Through a product evaluation that UDig recently did for a client, we were able to get some hands-on experience with several different RPA tools in the market. We narrowed a list of seven tools down to three and then took an even deeper dive into those. Those three tools were Blue Prism, UiPath, and WorkFusion.
The following information is our opinion from information we gathered through research and hands-on demos, and our evaluation has been geared towards meeting the specific needs of our client. Everyone’s experience and opinion 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 [see blog Evaluating Robotic Process Automation (RPA) Tools to learn more] it also made its way the upper third of our group. As mentioned, the second part of our product evaluation was to perform 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. 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 we figured that out, we were able to start developing. Compared to the other tools, we found that Blue Prism was more intuitive to someone with some development experience.
Our initial impression of Blue Prism is that while there is a learning curve to get it set up, once you figure it out, it is straightforward. It looks like you are 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 tools, and will discuss in greater detail later.
A perk of Blue Prism is the pre-built connectors they have available, allowing you to easily integrate with other applications. They also have code sample snippets available to help with building processes. 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 leader. In order to get started and test the RPA waters, UiPath has a free community edition available that lets you play around with the basic features of the tool. They provide this for companies that are just getting their feet wet with RPA. While they are working on a cloud version, they currently utilize [and will continue to offer] an on-premise server. The community edition is a simple download, without any prerequisites or setup; just download, install, setup; and you are on your way.
The user working on UiPath shared that it seemed intuitive and easy to figure out how to build things. Like 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 a RPA tool.
WorkFusion wrapped up our top list of RPA tools to more thoroughly evaluate for our client. Gartner ranked them as the top visionary RPA 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. 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. They are a smaller company than the other two, but are making their name in the RPA space.
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.
The further we got into exploring the products, the more we realized what was important to the client specifically and the more targeted we were able to be in having conversations with the customers.
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.
Using an RPA tool, you may run into a situation where you need to log into a website. The concern is that you would be programming the RPA with a username and password that is saved within the tool. Again, after speaking with these vendors, they all have their own tool-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.
Find out what is on the roadmap for the vendors. You want to invest in a tool built for the long run. Knowing what they have planned may be just what you need to help justify your business case. Finding out what is included and not included in your standard pricing is important. You may see that what is an add-on for one vendor, is included with another. It all boils down to what is important to you.
We learned when we were building a specific use case, we were just working to make that specific use case work. There are a lot of best practices, or other capabilities that you can overlook. Most of the vendors will take the time to walk through the tool with you and build a simple use case. This way, they can show you the best practices they have identified along the way, and things you may not have known since you were only focusing on getting your one use case to work. However, I will point out that doing the demos before engaging with the vendor helped us identify specific questions and allowed us to have more knowledgeable and detailed conversations.
Do your research
Falling in line with the previous point, it is important to do your own research and walk into conversations having an idea of what you are looking for. You also need to figure out what is important to you, and research helps you identify that. What we may have initially thought was important to us, did not necessarily end up being high priority as we got deeper into discussions.
Overall, these tools have 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, 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.