Accenture’s SAP® automation journey
Accenture adopts automation solutions to support its need to operate with quality, agility and at scale as it supports new businesses and growth
To support Accenture’s business growth, our global IT organization migrated Accenture’s finance system to SAP S/4HANA®. This change presented opportunities to implement automation solutions to improve software and process implementation quality and agility and reduce manual efforts.
Initially, the priority was on automating regression testing for finance software and processes. While existing SAP regression testing methods were meeting business needs and of high quality, Accenture’s business changes were requiring more agile and higher-quality testing. Testing was also becoming more complex, involving end-to-end business processes and across different applications. It was also the area where software products for SAP systems were first available.
Over time, our global IT evolved and expanded the implementation of automation solutions, including the Worksoft Automation Platform, robotic process automation (RPA) concepts—intelligent software systems that mimic the actions of human users—and SAP HANA Studio.
Automation of finance regression testing
A joint global IT and Accenture Finance team selected the Worksoft Automation Platform to automate testing. A core automation team was formed to provide governance and support, and functional SAP teams were trained to automate the test scenarios. The new automation capabilities enabled the global IT testing teams to work through changing over from manual to automated ways by business priority. Today, most functional and regression testing is fully automated. System validations are fully automated as well.
Automation of SAP S/4HANA and upgrade deployments
Drawing on the regression testing experience, test automation was a key enabler to Accenture’s successful original implementation to SAP Business Suite on HANA, followed by SAP S/4HANA. Testing the new functionality of the SAP S/4HANA software necessitated having to remediate existing automated test scripts as well as creating new ones to test new functionality.
Global IT also executed a parallel financial close impact test, comparing Accenture’s financial results processed in SAP Business Suite on HANA and SAP S/4HANA to ensure the ongoing integrity of Accenture’s financial results. In addition, global IT was involved in automating 50 cutover activities, practicing cutover 16 times to progressively reduce the amount of cutover time and to confirm execution quality. These efforts contributed significantly to reducing cutover time by 40 to 50 percent of the total duration of manual cutover actions and enabled a high-quality cutover. A final area of automation was the automation of testing the 120 SAP S/4HANA-impacted security roles, uncovering 92 defects in the process that were remediated.
The team continues to perform what Accenture calls business impact testing. It is a test that compares the processes of the current version of SAP S/4HANA in production with new releases of code and data changes to understand impacts to the business, if any.
The same automated testing assets were used for a subsequent upgrade to SAP S/4HANA version 1809. For this upgrade, the team tested the new capabilities with automated scripts with minimal remediation. This automated testing saved a significant number of manual hours of effort and identified SAP system defects—none of which appeared once Accenture was in production—enabling a high-quality outcome.
Automation of financial operations processes
Over time, the team evolved and expanded automation efforts, using the same assets from testing to support financial operations. A high-priority area was the financial close process. The team used the Worksoft Automation Platform in combination with RPA to automate operations-related tasks such as the execution of Accenture’s financial close process. This process consists of thousands of repetitive activities, most of which were already automated in SAP jobs, but a number remained manual.
Our global IT team addressed the most-critical manual activities by executing them in the test cycles—this was critical as Accenture executes its financial close playbook activities every test cycle. The rationale is to validate that the close playbook activities are working correctly. In addition, by using RPA concepts to automate the entire span of financial close activities in testing, Accenture can secure the same automated test scripts in production and eliminate human intervention. In this way, Accenture has innovated a way to automate its financial close execution.
As Accenture grows, Finance needs new company codes added to the SAP S/4HANA system. Adding them is a time-consuming task that our global IT team has been able to automate end to end. Automating this process has eliminated the potential for human errors and greatly improved quality.
Automation of data validations
Our global IT team is also using SAP HANA Studio, a tool that enables technical users to manage the SAP HANA database, create and manage user authorizations, and create new or modify existing models of data. It is a powerful data comparison tool that uses the in-memory power of SAP HANA to compare large volumes of data in near real time.
Our global IT SAP automation team now tests any new SAP capability for Accenture in an automated fashion to confirm that any release is carefully tested before it moves into production. Our team also has the benefit of more flexibility with testing. Additionally, the team is not only focused on testing, but also on automating operational tasks. Overall, the goal is to automate all financial-related processes in production.
Automating SAP testing and operations-related tasks helps improve productivity, quality and system performance. It allows bots to work overnight and on weekends, frees our people’s time to do higher-value activities and advance their careers with more interesting work, and improve their work/life balance.
Automation is Accenture’s answer to supporting the business’s need to operate with quality, speed, agility and at scale as it supports new businesses and continues to grow. The automation journey in testing, RPA and SAP HANA Studio has demonstrated sustainable business value through quality, speed, agility and cost reduction—ultimately enabling a smoother-running business.
Automation has raised the bar on quality by testing items that were too complex to test before and by having less human intervention. In addition, Accenture has gained speed and agility through the ability to test and absorb more business changes in shorter periods of time and deliver new business capability quicker because automated testing is faster, repeatable and can be executed by multiple virtual machines in parallel. Lastly, costs are reduced through the reduction of hours spent on manual activities and the freeing up of individuals for higher-value work.
The journey continues with a focus on increasing automation in the operations space. The potential to automate more activities is ever-present as is the increased use of artificial intelligence to improve the governance and support of the automated processes, such as enabling automated processes to learn, advise or adapt when they need to be remediated or changed.