How to choose the right tool to robotize business processes?
Many managers, who are responsible for carrying out the digital transition in their company, face the dilemma of how to identify the best automation tool for their company. The market is full of RPA (Robotic Process Automation) and RDA (Robotic Desktop Automation) solutions, so what should you pay special attention to when making your choice?
What are software robots?
A software robot is nothing more than an RPA or RDA-class IT application. A robot is a tool that imitates human activity in an IT environment. The robot “clicks” on the graphical user interfaces (GUI) and can:
- read and rewrite data,
- perform complex calculations,
- make decisions according to the assumed conditions.
Unlike humans, a robotic application performs repetitive and monotonous tasks much faster, which reduces the number of working hours. In addition, the tasks are performed flawlessly, as human error is eliminated, which improves the quality of the operations provided.
The robot will not fall ill and will not go on holiday, and with increased data volumes, it is enough to copy our digital worker.
But how do you know how one tool is better than another? An aspect that certainly needs attention is how to identify the elements which the robot has to “click”. Popular applications include integration with WinAutomation (for desktop applications), XPath support (for web), and universal image recognition. These are the technologies used by most of the RPA tools, but the way they are used differs significantly between the robotics service providers. Elements worth checking:
- Does the tool allow to combine many technologies to identify an application element, using e.g. alternative selection methods for a particular button or field?
- How flexible is the configuration of the above configurations: can dynamic path fragments (variables or wildcards) be used?
- In the case of image recognition technology, are we talking about the simplest implementation looking for an accurate one-to-one pixel match, or advanced algorithms used to make the solution resistant to changes in resolution and colour scheme?
- Are complex, multi-level conditions and loops possible to configure?
- What solutions are available to handle errors or exceptions?
The large variety of available actions and technologies ensures that the robot can handle even the most difficult applications.
Moreover, attention should be paid to the list of implementations made with the tool, especially, which systems were handled with its help. The most popular and commonly used are:
- Excel sheets
- PDF files
- Desktop applications, e.g., accounting systems or ERP (such as SAP, Microsoft Dynamics)
- Popular web applications and websites
- Systems accessible by the remote desktop (e.g. Citrix)
Platform providers outdo each other in implementing new functionalities and technologies, but equally important, if not the most important aspect is how easily they can be used to automate the process. The importance of this criterion largely depends on the robotisation development strategy adopted in the organization: whether we want to rely only on external experts or whether in the long term we plan to build competences within the company. If the latter is the dominant approach in an organization, the ease of use becomes a very important issue. The questions worth answering are, among others:
- Does the tool offer alternatives to manual process building, e.g. a recorder operating in multiple environments (desktop, web)?
- How easy is it to configure logical conditions and loops – for example, can a business team member manage it without a programming background?
- Is the presentation of the remembered “code” legible and easy to understand?
- Is the tool’s interface user-friendly, both in terms of aesthetics and the availability of key functions?
Costs of the robotisation platform implementation are the aspect that certainly cannot be ignored. The final cost is much more than just the price of the tool:
- Price of central robot management application
- Unit prices for each type of license
- Availability of concurrent licenses, limiting the maximum number of users logged in at any given time, without a limit on the maximum number of registered users
- Cost of employing experts specialized in the tool
- Training, support, mentoring costs
- Approach to licensing: in addition to standard, commonly used application licenses, there are also alternative models based, for example, on counting the steps taken by the robot
Availability of support
When choosing a platform, it may seem tempting and seemingly obvious to choose a recognizable tool that has been operating on the market for many years. Of course, there is a good side to such a choice, but it is worth looking at the advantages of alternative options. What to look at:
- Large organizations behind popular tools are often characterized by certain inertia in making changes. Smaller companies are more inclined to implement customer-specific functionality.
- The location of the supplier is also important. You can expect that a company with its registered office or branch in Poland, or even in the same city, will be more familiar with the characteristics of the market. Above all, however, contact and support are easier to implement.
The list of criteria that need to be considered before making a decision may be longer than the above-mentioned and vary depending on the needs of the organization, but these are the most universal and present in most companies.