I remember just about three years ago sitting in a companywide meeting in a conference room at the Museum of Modern and Contemporary Art in Lisbon, Portugal (Museu Coleção Berardo, Lisboa). Our CTO, Bernd Engist, was giving us a presentation about some new features we had recently developed on automating the start/stop process of an SAP system.
We were running ahead of schedule so he decided to show us something fun he had been working on in his spare time with the automation solution. A feature he didn’t necessarily plan on adding into Avantra, just something fun he was building in his own lab. What he had done was implement voice controls using smart speakers and phones such as Siri, Alexa or ‘Hey Google’ to kick off the start/stop automation of SAP landscapes just by voice, no typing. I remember thinking, “Wow, that’s kind of novel” and my mind started to wander into all sorts of other SAP automation scenarios where this could be cool. Unfortunately, at this point, we were just starting our transition as a company from being solely a monitoring company to a fully fledged SAP AI and automation company and a lot of what I was imagining just wasn’t feasible … yet.
Fast forward to today and I had all but forgotten that short demonstration. It wasn’t until I heard a commercial on the radio about using Alexa for something that my mind started wandering again. The difference this time is we’ve come a significant way further with SAP automation within Avantra and the things I was dreaming about in Portugal are now reality. Over the past three years our SAP automation engine capabilities have skyrocketed, both from prebuilt automation to its platform features that allow engineers to build out their own full stack automation.
I started to think about how impossible it would have been to fully automate SAP system refreshes just a few years ago. I don’t mean just the technical aspects of the refresh, that’s been tried in the past, but taking it through the entirety of the process. Typically a refresh involves planning across various teams, meetings to arrange the correct approvals, documenting said approvals, completing the actual technical refresh and tracking the process for audit purposes.
We’ve now come to a place where this is entirely automated within Avantra.
When a refresh is required, Avantra can initiate the approval workflow process within ServiceNow, automate the technical refresh steps as customized for each system and track the entire process. Now, to be honest, we haven’t actually implemented Bernd’s voice commands for this process, and honestly I doubt that would actually get much use in the real world. But as a Basis engineer, my only interaction with this entire process now is just clicking a single button in Avantra and watching the rest unfold in front of me. No more time sitting in meetings waiting for approvals, discussing the process, spending my weekends actually administering the refresh and documenting the progress along the way.
I get time back in my day and my weekends back to do as I please.
And to be honest, I don’t even know if I want to be responsible for that single click of a button. I could very well just add a button on an Avantra dashboard for the developers and they can initiate this entire process on their own. Better yet, have it on a set schedule. Honestly, when it comes down to it, I want as little to do with that process as possible because it just takes time and effort that I don’t have much of in my already busy day. And as I thought through this, it was here where I had my epiphany.
You see, if I didn’t have to spend one second worrying about a system refresh, or a kernel upgrade, my mind could be focused on innovating the next level of automation. Perhaps it’s looking to automate some of the recurring support tasks I need to do that, while easy to execute, are often distracting and are a nuisance. These are often things I get alerted on through monitoring notifications, but now I can simply spawn automation from those exact same monitoring alerts.
This could be things like cleaning out old files of a directory that keeps filling up, rerunning specific failed batch jobs, or really any of those low hanging fruits that are ripe for giving me some time back.
This is where it gets really interesting. Once I have my refreshes and kernel upgrades automated along with my recurring support tasks automated, now the innovation snowball has begun and I start using Avantra not only for my own good, but for the good of the team. I now start working with the ABAP and functional teams, thinking through scenarios where Avantra can monitor specific issues or errors in the system and call back in through BAPIs or remote function calls to remediate system or business issues. The Avantra automation platform is now performing tasks for the entirety of the SAP support team and limiting the amount of time we are pulled away for mundane issues. It keeps us focused on big picture projects and keeps the innovation snowball moving.
So while Avantra may never actually implement the voice activated automation that we were shown in Lisbon (time will only tell), that wasn’t really what got me excited. It was the innovation snowball effect around SAP technical automation that got me thinking.
The old monitoring saying of trying to be ‘proactive instead of reactive’ is outdated; heck, I personally don’t want to be ‘active’ at all. I want to be focused on big ticket items such as refining our system architecture, working on peak performance, and of course, continuing to innovate.
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