Today, there is a nearly inexhaustible list of options for robotic process automation (RPA). An industry that only came into existence within the past decade now offers customers more choices than ever. But with choice comes the potential to make the wrong choice. This isn’t to say that today’s RPA products are lacking – quite the contrary! But it does mean that due diligence is needed to make sure you’re selecting the best option for your company. Through a product evaluation that UDig recently did for a client, we were able to get some hands-on experience with several different RPA products. We started with a list of seven RPA options, before narrowing it down to three. Those three tools were Blue Prism, UiPath, and WorkFusion. Here’s what we learned about each along the way.
But first a disclaimer: The following information is our opinion from the information we gathered through research and hands-on demos, and our evaluation has been geared towards meeting the specific needs of this particular client. Everyone’s needs, experiences and opinions will be different, and this information should not be used in any decision-making without doing your own research first.
Blue Prism is currently one of the top two RPA leaders as identified by Gartner, and with our product and risk assessment tool [see blog Evaluating Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Tools to learn more] it was one of the finalists in our evaluation for this client. For the second phase of our evaluations, we performed our own demos to see how intuitive it was to build a specified use case ourselves. We were able to obtain a 30-day demo of Blue Prism in our process of evaluating this RPA product. It is important to note that when you first install Blue Prism, you need to ensure that you have “create database” access to a server in order to create a database that Blue Prism will end up writing to for configuration and other settings. After that, we were able to start developing. Compared to the other tools, we found that Blue Prism was more intuitive for someone with some robotic process automation development experience.
Our initial impression of Blue Prism is that while there is a learning curve to get it set up, once acquainted, it is straightforward. Building on Blue Prism feels like building process maps and having that bit of developer background knowledge seems to help. The processes we built on Blue Prism appeared to be stable when repetitively run. There were some nuances to working with web browsers that we experienced with all RPA options, and will discuss in greater detail later.
A perk of Blue Prism is the pre-built connectors they have available, allowing easy integration with other applications. Code sample snippets are also available to help with building processes. Like many RPA products, Blue Prism offers a community that allows Blue Prism users to interact with each other, get help, find best practices, etc.
According to Gartner, UiPath is the other top RPA option. In order to get started and test the robotic process automation waters, UiPath has a free community edition available that lets users experiment with the basic features of the tool. Though UiPath has a cloud version, today, when this evaluation was completed, their only option was via an on-premise server. This “community edition” was a simple download, without any prerequisites or setup; just download, install, setup, and start building.
Like Blue Prism, we found UiPath to be intuitive and easy to figure out. And just as with Blue Prism, we did run into the web browser nuances but worked with the pre-sales technical team to identify how to best handle these. With trial and error, we were able to create some stable processes that completed the use case that was built.
UiPath offers a community forum for users to exchange ideas, get advice, best practices, and more. The community also has pre-built actions available to help with some steps that may not be native to the UiPath application. They also offer a vast amount of online resources to help with training and learning how to best utilize UiPath. Similar to Blue Prism, connectors and plug-ins are available that make utilizing other applications easier in conjunction with an RPA product.
WorkFusion wrapped up our top list of RPA options to more thoroughly evaluate for our client. Gartner ranked them as the top visionary robotic process automation tool due to their advanced capabilities with machine learning and artificial intelligence. WorkFusion has a free RPA Express download that allows you some of the basic, but essential, features of RPA products. Like UiPath, this helps with companies that are not fully bought into RPA or need to provide a business case to their company in order to invest. WorkFusion’s venture funding of “only” two hundred million dollars is dwarfed by UiPath’s two billion, but they continue to develop solid traction within the category.
There are some initial admin settings that need to be handled for WorkFusion to be run correctly. This is beneficial to know for companies that have tighter security guidelines. The user interface of WorkFusion is easy to navigate and figure out. Its recording feature works well with imitating steps that replicate correctly when ran. WorkFusion also includes a control tower that allows you to manage your processes.
WorkFusion offers a knowledge base, which empowers users to get help and information. This includes different use cases other companies have identified that may be beneficial to your company, training on how to utilize WorkFusion to its full potential, release notes, and many other helpful documents.
Evaluating RPA Products: Lessons Learned
In the end, all three finalists performed admirably during our evaluation. Perhaps this shouldn’t be surprising, given that all three are well-funded with a talented team improving their product every day. But the more this project progressed, the more we were able to closely examine the nuances between the three and how each was able to answer specific concerns for this client.
Here are a few things that we found important:
Web browser troubleshooting
We learned very quickly that elements on a web browser frequently change HTML paths, causing the processes on the different tools to randomly break. After speaking with each of the vendors, they all have solved this problem and were able to walk us through best practices. Once we went back through with those changes, the web browsers seemed a lot more stable. Understanding how to avoid these types of breakages was key to our client having faith in the product.
In many cases, robotic process automation solutions move data from one software to another. Doing so may require logging into a protected site, requiring a stored username and password. Obviously, there may be security concerns about how those credentials are stored. After speaking with each vendor, they all have their own platform-specific way to handle this. Whether it is encrypting the data or storing it in a permission-based environment that can only be accessed by people with those permissions, each has its unique way of preventing lapses in security.
In the race for supremacy, each software company offered its own roadmap of where the product intends to go in the coming months and years. Though software roadmaps aren’t written in stone, they are instructive in helping customers understand if the vendor shares their vision for the future of technology. At the time of this evaluation, for instance, UiPath had yet to release a cloud version of their product, though it was eagerly anticipated by the market. Today, that cloud version has far more users than the previous product. If you’re really having trouble finding tangible differences in the existing product, you might be able to find key differences in their vision for their next version.
Check Out the Fine Print
Though the key features of most RPA products are similar, each vendor offers unique pricing models. Some are based on the number or complexity of automations and others depend on the number of users. Some may use a blended version of both! Some will include all features for a given price, while others require add-ons. Like feature sets, there isn’t a right or wrong answer here, but there’s likely a better option for you. For our client, juxtaposing the options with their wishes was key.
Demo First, Ask Questions Later
We approached our demo in a somewhat unique manner. Because our team consists of developers experienced with many RPA options, we chose to dive right in and build our specific use case to ensure that the tool could – in fact – deliver. While doing that, we uncovered a lot of questions specifically around the context of this use case. Then, we met with each of the vendors and asked our questions. For each, this led to great conversations about best practices of their particular tool and how to best achieve the result we were going for. In this manner, we were able to first simulate what happens when someone inexperienced with the tool builds on the platform, and compare that to an individual who builds the bot as the vendor intended.
Do your research
Falling in line with the previous point, it is important to do your own research when evaluating RPA products and walk into conversations having an idea of what you are looking for. Likewise, because there’s so much to consider, it’s critical to identify what matters most to you. What we may have initially thought was important to us, did not necessarily end up being as high of a priority as we got deeper into discussions.
Overall, each of these RPA options has their pros and cons. What we have discovered is that it comes down to preference and experience. You will learn that the vendors are eager to work with you and help you along the way to educate you on their tool so you can make the best decision.
Some questions to ask yourself –
- Who has pricing that works within your budget?
- Who do you like working with?
- Who has a roadmap that aligns with the direction of your business?
- Who has the capabilities you need in the immediate future?
- What type of person are you going to have work on these processes, and which tool aligns with that skillset?
- Who has an implementation model that meets your resourcing and needs?
It is important to evaluate what is important to you when considering RPA products, and to do your own research. Work with the vendors to help find which one meets your requirements. Every company is different, and every business has different needs. Each tool has its differentiators that may align differently for each business.
Robotic process automation can yield substantial ROI. The average business sees an ROI of 250% within 6 to 9 months! We’ve built a calculator to show you the impact RPA can have on your organization: RPA ROI Calculator.