the compliance in the audit case.

How does the daily business of IT vary in such a change process and which technologies can support this?

Day-to-day business is changing to the extent that IT is no longer able to get by with its IT expertise alone. It has to be much more broadly based and must also understand the business processes. These processes must often be visualized. Before a change request is created, there is usually an extensive discussion between both partners to reach a consensus for the processes.

Processes that are supported here can be implemented using a variety of technologies. These are pure IT processes, IT processes with human interaction or pure robotics processes that make human intervention completely unnecessary.

It is also important for companies to understand that this does not release employees, but allows them to concentrate on more important tasks that require specialist knowledge.

Is there an increased need for compliance due to the interaction of different systems and the introduction of hybrid cloud landscapes?

As long as you coordinate precisely with IT security, there are no compliance problems. As in business and IT, IT and IT security must work together as a team. Security aspects regarding access rights, encryption etc. must be strictly observed.

What roles do automation and robotics play: how will this change the tasks of employees or how will they be relieved?

You have to separate the two automations from each other, but still see them as a whole. Automation deals with pure IT processes, while Robotic Process Automation simulates human activities. If process automation is used, the employee still has the task of providing data, checking results or checking protocols. With RPA, this is usually done fully automated due to the set logic.

In both cases, employees are relieved of the manual execution of tasks. They mainly take over controlling tasks in the area of processes that require their specific expertise. For this reason, companies must not pursue the mistaken belief that automation can free up skilled personnel. Due to their immense expertise, they are needed for other important tasks in the company.

How can products like BatchMan drive and support the digital change of a company?

Workload automation products such as BatchMan can support digital change through process visualization and automation. These are pure IT processes without human interaction. For example, support can be provided in the areas of invoicing, delivery note creation, material planning or BW processes.

BatchMan provides a variety of possibilities for IT process automation. We use BatchMan in different areas like Finance, Controlling, IT, HR, Business Warehouse, Point of Sales Systems, EDI and TIBCO/XI. Herewith we are able to guarantee an end-to-end automation of processes.

Thank you very much for your time, Mr Mertens.