Robotic process automation (RPA) software is used to coordinate the use of one or multiple robots along a specific process or set of processes. This now includes highly skilled functions such as product assembly, welding, and finishing. Additionally, RPA software is the glue that brings together business processes with organizational workflows and the actions of intelligent automation. RPA software also encompasses bots used for such things as chat and many office productivity functions.
Gartner defines robotic process automation as, “the software to automate tasks within business and IT processes via software scripts that emulate human interaction with the application user interface.” RPA uses artificial intelligence at many different levels.
Key RPA Features
RPA software is highly variable. Some deal with robotics used in automotive or manufacturing. Others are involved in fine tuning the efforts of chatbots and other marketing or sales-related items. It is a vast field. That said, here are some of the key features:
- Controllers that tie together different platforms and protocols, such as Ethernet TCP/IP, Ethernet IP, EtherCat, PROFIBUS, PROFINET, and DeviceNet, and facilitate communication to supervisory servers, programmable logic controllers (PLCs), vision systems, sensors, and other devices.
- Integration with artificial intelligence (AI) and analytics systems to deal with high-volume, repeatable tasks.
- The ability to move data in or out of application systems without human interaction or extract information from systems and documents to prepare it for consumption by a human worker.
- The ability to integrate with enterprise applications via user interface (UI) interactions.
Also see: Top AI Software
Top RPA Trends
Using Digital Solutions to Unify Workforces and Drive Change
“With labor shared between digital and human workers, overworked employees are given time back to focus on value-adding, fulfilling activities,” said Gautam Moorjani, general manager of intelligent automation solutions at SS&C Blue Prism. “RPA bridges gaps across the organization, connecting work at every step and level, to align all work to desired business outcomes.
RPA and AI
AI is making its way into more and more RPA systems. Pairing advanced RPA technology with artificial intelligence allows for scalability and some decision-making capabilities within business process automations, added Moorjani.
Robots and More Robots
The 2021 World Robot Report shows that the global number of robots per 10,000 employees has risen from 66 to 126 between 2015 and 2020, according to Alexander Technologies. North American companies purchased 11,595 robots in the first quarter of 2022. This record high amounted to $646 million.
Automation as a Strategic Imperative
C-suite leaders at innovative companies worldwide are viewing automation as a strategic imperative, according to Ted Kummert, executive vice president of products & engineering at UiPath.
“In the same way that PCs, mobile, and the cloud accelerated new business opportunities, automation is expediting business processes, creating faster pathways to innovation, and changing how we work,” Kummert said. “Automation is no longer a ‘nice to have’ – it’s a critical component of modern business.”
Democratizing Automation to Offset Talent Shortages
UiPath Research shows that workers around the world feel like much of their workday is eaten up by tasks that can be automated. 91% of survey respondents believe that automation can improve their job performance by saving time (52%), increasing productivity (46%), and creating opportunities to focus on more important work (45%).
Also see: DevOps, Low-Code and RPA: Pros and Cons
Top Robotic Process Automation Platforms
eWeek evaluated many RPA vendors. Here are our top picks, in no particular order.
UiPath Business Automation Platform
The UiPath Business Automation Platform offers end-to-end automation, combining RPA with a suite of capabilities to scale digital business operations. It can automate processes rapidly with drag-and-drop AI and ready-to-go templates.
- AI is built-in across the platform.
- UiPath Business Automation Platform has the ability to scale.
- The company offers a series of RPA solutions that uncover automation opportunities including Automation Hub, Task Capture, Process Mining, and Task Mining.
- There is a solution for automated testing of applications, automations, and quality assurance known as UiPath Test Suite.
- UiPath Business Automation Platform is an integrated low-code platform that targets the many personas within the process automation life cycle, such as IT, business managers, and developers.
- An app builder interfaces with cloud and on-premises applications, including enterprise resource planning (ERP) and legacy systems.
- UiPath Business Automation Platform includes more than 200 ready-made components.
The SS&C Blue Prism intelligent automation platform combines RPA, AI, business process management (BPM), and machine learning (ML) to help organizations achieve business goals. The company offers support from automation specialists, prebuilt automations, and training and certification. It targets large enterprise customers across different verticals via industry specific offerings.
- Blue Prism Decision creates explainable machine learning-based processes in hours rather than days.
- Blue Prism Process Intelligence provides an end-to-end solution for process and task mining, automation, and end-to-end monitoring.
- Blue Prism Decipher provides AI-driven, intelligent document processing integration.
- Blue Prism Interact is a scalable, real-time, human-to-digital collaboration platform designed to address complex processes that require either manual initiation or cooperation between human and digital workers.
- Blue Prism offers a business process management suite that includes digital process automation, case management, omnichannel interactions and operational analytics.
- UX Builder helps businesses reduce app development time.
- Email AI identifies an email’s content intent, detects urgent and value-based emails, extracts relevant information, and helps agents quickly answer client questions.
Also see: Data Analytics Trends
Automation 360 by Automation Anywhere is a cloud-native intelligent automation platform used by enterprises to automate processes with minimal infrastructure. Moreover, it just released the Automation Success Platform that is said to accelerate business transformation by making automation more accessible.
- Automation 360 enables employees to engage with bots while working in their favorite apps.
- Via the acquisition of FortressIQ, Automation Anywhere has launched Process Discovery to map and uncover the highest return on investment (ROI) automation opportunities.
- Document Automation extracts data from documents and transfers it into any app.
- Offerings are available for large enterprises as well as small and midsize businesses (SMBs).
- Automation 360 brings together business process automation and RPA and delivers them over the public cloud.
- Its AISense computer vision function is built on Google’s TensorFlow to increase accuracy.
- Its low-code features make it easy to create mobile and web apps to deploy and run bots.
- The platform is cloud-native with no on-premises offering.
- Automation 360 uses microservices packaged in Kubernetes containers in the cloud.
Power Automate by Microsoft
Power Automate by Microsoft empowers people to build automated processes with flows in Power Automate. This is another low-code RPA tool set that offers drag-and-drop tools and hundreds of prebuilt connectors that automate repetitive tasks. This product is particularly suited to those that have already bought into the Azure platform, whether large organizations or SMBs.
- Power Automate offers deep integration with Azure, Power BI, and other Microsoft tools.
- Power Automate empowers anyone to build automated processes using low-code, drag-and-drop tools.
- Power Automate offers hundreds of prebuilt connectors, thousands of templates, and AI assistance to automate repetitive tasks.
- Power Automate provides guided recommendations for creating flows.
- RPA with API orchestration integrates multiple systems of record to automate routine data transcription work.
- Power Automate offers a broad automation experience with more than 16 million deployed bots driving close to 2 billion actions daily.
- AI Builder processes forms using document automation, process approvals, detect images, and text or by creating them with prebuilt models.
- Automation capabilities can be utilized across desktop, web, and mobile platforms.
Nice RPA’s software robots are installed on back-end servers, with the capabilities to take over all of the repetitive, admin-driven processes. A variety of tasks can be executed independently without human intervention.
- Nice RPA enables businesses to handle more complex business processes with an embedded OCR (optical character reader) and built-in integration into multiple AI solutions.
- Nice RPA offers hundreds of out-of-the-box application connectors.
- A built-in drag-and-drop design studio is available to create visual workflow views.
- Web-based centralized bot management oversees livelihood and resource allocation to provide real-time visibility and control.
Also see: Top Digital Transformation Companies
Workfusion takes a no-code/low-code approach using drag-and-drop building blocks and prebuilt steps and workflows to make core processes integration-ready. It is aimed at those lacking RPA development and integration expertise within the large enterprise market in North America.
- AI-powered Digital Workforce continuously learns and improves with every assignment and interaction.
- Strategic alliance with Google Cloud.
- The ability to tailor automation and RPA for banking, finance, and insurance.
- Especially strong on the AI/ML side of automation via prepackaged and pretrained ML models geared toward RPA use cases like loan processing, account creation, and claims intake.
- Includes AutoML features and RPA components for financial use cases.
- Compares automation results to industry benchmarks for specific verticals.
- Automates document-heavy processes with document intelligence.
- Recognizes signatures, handwriting, logos, checkmarks, and other elements in unstructured documents.
Appian RPA is all about building bots fast. Users can automate any end-to-end process without writing a single line of code. It is particularly useful for the automation of manual and repetitive tasks, either on its own or as part of a larger end-to-end business process.
- Appian RPA enables users to create performant and resilient automations that require less maintenance.
- Appian RPA automates fast with visual, drag-and-drop, low-code RPA that citizen and professional developers can use to scale process automation.
- Users can deploy Appian bots on the Appian Cloud.
- Appian RPA is available for Windows, Linux, Citrix, and Mac environments.
- Appian RPA enables users to orchestrate their data, systems, web services, and AI without complex coding.
IBM Robotic Process Automation automates business and IT processes at scale. It harnesses bots to act on AI insights to complete tasks with no lag time and enable digital transformation.
- Full-featured RPA capabilities can be delivered either as a service via the cloud or on-premises.
- IBM RPA can be purchased stand alone or as an element of IBM’s Cloud Paks for Automation, which integrates tightly with many other IBM Cloud offerings.
- Businesses can benefit from a big ecosystem of IBM partners with pre-integrated tools designed for the IBM platform.
- Those needing AI-driven bot assistants that interact with end users will find IBM tools among the best in the market. This includes capturing work interactions, the tasks someone does to process an order, and playing them back by using a software bot.
- IBM RPA is deeply integrated with Automation Anywhere within the IBM Digital Business Automation platform. This augments task automation by adding workflow, data capture, content, and decision automation to bots.
- Users can build bots faster with hundreds of prebuilt commands.