How to choose RPA software: 10 key factors to consider

Menial tasks rob workers of time they could spend on more productive activities. Done right, RPA can banish bucketfuls of mindless chores. Here’s how to select the right RPA solution for the job.

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  • Automation Anywhere: The company’s Automation 360 is a cloud-native, AI-powered, web-based platform for end-to-end automation. RPA capabilities range from simple bots that users generate with a recorder to IQ Bot, which uses a combination of ML and data processing to extract information from documents. The platform now supplies governance, security, and compliance features as well as bots and analytics.
  • Blue Prism: Offering a suite of products that address different aspects and use cases of RPA, Blue Prism is now looking beyond RPA to the intelligent automation space. The company now sells a cloud-first offering featuring “digital workers” with capabilities drawn from its digital exchange marketplace.
  • EdgeVerve: An Infosys company, EdgeVerve is an AI and automation provider. It offers AssistEdge RPA, AssistEdge Discover process mapping, AssistEdge Engage contact center automation, and AssistEdge Cloud RPA. EdgeVerve also offers vertical solutions for banking, value networks/supply chains, finance, and procurement.
  • Microsoft: Microsoft Power Automate Desktop, a low-code RPA tool, is available for Windows 10 users at no additional cost. In addition, the Power Automate per-user plan with attended RPA is available for $15 per user per month for a limited time. It enables automations across an organization to share and collaborate across flows, access more than 400 built-in connectors, identify bottlenecks in business processes, extract data from documents, and manage and control flows with centralized governance.
  • NICE: NICE RPA offers attended and unattended automation, an automation finder, and support from cognitive technologies such as OCR, chatbots, and machine learning. NICE CXone is a customer experience platform that integrates with its RPA offerings. NEVA is NICE's personal assistant bot for employees. NICE also has a portfolio of finance-specific tools, such as Actimize for anti-money laundering.
  • UiPath: The current release of the UiPath Platform (21.4) features enterprise-scale management and governance; AI-powered discovery, prioritization, and integrated development of the most impactful automations; upgrades for all user experiences; and rapid expansion of Automation Cloud capabilities. UiPath can be deployed in its hosted cloud, in a public cloud, or on-premises, although the hosted cloud is updated most often.
  • WorkFusion: WorkFusion automates document-heavy manual work for large-enterprise customers in banking, financial services, insurance, and healthcare with the WorkFusion Intelligent Automation Cloud. Top automation areas in banking include anti-money laundering, account opening, sanctions screening, LIBOR transition, and mortgage lending.

Given that you won't be able to port your scripts to another RPA system, you need evidence that the vendor you are considering has strong financial stability. The worst case would be that you did a full rollout, the vendor went bust, the licensing server stopped authenticating your installation, and your entire implementation shut down.

RPA example: UiPath

UiPath is one of the "big three" RPA products, along with Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere. Right now, it's primarily a Windows product, although a growing subset of the functionality is available through a browser (see the InfoWorld review of version 18.4.4). As we'll see, some of the UiPath product runs in the cloud.

UiPath helps you discover what processes to automate, and provides tools for users with a wide range of technical skills and experience. As is the case in many RPA products, UiPath is incorporating machine learning into more and more of its advanced processes. UiPath bots analyze documents, recognize speech, and apply other machine learning models. In addition, UiPath can govern and manage automations at enterprise scale.

UiPath installation. You can register for a free UiPath trial to create a UiPath Community SaaS account—and then request an enterprise trial to enable the full functionality of the UiPath Automation Cloud. Then you can download a UiPath Studio trial. Click the 'Install' button next to Studio. This will install UiPath Studio, Assistant, and a Robot for creating and testing automations.

install uipath Martin Heller

Building a business case. In your Automation Cloud account, you can enable the Automation Hub service under "Admin." You can also enable the Automation Store if you wish. Then you can navigate to Automation Hub and create an instance. From there, you can define a business case for your POC. Once you're done, it may look something like the image below:

onboarding Martin Heller

This shows only the beginning of a sample assessment. Your own automation exploration should tie into your company's processes.

Documenting your process. You'll need to download Task Capture from Automation Hub and install it. You should be logged into your UiPath Cloud account when you run Task Capture, for licensing purposes; otherwise you'll be limited to Community functionality.

process Martin Heller

You have a choice of starting by building a diagram, or starting by using Task Capture to record your process. The former gives you a better flow diagram, but the latter lets you get up to speed more quickly. The actual capture process is similar to recording Excel macros. It has a limit of 500 actions.

The diagram will have sequences of actions, and may also have decision trees (business rules). Screen scraping actions aren't performed with the macro recorder; instead, you capture a screen shot and then highlight the fields you want the robot to extract in the Image Editor. Once your Process Definition Document (PDD) is complete, you can export it as a Word or XAML document. You can also run your process, or submit it for review and publication in the Automation Store.

Exploring UiPath’s Marketplace. You can find many automation activities, including intelligent automations, in the UiPath Marketplace. I've shown the first screen of the marketplace (image below).

marketplace Martin Heller

Creating bots. UiPath has three design environments for bots: UiPath StudioX for business users, UiPath Studio (see screenshot below) for RPA developers, and UiPath Studio Pro for C# developers. Studio Pro can build test cases for RPA as well as test automation for web, desktop, and mobile apps. Once bots have been approved, employees can run them locally with UiPath Assistant, and manage them securely with UiPath Orchestrator.

create bot Martin Heller

Proof of Concept. UiPath normally completes POCs in one or two days by providing a skilled UiPath developer to work with a process subject matter expert from the client company. The client must install UiPath Studio on a dedicated machine and provide access to all the systems and applications involved in the solution.

If you investigate UiPath's competitors, you'll find many points of similarity. You'll also find differences in capabilities, scalability, and fees. Before committing to one RPA solution, do your due diligence, project your costs and savings, and test every capability that might affect your company's operations.

Copyright © 2021 IDG Communications, Inc.

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