The SAP Mentor Spotlight Interview Series highlights key strategic topics, such as emerging technologies, learning, and other topics, and provides insights from Mentors and SAP leaders on turning ideas into innovative approaches that impact people, process, and technology.
Today, many organizations leverage some combination of artificial and human intelligence to unlock the potential of both and optimize business outcomes.
Intelligent technologies such as robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning (ML), artificial intelligence (AI), and business process management (BPM) enable the automation and scaling of tasks and decision-making across the enterprise.
However, the real power comes from the balance and synergy with intelligent technologies and people, as well as understanding the roles and strengths of both.
For Robert Eijpe, Strategic Enterprise Architect, SAP Mentor, Speaker, Teacher, and SAP UX expert, he has dedicated his professional journey to striking a balance between business processes becoming intelligent and putting the outcome into focus.
Recently we caught up with him to share insights on his professional journey, his co-authoring of the SAP Press book “Applying Real-World BPM in an SAP environment,” and work with market leading organizations.
Allie Trzaska (AT): From your university days at Eindhoven University of Technology to now, what inspired you to pivot your interests in Chemical Process Technology to a career in Enterprise Architecture and Entrepreneurship?
Robert Eijpe (RE): Since the early ’80s, I have been inspired by computers. My parents didn’t have money to buy one in those days, so I skipped high school lessons to play with Sinclair ZX81 computers at a local store and eventually they bought my first computer, a Commodore VIC 20. My father worked as a manufacturing engineer, and he advised me to study process technology, so I did. As a side-job, I worked at a computer shop selling PCs.
When I finished at university, finding a job in the chemical engineering market was terrible. So, I retrained and started as an SAP developer in 1996. I found out that processes supported by SAP and my knowledge of process technology from the university were complementary, and as a result, still to this day, I continue to help improve companies’ processes with innovative SAP solutions.
AT: How and why did you become an SAP Mentor? What has the experience been
like for you?
RE: Since 1997, I have made it a point to visit at least one SAP TechEd a year. Marilyn Pratt from SAP asked me to consider joining the program in 2008. I had written a blog on the SAP BPX (Business Process Expert) community network, and she recognized my name.
Every year at TechEd, Marilyn explored if I had an interest, but at TechEd 2013, she convinced me that there was an opportunity to evolve the mentor program and I could help. In 2014, Julie Plummer nominated me, and I was selected. I’m very thankful that they convinced me, as the SAP Mentor program and the team members mean a lot to me.
Today, I now have the opportunity to influence SAP’s future direction, have excellent contacts with SAP employees and board members, and I have connected with a lot of new SAP friends all over the world. Also, I had the honor to nominate Andre Fisher and Steve Guo as new SAP Mentors.
AT: Your co-presentation, “Data, the driver of innovation and intelligence of your
enterprise!!” shared insights on data migration in SAP S/4HANA. From your experience, why is it essential to not just move data from one system to another but rather verify that it’s high quality, ready to use, and supports the overall business process and operational goals?
RE: I see many customers just upgrading their SAP Business Suite to SAP S/4HANA on-premise or cloud, even in a green-field implementation. They just copy the data, implement their old processes, and request old reports. Companies primarily focus on what they already have and know. As a result, their SAP S/4HANA implementation will not bring optimal value. In my opinion, an SAP S/4HANA implementation should not be simply an upgrade, but a chance to improve their processes and simplify their IT operations.
Companies should not invest any more in deprecated technologies and should adopt cloud capabilities. They should look for a balance between human interaction and automated processes, as well as a balance between agile automation done by the business with LCNC (Low-code / No-code), analytic tools, and robust automation and platforms supported by IT.
Consequently, the integration of data between different applications becomes more critical and should not be a silo-based implementation. These considerations significantly influence how future IT departments should act on these balances and how SAP software should run.
AT: In your blog “Part 6: Impact of Activities,” you mention the ICASIO Model that you
developed and published as a co-writer in the SAP Press book ‘Applying Real-World BPM in an SAP environment.’ How can this approach help identify unique process steps and the key activities (aka triggers) associated with enterprise-wide data?
RE: I always try to simplify architecture so everybody can understand what I mean. A lot of discussions will be lost due to terminology and misunderstanding between different departments within a company.
To overcome this problem, I developed the ICASIO model to identify unique processes. Within organizations, many of their process steps are the same, only the activity to fulfill the process step is different.
The model can help organizations identify the different variances of the same process step, measure the performance of each variant, and determine the grade of automation. With this information, an organization can identify low-hanging fruit for their digitalization and identify where automation doesn’t significantly impact. The key is to find the right balance between human tasks and automation.
AT: As a teacher and developer of SAP S/4HANA custom build development courses, what are one or two compelling use cases where customers’ business operations gain value from emerging technologies such as the Internet of Things, machine learning, intelligent robotics, process automation, and/or real-time analytics?
RE: I always ask myself: Why do we need custom-built developments for our solution? And the answer should always be that when we use standardized best-practice software, we will not achieve our goals. From my 25 years of SAP experience, I know that this is mostly the case when the data entry is too complex, the timing is crucial, or the volume of data processing is too high.
In these cases, it makes sense to simplify the user interaction or even replace these human tasks and decisions using emerging technologies to achieve our goals. For example, when multiple applications are involved, it makes more sense to automate the integration between these systems, rather than letting humans collect the information, and do the data entry, so that users can make informed decisions.
AT: You’ve worked in different roles on a variety of projects with market leading organizations such as Deloitte Consulting, Philips Medical, Unilever, RWE, Leiden University, SAP, Blackline, and Booking. For students and recent graduates interested in gaining experience as technology consultants and advancing their careers, what suggestions can you share with them?
RE: I want students and recent graduates to remember that we can solve problems with technology today, which we couldn’t solve a couple of years ago. And the challenges we cannot solve now, will be solved in the future. The possibilities with technology in the digital age are moving fast. There needs to become a new balance between humanity on one side, and intelligence, machinery, and artificial intelligence on the other side.
The technology consultant of the future will play an essential role to find this balance. These new kids on the block should have a deep interest in all kinds of technology topics and be motivated to learn again and again to adopt the new possibilities. They will have a big responsibility to make the right decisions and help shape the future.