How do you outmaneuver your competition with technology? That’s the motto of Todd’s IT, a full-service IT consulting and technology solution provider. They aim to improve operations every day, and one of their tactics is leveraging robotic process automation (RPA) to simplify and streamline manual processes. They’ve identified ways RPA can improve the customer experience and make operations smoother within their own organization.
One powerful way they do this is by integrating Automate RPA software from HelpSystems with SAP Ariba spend management software. Join us for a live webinar presented with Todd’s IT to talk through three of the ways RPA speeds up and simplifies the team’s interaction with SAP Ariba.
In this webinar, you’ll see how RPA streamlines specific use cases within SAP Ariba:
- Accounts receivable processes
- Data entry and verification
- Online order placement
Watch to learn how to reclaim valuable time and improve processes by integrating systems with RPA software.
A complete transcript of the webinar is below.
Daniel Laun: 00:01 Hi, everybody. This is Daniel Laun from HelpSystems. We are going to start our webinar here in just a second about successfully implementing SAP Ariba with our RPA software. So as I mentioned, I'm Daniel Laun and I head up the sales team here at HelpSystems for the RPA business unit. And I'd love to introduce Todd, who is the President and Chief Technology Evangelist at Todd's IT. Todd, do you want to give yourself a little bit more of an introduction?
Todd Giardina: 00:45 Sure. Thank you very much, Daniel. I'm Todd Giardina. I started Todd's IT back in 2007. We are a full service IT consulting and technology solution provider. We've got customers, small, medium and large, and we specialize in a lot of different areas here, as you can see on this particular slide. Our motto is to outmaneuver your competition with technology and that's exactly what we offer our clients. We develop technological solutions our clients need to rise above their competitors and to make their operations smoother and more profitable.
Todd Giardina: 01:29 But we not only do that for our customers, but we do it for ourselves. So we actually practice what we preach. And one way we do that is by using HelpSystems to automate within our own company and especially in integrating with SAP Ariba. And there's a lot of different things that we do with the Automate tool that helps us. Not only us personally, but our clients as well. But it makes us a lot more streamlined and of course that means more profitable. So we'll go to the next slide here. Yeah.
Daniel Laun: 02:12 Great. Yeah, I thought before we kind of got started to explain a little bit about the HelpSystems product line in terms of our digital transformation toolkit. Today, we're really focused on our robotic process automation tool, Automate, but we also have several other products in this category to really help you and your businesses transform. From advanced capture to workload automation, some forms' management and document management as well. And one of the things that really got me excited about this webinar and talking to Todd was our own accounts payable and collections environment here at HelpSystems.
Daniel Laun: 02:53 We have over 18,000 customers and in order to process our invoices, and get POs, and everything else to and from these customers, we actually have 460-plus portal logins. The main three that we see are listed here with Ariba, I'm not sure how you pronounce it, WOI and Taulia. And it's an incredibly complex environment and we know that other organizations are just like this. Whether you specify on a ... Have a particular large customer where you're doing a ton of work with a particular portal or whether you're seeing a lot of them, like HelpSystems are. There's a lot of manual work involved with this. And so, we're really excited to share Todd's story today about how he has automated his business and his customer's business with Automate.
Todd Giardina: 03:57 Okay. Well, and thanks Daniel. In this slide we're going to talk about a couple of different scenarios with our use cases. We've got three use cases that we're going to be demoing today. Two of those have to do with our own ERP system using automate to integrate with Ariba. And then second, or actually, a third use case is how we use Automate to work with a customer in placing orders with a third-party or a manufacturer's drop ship portal. But that also has the potential being able to work with Ariba procurement as well. Daniel, is there anything else you want to say about that before we jump into that?
Daniel Laun: 04:49 No, let's keep rolling.
Todd Giardina: 04:53 Okay. Well, and one of the overviews of the RPA process and the benefits for us and for all of our clients that we've been able to use it with is a faster invoice processing, data is entered correctly and without manual effort. And that's really been a tremendously important part of all of this. Verification of data, including the amounts owed. And of course, save time so employees can focus on value-adding work. We have a lot of examples of that with our clients and with ourselves. And you're going to see that in our use case here this morning. And I think we should probably just move to the next slide.
Todd Giardina: 05:37 So our first use case is going to be on an accounts receivable process where we've identified we got a problem, we need a solution, and then we see these benefits from that solution. And in this case, what we're actually talking about is we have a large volume of invoices that are received or generated from billable work that we do with our largest client. They happen to be a manufacturer in the Midwest in Indiana. And that's how we actually got started using Ariba. Originally, we were using what we call WOI, the W-O-I, but then we switched. They had us switch over to Ariba. So what we've always had to do is weekly and monthly we actually enter in ... Well, we were manually entering in a lot of invoices.
Todd Giardina: 06:33 In fact, for that particular client, we were entering in over 350 of them per year just for that one. So we needed a way to be able to move from a manual entry system into something that would help us do that more in an automated way and save a little bit of time for our accounts receivable people. So the solution was to use Automate and to create tasks that the Automate bot would use in order to be able to go out and gather invoice information from our backend system and then be able to log into SAP Ariba automatically, and then enter those invoices, and then generate some reporting for us. And you'll see in use case number two, just very quickly we'll show you that some reconciliation goes on as well. And of course, the benefit of that is that it frees up our AR personnel so they have more time to do more value-added work.
Todd Giardina: 07:36 And we did see a 10% productivity gain for our full-time employee who was actually doing this on a regular basis. And it ensures all the invoices get entered into the system correctly. So if there is any type of an issue, we've got robust air handling, we can alert our AR personnel and they can take a look at that or get ahold of us. But generally, we don't actually have any issues at all. It's a very, very, I would say ... Well, it's really about 100% error-free. So [inaudible 00:08:12]. The next slide that we're going to take a look at is the actual process. And here we're going to be entering a number of invoices. So what you'll see here, down on the bottom right-hand side is the actual code that's running in Automate that's about to begin.
Daniel Laun: 08:30 Oops.
Todd Giardina: 08:33 Oops, we went to the next slide. And we'll wait for that to take off. There we go. So in this process, the Automate bot is going out and logging into SAP Ariba, just like I would do or our AR person would do. And then it goes out and in the meantime in the background, it's actually going out and querying a table that's automatically created of invoice information. And that's set up in advance for the bot to be able to use. Now we're just going to go out and actually search for our client. We're going to pop in a PO number, do that search and then from there create the actual invoice. And it's just going to do that a number of times here. And that's the beauty of this whole system. It's actually doing what our regular full-time employee would normally do and it takes her a few hours a week in order to be able to do that.
Todd Giardina: 09:44 But using this type of system, we've been able to shave about 10% of her time away from doing this and now she's focused on other activities within the company that are a bit more profitable for us. And I love watching this happen, because it's kind of neat to see it just run through it automatically. And there you see it hit the submit and then the next thing you're going to see, it's going to hit exit and go right back to that invoice entry, or orders and releases page. So if any of you are familiar with the SAP Ariba system, these screens should look extremely familiar to you if you're in the orders and releases and placing invoices for billable activity, et cetera. So there it goes.
Daniel Laun: 10:41 Yeah. One of the things that I always think about, Todd, when I watch the bot run something like this is, I bet a great person could probably feed the bot maybe once, maybe twice. But the great thing about bots is that they can run nonstop forever and never make a mistake. And there's just no way-
Todd Giardina: 11:06 Absolutely. Yeah. Yeah, absolutely. Well, and you'll see this in the third use case. We have a client that ... And I don't want to get ahead of myself on this one, but while we're watching this happen here, the same exact ... What you were just talking about, watching it and how much time it takes to do it. Speed's not the essence here. Speed's not the issue, because you're offloading this to the bot. The bot can take its time and get it done and you can ignore this safely, move onto other things, and allow it to do its job. And that's really what the ... That's the best part of it. If a person's doing this, then speed is of the essence, because you want to get them to other activities.
Todd Giardina: 11:49 But now, you've offloaded this to a bot and it's handling it all on its own. And so again, when it's done, it's done and it lets and then you move onto the next task. I think that's really where the benefit of all of this is. Okay. So that takes care of the example for accounts receivable. Well, when you're entering this information, the next thing you want to be able to do is you want to be able to verify everything went incorrectly. And while we have verification within the task that we've built to do all of that, we also want to be able to go back and check it against other things that our system creates so we can make sure that everything is above board.
Todd Giardina: 12:44 So in this case, our problem, solution and benefits scenario was that we needed to be able to reconcile our invoices with existing records. Do both parties agree on how much is owed? So you've just seen us put your invoices into Ariba, but our system was the one who actually generated that invoice data. So we want to be able to go back and make sure everything is there, nothing changed, everything looks good. So what we had to do in the past is manually go back and check those records and pull reports to make sure everything was up to snuff. The solution, again, was to use Automate to go into the system and pull the data and then reconcile what we saw in Ariba with our backend system.
Todd Giardina: 13:28 And so, the benefit for that of course is that we ensure that every invoice has been checked for accuracy and that before they're being paid, that we've also eliminated any error. Because if we do pick up something that's different, we can right away notify the proper people within our AR department so they can go in and either cancel the invoice or do whatever they have to do in order to fix that problem. And again, that really doesn't happen very often at all. And then it also keeps a person from having to manually check those records. And as I had mentioned a couple of slides before, we saw a 10% benefit or productivity gain by doing this because these are things that our AR people had to do manually before. But now, this is automated.
Todd Giardina: 14:15 So in our next slide we're going to show you an actual, just a quick verification of the invoices that have been put into Ariba. And what you'll see is a spreadsheet that's created and then a quick little message. I have it popping up saying, "This is the amount," though our AR folks don't normally see that. I'm just doing that for the demonstration purposes. And if you see that little red line there, that's just something that popped up that's handled automatically by Automate. Here again, we're logging in. We're going to go back into inbox and we're going to go click on releases and orders. And then you're going to see a big old table.
Todd Giardina: 15:01 And with that table, what we're going to do is Automate's going to grab ... Oh, I said inbox, it was outbox. But we're going to grab this table and we're going to make a dataset out of it within Automate, and then we're going to go look for those invoices that we had just entered and then compare that to see if it all adds up to what we expect it to add up to. And that's essentially what it's doing right now. This step right here is ... It's grabbing that table and actually creating the data set. There's a lot of data sitting in there. It's done doing that. Now it closes that page. And then the next thing you'll see is ... That spreadsheet that just showed up in the upper right-hand corner, that's a report that comes from our own system and it's going to compare that data that you just saw with that spreadsheet.
Todd Giardina: 16:01 Normally, the spreadsheet is invisible, it doesn't even pop up, nobody sees it. But I've taken a picture of it just so that ... And we put it on the slide deck so you could see it. And this is the type of report it would generate. Looking at invoice number, comparing it to the other spreadsheet to make sure everything is right and then we get that little message that you see there. So this is a good example of the data entry and reconciliation that we perform automatically every week in our on the AR side of life here at Todd's IT. And it does save us a lot of time and it has really eliminated just about any errors that we had previously. So-
Daniel Laun: 16:54 So [crosstalk 00:16:54] ... Oh, go ahead.
Todd Giardina: 16:57 Oh no, you go ahead, please.
Daniel Laun: 16:59 I was going to say, so far we've been kind of working on the left-hand side of the AP collection environment. Now we're really going to switch to the right-hand side of what Todd's been able to work on with his customer.
Todd Giardina: 17:15 Absolutely. And in this case, what we're doing here is we're showing online order placement. Now, this is not in Ariba. This is actually in a third-party, in a manufacturer's website for one of our clients and they sell agricultural and small construction equipment parts. And what they wanted to be able to do was streamline their own internal operations so that they could place drop ship orders and things like that automatically. Unfortunately, well, I shouldn't say unfortunately. Fortunately for them, they're a fast growing company and one of the issues they've run into is that the number of orders that they were receiving through their eCommerce site is growing rapidly and their internal folks were having problems keeping up with those orders.
Todd Giardina: 18:14 They had to manually enter them in and with dozens of manufacturers to work with whose parts they either have in stock locally or they drop ship those parts, they needed a method to be able to enter those parts orders with the manufacturers so that if it was a drop ship, it could be done through a bot or something like that. Because we just couldn't ... They could not keep up with the number of orders coming in. So that was basically the problem. The manufacturers don't offer the ability for a wholesaler to place batch orders online through an API or something like that. They're very, very slow to do that. And so, what that meant was you have to go into each manufacturers' individual order placement portal or customer portal to be able to do that.
Todd Giardina: 19:08 So the solution was that we developed an Automate bot that takes orders and places them online for the individual manufacturer and it's got robust air handling so that we make sure that if we run into any errors during ordering, we can handle that. And if there's any after the order has been submitted, we can find those and do something about it. Now, the thing that's interesting about all this is that in use case one and two, those Automate bots are running unintended. The only time that we actually go back and work with them is if it basically says, "Hey, I've got a problem." Then we'll go back and take a look.
Todd Giardina: 19:53 In this case, these are largely unattended. If we do run into a problem, again, there's error handling that's robust enough to be able to allow us to know there's an issue trying to place an order. Sometimes manufacturers will change basically their online ordering website and you won't know that. They'll move something, they'll change the navigation sequence, they'll do a bunch of different things. So we build things in there so it's robust enough to tell us that something didn't happen when we expected it to happen so we can go back in and take a look at it. And Automate's such a great tool that we've been able to build that type of stuff in so that we either have some complex decision trees to be able to handle stuff like that, or if it's something that we think would be a little too complicated, then we'll notify a tech or something like that to go in and take a look.
Todd Giardina: 20:50 But for the most part, these all run unattended. So that's the solution. Now, the benefit of course is saving time with no need to manually place the orders on each manufacturer's website and it eliminates error, because now we don't have typos. Because imagine you're sitting there trying to ... You've got 45 orders in front of you and you're trying to type all these things in and you're going from one website to another, to another. This eliminated all of that and allowed them to streamline that operation significantly. So we'll go to the next slide and we're going to show you a video of it actually going ... Of our Automate bot, in this case, placing an order with a company called Manitou equipment.
Todd Giardina: 21:38 And it's kind of a complicated website in a way. And that's one of the reasons why we chose it for this particular demo. There's a lot of navigation that goes on. So as you watch this, imagine you sitting down doing this or someone in your company sitting down doing this. The Ariba thing was simple. You only had three or four pages at most. This is going from one, to another, to another. A lot of other information to put in. So this really does streamline their process and all of their backend systems and processes. Here we go. We're just putting in one line item after another. And in this case, if we're looking for errors as this is happening, any kind of error message that the webpage may be displaying to us.
Todd Giardina: 22:32 In this case, you won't see any of those. But it's just going to do this over and over again until it gets done. And then it'll place the order and you'll see it actually put in the shipping information and everything else. Then it goes back to another page and we'll get to that in a second. It actually does a screen capture too to confirm that the order was placed. So if there was ever an issue like, "Hey, the manufacturer says we didn't get this order," we can go back and say, "Well, we did send it, and here's the screen capture, and this is the date we did it," and that type of thing. Because believe me, we've run into stuff like that before too.
Todd Giardina: 23:09 So being able to use Automate in this environment has been absolutely fantastic. And in all the environments that we've shown you here, it's really been a blessing for all of us. For ourselves internally, because we ... It goes to show, we actually walk the talk when it comes to RPA, as well as doing it for our clients. And I think this might be the last item it's going to enter in and then we're going to move over to the ... There it goes. And then we'll go over to the shipping address and the PO number and all that kind of stuff. And then over to the next thing.
Todd Giardina: 23:58 So again, just imagine doing that manually, day in, day out. They had a couple of people who are dedicated to this process and that's what they did full-time. And there was a popup, there was a little popup there. Automate handles the popups, the little alerts that come up, all of that good stuff. It's just nice that it does it all error-free. And just about done there. And there we go. So now it's going to confirm that order's been placed. At this point, we take a screen capture of the screen and we store that, in case there's ever an issue where we need to go back and say to the manufacturer, "Yeah, we did actually send this." Because we've run into situations where we swear that the system has sent the order in and they said they didn't get it. So we're able to go back and show that. Oh, here's one more. There's a couple more here.
Daniel Laun: 25:25 While that's running now, I think it would be great to know that if you guys have questions you can type them into the chat button at the bottom and we'll try and answer those, or you can put them in that question folder as well.
Todd Giardina: 26:21 Okay. And then once again, it's just going to confirm that the order was placed. And it's just nice that we have all these tools and actions available to be able to do all of that. I think the more robust your air handling and confirmation processes are, obviously the better this all works. And this is definitely one of those examples of being able to do all of that with Automate.
Daniel Laun: 26:55 Yeah, I definitely think that's one of the best things that our customers keep coming back about is the flexibility in the way that you can build your automation to accomplish any scenario with any kind of routine that you want to add to that, or a sub-routine, and just being able to automate entire tasks out of people's workload so that they can focus on more value-added stuff.
Todd Giardina: 28:28 You can't just go right in and just set that field with a value. You literally have to do keystrokes like a person would do. And again, Automate allows you to accomplish that without any issues whatsoever. But other sites, you can just set the value and go. So it just allows you to handle a great deal of different types of scenarios. In Ariba, in the examples there, the same type of thing. We were looking for that. We were wanting to make sure that when we typed in the PO number, do we need to use keystrokes or could we just set that particular field? And it turns out we could just set it and go. So it just really depends on the implementation of the interface you're working with.
Todd Giardina: 29:19 And again, that's kind of in the weeds. But those are the types of things that we really value about Automate. I think we could probably ... I don't know. That may be the end of it. Yeah, that's the end of it. So that would be the end of that particular video right there. We can move on to the next. So if anybody has any questions, please bring those up. We'd love to answer any questions at all about any of the environments or any of the ... Or your use of ... Well, I'd like to know if anybody's using Automate with Ariba and how you're doing it and what you're doing it for. And if you have any other questions about it that maybe we can answer, please feel free to either post those now.
Daniel Laun: 30:35 Yeah. Hey Todd, there's a question here. "What are you looking forward to in the future to use Automate for?" What's kind of the next chapter, I guess?
Todd Giardina: 30:46 Well, as we're finding out, I mean, the applications seem to be almost limitless at this point. I mean, using Ariba's been fantastic. Doing that, using it with that. That's been very, very good. Also, just being able to interface with the manufacturer's websites and being able to place orders that way has been great. But I think getting more into ... Well, I know that RPA is used in a lot of different industries in different ways and we'd like to explore, I guess ... Gosh, it's hard to tell because there's so many different aspects that I think you could use this tool for, if you think about it. One thing that we did try and we were very successful at it so far is being able to actually use it online for going into Facebook, for instance, and automatically putting posts into Facebook.
Todd Giardina: 32:01 That was a bit of a challenge because the Facebook interface isn't real friendly to robotic applications, but it actually worked and it worked very well. So I thought that was kind of a neat thing to be able to do. I think more banking applications, a lot more application on the ... Perhaps on HR, human resources side. So those are the types of things I think we'd like to use it more with. As we grow as a company, we'll definitely be using it there. We're continuing to grow so as we bring more and more people on I think ... And we'll have to expand our HR department. I think that's one of the first places that ... Or one of the next places that we're going to apply it.
Daniel Laun: 32:54 Great. I have another question too. Have you guys used Automate against SAP outside of Ariba?
Todd Giardina: 33:04 That is something that we want to do because we actually do use the SAP system outside of Ariba. There's an implementation of SAP within our largest client, that manufacturer in Indiana. And one of the things that we use or that we use SAP for is to be able to go in and administer a co-op marketing credit system for our client. And that is, we've got a person who's dedicated to that full-time and this is the time of year where they start using that system very heavily, because it's at the end of the year or the beginning of a new year. There's all of these folks who are trying to get their co-op credits, they're trying to get everything settled for the prior year so that they can move on to their new co-op budgets.
Todd Giardina: 34:01 And it takes our co-op person a lot of time in the third, or ... In the first quarter of every year, that person's working anywhere from 50 to 60 hours a week just to keep up with everything. And this is something that we would definitely use in that arena to try to lessen the burden on that person so that they're not working as hard during the first quarter of the year, because it's just kind of overburdening sometimes. So that's definitely one of our targets for this year is to aim at the actual SAP implementation that's been set up for that. So that's something that is actually on our horizon right now.
Daniel Laun: 34:50 Great. And then just to clarify, you are open to doing this kind of development work for new clients too, correct?
Todd Giardina: 34:57 Oh, absolutely, absolutely. We're always looking for new clients and that and anyone who wants to explore digital transformation and RPA, that's what we're there for. We're a big proponents of it, we use it ourselves and we use it with our clients. And again, it's not only a time saver, it's a money saver. And again, the old saying is what? Time is money, especially in business and it's definitely helped us out tremendously. Do you mind if I tell that one story about our vendor when we turned them on to this?
Daniel Laun: 35:38 No.
Todd Giardina: 35:38 We-
Daniel Laun: 35:39 Yeah.
Todd Giardina: 35:39 One of the things that ... When you saw us enter in those invoices in the use case, the first one, normally with our ... Some of our clients, and you're probably all aware of this, when you work with different customers, they have net terms of payment and it's anywhere from 40 ... It could be 45 days to 120, just depends on your customer and what relationship you have with them and how soon they're willing to pay you. Well, in our case with our large customer, we have 45 day net terms. And being a company that's growing cashflow is king. So one of the things that we really wanted to be able to do was to avoid that 45 day window when we were waiting to get paid for services rendered.
Todd Giardina: 36:26 So we, through SAP Ariba, enrolled in a program that hooked us up with an invoicing company or an invoice buying company. I guess they're really factoring, I think. I think, Daniel, that's what we were thinking that's what they were called, right? It was kind of a factoring thing?
Daniel Laun: 36:48 Yeah.
Todd Giardina: 36:49 Yeah. And basically what they do is they buy your invoices for a discount. Usually it's anywhere from ... Depending on the credit rating of your customer that the invoice is being billed against, it could be as low as 1% or it could go up. Well, in our case, we ended up working with a company called Invoice Excel. And I have to tell you, not only ... It was great. They started buying our invoices, so we were getting paid within about seven business days instead of waiting 14. The discount rate was pretty good. It was like 1.25%. But here's the kicker. I started talking to them about, or wondering, how do they actually go out and use or get our invoices from Ariba? They're actually tuned into our account. They're set up in SAP Ariba as administrative users. And then that alerts them to when the invoices have been entered and when they've been approved.
Todd Giardina: 37:57 So they use that notification to then go out and grab those invoices. Well, they were doing it manually at first. And then they went to another, or to an open source system, or a software called Selenium, which some of you may know about. But unfortunately, Selenium wasn't doing the job at all. And so, I told them about Automate and we began working together on that and our seven day turnaround came down to 72 hours. So now we get our money within literally three business days. In fact, we just got paid for today this morning for invoices that we placed on Monday.
Todd Giardina: 38:38 So, to us, that's a success story for us. It's a success story for Invoice Excel because now they've got a couple of legs up over their competition, because it takes generally their competition a lot longer to do that. So I think everybody won all the way around and it's just because we all are using a robust platform like Automate to enable all that to happen.
Daniel Laun: 39:06 That's a fantastic story. Well, I think we're kind of winding down on the volume of questions here. So just want to suggest that today we went through a variety of use cases and how you can successfully integrate SAP Ariba with RPA to automate tasks that some people refer to as, "The soul sucking tasks of life," and get back to doing more productive things. We encourage you to give it a try by clicking on the download Automate Plus button and it's contained within this.
Daniel Laun: 39:41 Some other people have asked whether or not we'll be sending out the presentation and we will be making the presentation available to those of you that attended and those that have signed up will receive it as well. So at this point, Todd, I want to take a minute to thank you for putting in all the time and effort to build the content for this webinar and taking time out of your day to present it.
Todd Giardina: 40:06 Well, and thank you Daniel and all of your staff for allowing us to be a part of this and to be a presenter in this morning's webinar. We enjoyed it. And again, I hope everybody ... Hope we conveyed the message of how useful Automate is and how great the RPA platform ... What it can do for you as a business and save you a lot of time and money and makes life a whole lot easier. I love that idea of this whole sucking part of it. Because you're right, it does reduce that quite a bit.
Daniel Laun: 40:42 Exactly. Well, thank you everybody for attending today. And this concludes our broadcast. Have a great day.
Todd Giardina: 40:49 Thank you.
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