Almost every business has manual processes. They are inefficient, prone to errors and lead to employee satisfactions. No one wants manual processes. In the 90s and 2000s, almost every Fortune 500 invested in low cost countries or worked with Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) firms to outsource their manual processes. However, while this virtual labor source was much cheaper than the local talent, it was still costly and prone to errors.
Most companies today eliminate manual processes thanks to advances in artificial intelligence and machine learning. So whenever your company has a manual process, it is a good opportunity to ask yourself: How can we automate this process? As you can see in our comprehensive guide on Robotic Process Automation (RPA) or in our RPA whitepaper, robotic process automation software, also called robotic automation, can help automate most manual processes. However, though RPAs benefits are numerous, you still need to choose the right RPA platform to maximize how your business’ benefits from RPA.
First, you can read our guide, it’s great, it’s comprehensive but there’s a shortcut: We can choose the right vendors for you based on the industry, size, location and needs of your business. Fill out a simple form and get a quick reply.
If you want to know more about vendor selection, please read on.
Understand and compare RPA tools to identify the solution you need
Essentially RPA bots are software robots that complete specific automatable activities. There are 4 types of robotic process automation tools on the market.
- Even before RPA software, enterprises were using automation tools. Employees were automating simple processes with excel automation, macros and simple hacks. These solutions were not scalable or sustainable but they increased productivity of individual employees.
- First generation RPA tools were programmable bots that required specific inputs.
- Then, self-learning tools were developed. They watch employees in action, understand processes, take over processes when they reach confidence and ask for human input if they get completely new input.
- Finally, cognitive or intelligent automation bots augment self-learning bots with advanced functionality like Natural Language Processing.
Check out our article on RPA tools for more information on RPA tools.
Understand RPA vendor landscape in 2 minutes
To choose an RPA software vendor, you must understand the RPA vendor landscape and compare vendors to choose the most suitable vendor for your business. Evaluating vendors and making the right vendor assessment can be a time-consuming effort.
As appliedAI.com we provide the most comprehensive public list of robotic process automation vendors. You have full access to top RPA vendors from India to Silicon Valley. There are mainly 3 types of RPA vendors:
Established technology providers: Companies like Pegasystems or Kofax were launched in 1980s and 1990s to help with various digitization needs of companies.
For example, Kofax initially established itself as a digital transformation vendor offering services like document digitization, e-signatures. Using their relationships with companies, process knowledge and understanding of change management in companies, they launched RPA products.
1st wave RPA focused vendors: Founded in 2000s, these vendors are focused on providing RPA solutions and already reached significant scale. Companies like Blue Prism already went public and work with numerous Fortune 500 customers. Initially they provided and later perfected programmable bot solutions. Currently, they are focused on improving advanced capabilities of their bots, offering cognitive automation capabilities
2nd wave RPA focused vendors: Founded in 2010s, these vendors are focused on providing latest gneeration RPA solutions like cognitive or intelligent automation. They are scaling up as enterprises realize the value of cognitive automation.
They were founded at a time when rule based, programmable RPA solutions were gaining popularity. Their focus has been on solving more complex problems. Such problems would require an immense programming effort for rule-based bots to solve. So their solutions incorporate cognitive or learning bots that learn from employees’ actions.
Some vendors are adding new capabilities to their offering beyond RPA. For example WorkFusion is offering chatbots integrated to its RPA bots. These companies are willing to take risks for market disruption. For example, WorkFusion’s offering of free-as-in-beer RPA solution was one of the free first free offers on markets and will definitely attract attention.
These companies also tend to have a strong background in science: For example, Max Yankelevich, CEO of WorkFusion, worked as a researcher in MIT and used some his research in building cognitive bots that learn by watching employees.
Business Process Outsourcing (BPO) providers: Companies like Infosys from India already run numerous processes for large companies. It is only logical that these companies are striving to automate the processes they took over from other companies. As a result, they have accumulated significant expertise in RPA.
Most of these companies do not have their own RPA solutions however, they formed partnerships with RPA solution providers and offer turn-key solutions to companies. This model allows companies to focus on business while BPO provider automates the process so it is an interesting alternative for companies that have issues managing day-to-day business with their current headcount.
BPOs can also use RPA solutions in-house to offer cheap process outsourcing solutions for automatable processes. They understand the process and automate it while outsourcing it. In this model, their personnel also handles edge cases that can interrupt bot operations. This is a rather hassle-free and effective model for business process outsourcing for companies that don’t want to deal with the complexities of automation.
Now that you know the industry landscape, it is time to prepare your short list of vendors.
Use our vendor list to prepare a short list within minutes
First, I would add vendors that your company is buying from. If you are working for a Fortune 500, your company is probably already purchasing from established technology providers or BPO providers that provide RPA services. Established procurement relations can help you quickly make purchases. Additionally, by buying multiple services from a vendor, you provide more leverage to the procurement team which can help them negotiate good prices. If you are feeling lazy, just query the full list of RPA companies listed on our platform against your procurement database. Now you have the beginning of a short list of vendors.
You can finalize your shortlist after adding leading vendors with whom your company has no relationship yet. Our database allows you to make those additions. Instead of trying to compare vendors by looking at a marketing employee’s fancy adjectives, we offer you the real and up-to-date data.
You can compare established companies and startups on objective metrics such as location, number of employees, funding information, references by other companies and so on. By ranking the most suitable vendors based on your own insights, you will never be fooled with subjective (or even paid) rankings and choose what is best for your company.
Now that you have a short list of vendors, how do you evaluate those vendors?
Use this checklist to compare RPA vendors objectively and transparently
After creating your RPA vendor short list by analyzing the metrics provided on our platform you can do a detailed vendor assessment. First, it is best to identify what are the important criteria for your business and for that it would be good to understand what are good candidate processes for RPA automation at your company. We have a comprehensive guide on popular processes for RPA automation and an RPA guide that includes steps to determine which processes in your company are good candidates for RPA automation.
Now that you know the processes involved, you can use the list below as a draft list of vendor comparison criteria:
- Total cost of ownership which includes initial setup cost of RPA system, ongoing vendor license fees and maintenance cost.
- Initial setup cost: Initial setup costs can also be negligible if in-house process experts can train bots. However, if in-house resources are better utilized elsewhere, business consulting companies like Accenture and Infosys can augment your workforce and speed up implementation.
- Ongoing vendor license fees: Workfusion recently rolled out a limited selection of free-to-use bots to disrupt the market. UiPath also offers a free community edition. However, these vendors only offer their rule-based bots for free. Cognitive bots that learn by watching employees are a premium product and can be priced per bot or per process. Since different vendors use different pricing models, you need to estimate the total vendor license fee you will pay.
- Maintenance cost: As inputs and systems change, your bots will require maintenance. When you roll-out bots, your teams will need to set up the alerts needed to identify bot issues. As those alerts arise, your teams will be fixing bot configurations to maintain bots. This is not a directly measurable financial cost however it will distract your employees. An easy-to-maintain solution will make your employees happier and more productive.
- Ease of use: A user friendly solution easy enough to be used by your team can help them implement RPA in new areas and increase both efficiency and employee satisfaction. Easier to use solutions will also require less training and allow your new hires get up to speed faster. Ease of use depends on bot development options, such as availability of Graphical User Interface (GUI) for drag&drop bot building and macro recording. Finally, you can’t know ease of use without using the product. Once you reduce your shortlist to 2 or 3 vendors, pick the simplest use case that you really need to automate, sit down with vendor personnel for an hour and automate that process on a demo environment. Automating a process will help you understand how easy to use each RPA solution is.
- In-person or virtual training options: Quality of available training is also an important factor here. Great text or video tutorials and availability of hands-on training can help employees become quickly proficient in RPA solutions. Some leading RPA solutions providers offer community versions of their products. To support RPA development by their community, they offer free courses, training material and community forums helps users support one another.
- Security: RPA bots will be making changes on your customer data and security is absolutely critical. That’s why vendors like WorkFusion are investing in security certifications.
- Integrations: Scope of integrations with different systems is critical as they will define the scope of your automation. Integrations with productivity tools and central enterprise tools like ERP and CRM are a must. For more information on features, see our guide on RPA tools.
- Screen scraping capabilities: For example, if your company is using Citrix virtualization solutions, you need to program your bot for Citrix automations. Strong screen scraping capabilities are required for the bot to understand menus and other fields on the screen and complete relevant tasks.
- Cognitive automation capabilities: Future of RPA is not programmed bots. It is self-learning bots. By working with a vendor that offers advanced cognitive or intelligent automation capbilities, you can minimize the work required to deploy bots. Bots can self-learn simple activities by watching recorded activities.
- Vendor experience: Ideally, it is best to work with a vendor that served a company similar to yours both in terms of size and industry. This may not be easy to find but it would be easier to work with a vendor that understands the needs and processes of your business. Such experience can drastically improve speed of implementation by reducing the work required to implement RPA software. For example, Redwood Software highlights how their pre-built plug&play robots can deployed quickly with little or no customization.
- Vendor support: While some companies will require quite some hand-holding, others have technically competent, eager-to-learn staff who can program RPA bots themselves. Based on the needs of your company you need to consider the level of support you will require from your RPA vendor. For a company that requires a lot of support, working with a BPO provider may be a good solution.
Now that you have your short list of vendors and your list of criteria, it is time to start communicating with vendors. Before talking to vendors, we recommend going to their profile on our website to understand a bit more about who they work with and how they describe their services. For an example, take a look at Workfusion’s profile page.
After meeting with vendors and evaluating them across these criteria, you will be ready to choose your vendor. After choosing your vendor, you can use our guide on RPA application areas to explore processes ripe for automation.
To begin the process of selecting an RPA vendor, you can use our free service and get a shortlist quickly.
Always bear in mind that system upgrade is an alternative to RPA. If RPA costs are approaching system upgrade costs, you could upgrade your underlying systems and automate the tasks rather than using RPA bots. With either an upgrade of your legacy systems or a flexible RPA solution you will end up with an optimized, automatized operation that can carry your business forward.
If you embark on an automation project, focus on the end-to-end process. Automation provides a change to rethink the whole process from the customer to the service delivery. Unnecessary steps can be eliminated, non-compliant or legacy activities can be improved. For example, removing fields from forms filled out by customers can improve the user experience and reduce the work to be automated.
RPA is just one of the areas where AI can add value to your business. On our website you can discover how you can use AI to improve key metrics like sales or customer satisfaction.