Many companies we work with are turning to Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to maximize efficiency gains along their digitization journey. This is a journey worth taking, considering the ROI advantages a company can realize by enhancing throughput capabilities using tools such as UiPath or Power Automate.
However, as with any new system onboarding, there is a roadmap which companies should follow to get the best results for the time, effort and money they will invest in such an undertaking. This is the first in a series of articles which talks about how to get started with RPA. This series will address choosing the right tool, how to get started with your first Automation and then how to build organizational structure, or a Center of Excellence so that companies can continue to realize sustainable ROI benefits.
Choosing the tool which is best for your organization is the first choice you must make in your RPA journey. With several tools to choose from, in order to make the best decision it is crucial to look at any limitations in your environment and how the tool will be used.
Questions you should consider when researching the right RPA tool for you:
Are you looking to automate tasks – or are you looking to automate enterprise-level processes which integrate data from multiple systems?
This question is important for many reasons. RPA tools now offer low-code features and developer options. Low-code features allow technically proficient business users to automate tasks using drag and drop functions to create attended automations. If automating more complex processes which require multiple system integrations, developers will be required. How you answer this question affects costing and the tool features which you will be looking for.
If arming your business users with the ability to create their own automations, then ease of use, training, and documentation content become important factors in your choice. The tool should allow the user to create the automation, and configure the workflow with screen recording capabilities, and ease in loading data elements. Costing can be greatly affected for low code tools – because if choosing a citizen developer tool such as Power Automate Desktop, Windows 10 users can access the tool for free.
Potential use cases which fall in this realm might be loading a spreadsheet with data from 2-3 sources or automating the combination of 2 spreadsheets into a report.
As with a Low Code tool, Developer Editions should also be evaluated for ease of use. However, automating complex processes requires tool expertise and full life cycle development phases – analysis, requirements gathering, system architecture design, development, testing. An experienced development team will ensure automation success. In this case, the RPA tool should also offer features which support larger scale development:
- Performance/scalability – the tool should allow for flexibility in design and use so that multiple bots can be triggered to handle situations when large data loads need to be processed. This allows the fluctuations in workflow processing to be automatically handled by applying extra processing power when needed
- Integration – the best features of RPA enable non-invasive integration with legacy systems. The tool should integrate with multiple operating systems by allowing easy use of APIs to accomplish this.
- Types of bots – In order to scale up the automation process, the tool should be able to process run-time automations (Attended bots), queued automations (Unattended bots), and processes which require cognitive learning (AI bots).
- Orchestration and Administration – Unattended bots need to be scheduled and event triggered to run at the right times. Complex automations need easy to maintain control flows for these types of actions.
- Reusability – once an organization starts automating multiple processes, it becomes necessary to reuse bot automations to maintain efficiency in coding and processing (i.e. login authorization automation). A tool should offer a repository for housing and maintaining reusable automations.
What level of error handling is necessary for your automated processes?
Tools vary in their level of error tracking and logging abilities. If processes need detailed error logging to record and handle exception data or for maintaining compliancy standards – the RPA tool should provide an easy way to track and review error logs. UiPath is one of the tools which incorporates easy to use, detailed error logging.
Error handling is important for 2 reasons:
- Bad data can sometimes halt processing. To maintain automation efficiency and performance, bad data should be handled as an exception and routed to a different queue or exception report for human intervention. This means that most data is processed robotically, so humans can focus on exceptions only.
- Error logging is necessary to track what causes exceptions. This is important not only for compliance reasons, but also to allow for detailed error analysis. Errors can then be identified at the source and fixed, which reduces the number of overall errors.
Do you need to provide Audit Trail Reporting?
Many companies need to produce detailed audit reporting which tracks data as it moves through systems. Maintaining compliancy for HIPAA, SOX (Sarbanes-Oxley), ISO or even company internal standards requires meeting security and financial protocols. All RPA tools are not considered equal when it comes to proving they are certified in the areas of implementing technical controls and IT Security policies. Below are some of the certifications you consider when evaluating an RPA tool:
- System and Organization Controls (SOC)
- SOC 2 Type 1
- SOC 2 Type 2
- SOC 1 Type 2
What enterprise platform and Cloud Provider are you using?
RPA tools are built for flexibility to work on multiple enterprise platforms and cloud providers. However, there may be advantages to choosing a tool which has specific integrations for a given platform or cloud provider.
For example, Microsoft’s Power Automate was built to easily integrate with Windows, Microsoft tools and Azure. As mentioned earlier, the Power Automate Desktop version comes free for Windows 10 users. Although Power Automate will work with any enterprise platform and cloud provider, there are definite advantages in using Power Automate if you are already a Microsoft client.
Automation Anywhere now partners with Google Cloud for its Automation 360 platform. Automation 360 easily integrates with Google’s Apigee, AppSheet and AI platform offerings.
Will your automations be industry or area specific?
The largest RPA competitors are not built to be industry specific and therefore are the most flexible in process application. However, there are RPA tools which are suited to specific industries or areas of processing such as document manipulation.
For example, Olive AI specifically focuses on healthcare workflows. Kofax and Workfusion specialize in Document Processing so they might be better suited to the Insurance and Real Estate industries.
These are just a few of the questions which you need to think about when choosing an RPA tool. As with any major investment, it is best to speak with an RPA partner who can guide you in your journey – beginning with tool selection.
Once you have chosen your tool, the next step will be implementation and selecting your first process to be automated. Read about this step in the next blog of our series “Your First Automation in RPA”.
SphereGen is a Silver UiPath Partner and Microsoft Gold Partner with expertise in implementing successful RPA applications in Healthcare, Manufacturing, and Distribution. We also offer custom software services in Application Modernization/Support and Extended Reality. Learn more about our work at https://www.spheregen.com