The Robotic Process Automation industry has been growing at an astronomical speed over the past few years. It is projected to continue growing at double-digit rates through 2024 despite the global market being disrupted by COVID-19. Not surprisingly, the number of vendors entering the market has also been rising. All existing technologies face constant pressure to evolve – to deliver better results and help users maximize opportunities.
What does this mean for the RPA user? It is mostly positive, but it also raises some challenges.
This article answers a surprisingly complex question that many of our readers are likely to have wrestled with: How do I choose the right RPA technology to fit my needs?
Let us begin by breaking down the matter into a few simple steps:
1. Describe your goal
2. Compare features
3. Find experts
4. Calculate costs
1. Describe your goal
As a first step, it is essential to link the RPA strategy to the general strategy. If your goal is to be the best in customer service, think about how RPA could contribute to reaching this goal.
To connect RPA with your general strategy, consider…
- What processes should be automated as a priority?
- What is your long-term vision for RPA?
Think about also…
- What are the typical characteristics of the processes you wish to automate? e.g., are they front-end or back-end? Which systems are involved? How complex are the processes? Are there parts to the processes that require intelligent processing?
- What are the transaction volumes? How much do they vary through the year?
- What skills and background does your team have? Have they previously worked with RPA technology? Do they have a business background? Or the experience of coding?
Answering these questions will help you to describe the characteristics of your ideal solution.
You may also want to check independent research, such as The Forrester WaveTM: Robotic Process Automation, Q1 2021 report, so you can shortlist the market-leading RPA technologies.
Choosing the highest-ranking vendors ensures you are choosing from RPA that is proven to be reliable on an industrial scale. These top technologies also tend to have the greatest number of existing features and robust R&D programs to keep their products evolving. This leads to better capabilities beyond RPA.
All the leading RPA technologies are very versatile and can be used to automate an equal number of processes. However, in some specific cases, one solution may be preferable to another.
2. Compare features
The second step involves straightforwardly comparing the features of the different technologies on your list. This could still prove tricky due to the market’s short product development cycles. Click here to learn about the strengths of UiPath, Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, and Microsoft Power Automate – and situations that fit them particularly well.
We recommend limiting your options to the market leaders to ensure you are choosing from technologies that are proven to be reliable when used on an industrial scale.
3. Find experts
Organizations looking to use RPA on an industrial scale should – at a minimum – fill the following RPA roles, either in-house or through a partner.
- RPA Program Manager: Program steering and reporting.
- RPA Developer: Design, development, and testing of new solutions.
- RPA Administrator: Automation maintenance, scheduling, and resource management.
- RPA Analyst: Pipeline population, documentation, and project management.
- RPA Operations Expert: RPA environment, technical change management, and incident solving.
Each of these jobs requires specific skills and, to avoid issues when scaling up, we recommend that no person holds more than one of the listed responsibilities.
In the context of choosing the right technology for your organization, consider your existing skills and how difficult it is to find experts in each technology.
- Do you have existing know-how in one technology over another? If so, how much? And to what extent should this influence your decision?
- Is it easier to recruit experts in one technology over another?
- Are there differences between the technologies in the availability of training and capable service providers in your area?
In Europe, it may be easier to find skills in Blue Prism and UiPath. In the United States, UiPath and Automation Anywhere are more established. If one technology meets your technical requirements best, but it is easier to find skilled people in another, do the benefits outweigh the added challenge of resourcing the required skills?
All companies that plan to utilize RPA extensively need some external support along the way. In many cases, it also makes more sense to entirely outsource parts of your automation effort – such as RPA maintenance or development. Consider whether there are service providers in your area that have proven skills and that offer a range of services in your chosen technology.
The ideal situation would be to get all the support and services you require from one trusted advisor. This allows you to build a close relationship with your partner so that they understand your business. Minimizing the number of service providers also helps to keep responsibilities clear, typically cuts costs, and reduces the time you spend managing partnerships.
Digital Workforce is one of the world’s leading experts in Intelligent Automation. The services we offer include supporting our clients as their trusted advisors. Today, we fill these shoes for over 200 organizations across the globe – helping our customers to avoid common mistakes and to succeed with RPA. You can learn more about our Advisory Services here.
4. Calculate costs
RPA technology-related costs
Technology providers have approached licensing from various angles, which makes direct cost comparison complex. To estimate your costs, you need to understand each technology’s associated cost elements and the differences between the pricing models.
Technology-related cost dimensions:
- Commitment term: on-demand / fixed term
- Upfront payment or consumption-based
- Pricing of RPA complementary elements like intelligent document processing, process mining, analytics, etc.
- Development and other non-production license costs
- The cost of setting up the infrastructure
The challenge with fixed-term RPA buying models is that you often end up buying more capacity than you use (watch from 5:40 to hear about customer cases where flexibility has significantly improved results).
During a peak month once a year, you need 8 licenses to handle your transaction volumes. To meet this requirement, you will need to commit to the 8 licenses for a fixed time ranging from 12 to 36 months – even if your average monthly need is well below that number.
RPA vendors and service providers typically place value on tools, products, and technologies, ignoring to what extent these tools are used to create customer value, i.e., whether the RPA is running and correctly executing the tasks assigned to it.
These models are also locked into buying a specific technology. This can be another limiting factor in extracting business value, especially when another solution would be more suitable to meet particular process requirements. Fast-evolving RPA technologies often have different update cycles, so tapping into arising opportunities across the field requires flexibility, not only in capacity but also in technology choice.
RPA people-related costs
As discussed above, organizations looking to use RPA on an industrial scale should at least fill the roles of RPA program manager, developer, analyst, administrator, and operations expert. RPA-related costs include training and hiring these experts, organizing project management, and running automation.