Robotic Process Automation (RPA) refers to software tools that automate routine, repetitive tasks by mimicking human actions. RPA tools perform data manipulation, communicate with other systems, trigger responses and execute transactions based on predefined rules and workflows. Key benefits of RPA include reduced costs, improved efficiency, higher accuracy and compliance. According to Gartner, RPA adoption grew over 63% in 2021 and over 90% of large organizations will have adopted RPA by 2025. With this exponential rise, the demand for enterprise-grade RPA tools is also increasing.
Currently, the RPA market is characterized by new vendors entering, existing ones coming up with new features, and an expansion of RPA’s capabilities due to the arrival of cognitive AI. Thus, with the array of RPA tools available in the market, it can be a challenge to pick the one that is customized to your organization’s needs.
To start with, you need to understand the RPA market by doing your research. Your options would be established RPA vendors who already have made their mark or the new generation tools which often focus on a particular solution. Once you have a finalized list of RPA tools, you must choose the processes that you want to automate. This is called process mining and will help you understand the appropriate features of the tool that would be relevant to you.
The succeeding step is to do a comprehensive evaluation on the RPA tools you have listed. Here are the essential factors to consider when selecting an RPA tool, ensuring an unbiased perspective on making the right choice
1. User-Friendly Interface: Look for a tool with an intuitive drag-and-drop interface for building workflows visually, rather than writing extensive code. User-friendly features include process recording to capture tasks, visually mapping process steps, and playback to test automation. The tool should use a library of pre-built activities common to business processes and allow setting up rules, conditions, exceptions, and approvals without coding. An interface optimized for both technical developers and citizen developers enables wider adoption across the organization.
2. Extensive Functionality: Consider the breadth of functionality offered by the RPA tool. Does it cover a wide range of automation capabilities? Look for tools that include process recording, screen scraping, workflow design, data extraction, and integration with various enterprise systems and applications. The more comprehensive the functionality, the better equipped you'll be to tackle complex business processes.
3. Scalability and Flexibility: The scalability and flexibility of an RPA tool are crucial, especially if your organization plans to automate processes of varying complexity and size. Evaluate whether the tool can handle both attended automation (where humans interact with software robots) and unattended automation (where robots work independently). This flexibility ensures that the tool can adapt and align to your evolving business requirements.
4. Vendor Experience and Credentials: Consider the vendor's experience and credentials in the RPA space. Market leaders like UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism have over a decade of experience and large enterprise customer bases. However, new entrants like Microsoft Power Automate and Robocorp are disrupting the market with innovative offerings. Evaluate the vendor's clientele and success stories to understand their capabilities. Domain expertise in your industry like banking, insurance, or healthcare is also valuable. An established vendor with relevant experience provides credibility.
5. Developer Community: An active and engaged developer community may be a significant advantage when selecting an RPA tool. A robust developer community provides resources, forums, and training programs to support users in learning and mastering the tool. This community-driven approach fosters awareness and adoption of the RPA platform, facilitating the exchange of ideas and best practices.
6. Partnerships and Ecosystem: Examine what technology partnerships the RPA vendor has established. Integration with AI/ML providers can enable cognitive document processing, chatbots and predictive analytics capabilities. Partnerships with cloud infrastructure providers like AWS, Azure and Google Cloud allow the RPA tool to leverage robust and secure cloud capabilities. ERP vendors like SAP, Oracle and Microsoft offer pre-built connectors and modules for their systems. Such an ecosystem expands the possibilities of automation through complementary solutions.
7. Cost of Ownership: Reducing costs on manual and redundant processes is one of the main reasons for utilizing RPA. Too high a cost will be counterproductive, and the ROI will be too low. Thus, you should evaluate the costs that come with choosing a particular tool. This entails license fees, vendor fees, implementation and maintenance charges, etc. Make sure you get the best value for your money and select a tool that costs as little as possible and offers all the technical features you need.
8. Security, Compliance and Governance: Enterprise-grade RPA tools should have robust controls around security, compliance, and governance. This includes role-based access control, data encryption, and activity logging for auditing processes and anomalies. Check for certifications around international standards like ISO 27001, SOC 2, and GDPR compliance for data protection. Mature governance capabilities allow managing RPA usage through planning, development, testing, and monitored production stages. This enables high-quality and compliant automation while controlling proliferation through governance.
9. Training and Certification Programs: Look for RPA tools that offer comprehensive training and certification programs. These programs equip individuals and organizations with the skills needed to develop, deploy, and manage automation solutions effectively. A certified workforce can contribute to the successful implementation of the RPA tool within your organization.
10. Customer Support: Measure the state of customer support provided by the RPA tool vendor. Access to dedicated customer success managers, technical support, and a knowledge base can be invaluable in assisting your organization throughout its automation journey. Positive customer experiences and strong support enhance the tool's reliability and effectiveness.
11. Emerging Capabilities: Evaluate the tool's commitment to developing emerging capabilities through continuous innovation. Look for built-in AI/ML to enable use cases like sentiment analysis of customer interactions, extraction of data from unstructured documents, and anomaly detection for fraud prevention. Tools that integrate capabilities like natural language processing, conversational AI, and predictive analytics will provide greater value. Opting for a forward-looking tool ensures you can easily adopt.
In summary, assessing your needs and shortlisting tools based on key factors is crucial for RPA success. Here is a checklist to compare options across capabilities, technology ecosystem, credentials, and governance based on the 11 factors discussed:
|Scalability and flexibility
|Vendor Experience and Credentials
To be satisfied with the RPA tool you choose, you need to comprehend what would give you that satisfaction. It’s important to understand and highlight your specific requirements so that your use cases drive the conversation. No tool is the same and each one has its own area of expertise. Even though the fundamentals might be the same, certain characteristics can differ which is what you need to look out for. There are many reasons why an RPA project could fail, and not picking the right tool is one of them. So, this is a decision that would affect your organization in the long term and should be taken seriously.