These years – in the era of digital transformation, robotic process automation software market has become one of the fastest growing ones, a speedway for RPA tools, and 2019 is promising new breakthroughs. While the giants like UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism are already popular worldwide and continue to consolidate their positions in the RPA market while racing against each other, 2019 has also become a year of innovation presented by RPA startups. Although these companies are only beginning their way towards RPA, and are too small to be officially called the competitors to RPA giants, they do have the power and potential to complement, if not to triumph over the giants (yet).

This article is the third in our series of blog posts on RPA. Click below to learn more about:

What is RPA?

How to Implement RPA?

Types and functions of RPA tools

As we can understand from their name, RPA tools are the software programs designed for RPA implementation. As there are several stages of robotic process automation implementation, these tools have different types and functions. Some vendors comprise all necessary functions in one product and provide end-to-end solutions. However, in these cases, some functions may be poorly designed. Others build more special-purpose RPA tools specifically for separate stages in the whole RPA implementation process. Undoubtedly, these provide more opportunities in a particular area but must be utilized in tandem with other RPA tools – that’s why they are frequently underestimated. To choose which solution will work for you, analyze the quality-to-price ratio, calculate ROI (Return of Investment), and conduct a SWOT (Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats) analysis.

According to their functions, RPA tools can be divided into several types:

1. Capturing & Prototyping

This functionality is highly valued in the first stage of robotic process automation. While capturing and prototyping have always been the first essential steps towards IT automation, only in 2019 has a smart recorder risen to a new level. As strange as it sounds, capturing and prototyping in IT automation software hasn’t been fully automated before. Although UiPath, Kofax, and XpertRule have already offered their versions of a smart recorder, their users still report they are not completely satisfied with either interface, customization, poor OCR/AI, or lack of training resources. Indeed, even if the users do bear these drawbacks in the smart recorder, apparently, none of the vendors offer a good prototyping functionality. At least, as I searched for the info for this article, I couldn’t find a valid prototyping solution among the most popular companies.

Still, as I’ve said, 2019 brings capturing and prototyping via a smart recorder for RPA implementation to a new level – and that’s owing to one RPA startup, StepShot. The company is already appreciated for its intuitive AI-powered capturing, advanced yet simple-in-use functionality, Cloud workspace, and numerous exporting options. In 2019, their product will become an RPA tool designed especially for process discovery – users can easily capture the process on a computer (automatically), annotate screenshots (automatically), and receive a ready-to-share file with each step description and other relevant data (right, generated automatically). This helps not only save plenty of time spent on process documentation but also to see the whole picture in general and choose which way the process execution is optimal for IT automation.

2. Automation

After process capturing and prototyping, comes IT automation itself. IT automation is the process of creating and applying robots to execute certain tasks instead of humans. Not long ago, automation software could be used only by RPA developers, since high programming skills were required. As we’ve seen in 2019, many vendors are reaching non-technical people, who don’t know programming languages, as RPA tools now try to make automation code-free and, thus, accessible to a wider audience. Chiefly, this “trend” seems to be one of the highest priorities for UiPath, Kofax, WinAutomation.

Actually, in a narrow meaning, the term “RPA tools” defines the solutions created for IT automation technology. Almost all robotic process automation vendors provide these solutions, so the choice here is difficult for a potential customer. Similarly, the competition is severe: apart from the famous RPA giants, there are many smaller vendors who compete for customers and try to present automation technology in an innovative way.

As of 2019, I believe UiPath is going to not only stay a market leader but also to work hard to surprise RPA specialists and other professionals interested in automation technology with brand-new solutions and unheard of capacities, in particular, in code-free robotic process automation software. They officially state that they, “encourage the best minds to contribute and create the next leap in RPA. More than 200.000 developers of all ranks are building upon the free UiPath Community Edition today.” Taking into consideration our research in RPA market and UiPath activities, I believe that top robotic process automation technology in 2019 will stay with UiPath, although some other tools have promising prerequisites to grow into something bigger.

3. Orchestration

A separate type of RPA tools is orchestrators – in most cases, they come included in an RPA tool by default, while others sell them separately. An orchestrator is a tool where users can schedule, monitor, and manage all robots. While UiPath sells Orchestrator as a separate RPA tool, Kofax offers a single platform for IT automation, orchestration, capturing, and analytics. On the whole, orchestrators are not badly needed if there are few automated processes. Indeed, the more business processes are automated, the more their necessity and value grow. As far as I know, this area is developing smoothly, but I wouldn’t expect any significant boost in 2019 – and the reason is simple – there is no demand for it. People are generally satisfied with the functionality of orchestrators, although, of course, minor changes are made all the time to keep it up with the fast-growing RPA industry.

4. Analytics

Analytics is one of the most interesting yet challenging areas in robotic process automation software. While some RPA tools imply they have great analytics, the reality shows that even the analytics of UiPath leave a great deal to be desired: currently, the analytics do not demonstrate all data as we would want it to. For now, analytics in most cases show the basics – if automation software is effective and in what way – obviously, after IT automation technology has been implemented.

I can’t speak for everyone, but I do believe that in a perfect world, RPA tools could analyze the effectiveness of the particular robotic process automation technology before it gets implemented. Let’s say, you want to automate a process. So, you capture this process, which, by the way, is frequently done a thousand ways by various employees, and automatically create several most effective process workflows with analytics available for each one and then get to decide which workflow suits your business needs best. Alternatively, how cool is it to create a prototype of a robot which will show you its effectiveness without a need to implement it on a large scale? The question is, when will our world become this perfect? Hopefully, 2019 will give us an answer. In fact, StepShot aims to provide a smart recorder for process capturing and robot prototyping, so that you can create a robot and see how it works without a need to buy RPA tools and build the actual robots. Although for now, only integration with UiPath is available, this miracle is already happening, so I believe that soon, RPA tools will make a huge step ahead in the area of RPA analytics.

RPA giants – most popular in 2019

 

1. UiPath

Overview:

UiPath is the indisputable race leader among robotic process automation software, which offers a platform to design robots and automate typical business processes. It certainly has the best quality-to-price ratio among the RPA giants, since it’s usually less expensive than the other two. The company loudly claims that they want to make IT automation software accessible to everyone, and they seem to succeed in this: offering a free UiPath Community Edition, clear interface, and free training on RPA via UiPath Academy (different training for technical and non-technical people) has made them the RPA market leaders.

Product:

They offer several products which, in sum, provide an end-to-end solution: UiPath Platform, Studio, Robots, and Orchestrator.

Strengths:

  • Free automation software – UiPath Community Edition
  • Clear RPA training, UiPath tutorial, and documentation
  • Simple interface which does not require strong programming skills

Weaknesses:

  • Capturing process isn’t intuitive
  • Orchestrator is expensive, disregarding the scale of a robotic process automation project
  • Only for Windows

What they say about themselves:

“UiPath is, in essence, the slow fruit of a group of engineers … They went in wholeheartedly, and made UiPath the most widely used RPA platform in the world today, drawing together elite enterprises, global partners committed to excellence in implementation and product innovation, and the largest RPA developer community ready to make an impact on the world.” UiPath

What their customers say about them:

“… the main focus of UiPath is to bring ease in the development of the robot. And that’s exactly what the tool provides us. In addition, the online academy is a great differential. With free courses and a wide range of courses available, it is very easy for anyone to learn what RPA is and start applying it on a day to day basis. The Community version of the tool is also a great advantage compared to other tools available in the market.” Lucas P., G2 Crowd

 

2. Automation Anywhere

Overview:

Automation Anywhere would be justly rewarded with a silver medal in this race. It is an even and powerful competitor, as the tool is widely deployed. Even though I think it won’t take first place in the RPA industry in 2019, I believe it does have the potential to outgrow UiPath in the future. Automation Anywhere is a platform for building robots for digital transformation in business and also offers a free Community Edition.

Product:

Their products are the parts of their RPA solution: Automation Anywhere Enterprise, IQ Bot, Bot Insight, Bot Store.

Strengths:

  • Free automation software – Automation Anywhere Community Edition
  • The secure and highly-encrypted program
  • Online RPA training center

Weaknesses:

  • Requires coding skills to use it
  • Web recorder does not support Google Chrome and Firefox browsers
  • Only for Windows

What they say about themselves:

“Most intuitive RPA – RPA technology that anyone can use with ease. Enterprise-grade technology with the intuitive experience of a consumer application.” Automation Anywhere

What their customers say about them:

“Installation is simple and client is freely available. Analyzing errors and fixing the code is very simple as it gives exact errors which are giving trouble to execute the process. Dashboard looks very informative and trial versions are very helpful. Free training videos, trial versions and all documents are helpful in learning RPA and very informative.” Abhishek S., G2 Crowd

3. Blue Prism

Overview:

Blue Prism is a bronze medallist in the RPA giants race. However, I wouldn’t underestimate Blue Prism – recently, it has been recognized as a “market leader” in the 2018-19 Ovum Decision Matrix (ODM) on RPA platforms, owing to its rapid customer adoption, powerful technical capabilities for enterprises, and comprehensive product roadmap. While the company is frequently considered as an RPA tool for the financial industry, the vendor offers solutions for a much wider audience.

Product:

Their RPA solution comprises three elements: Digital Workforce Platform, Intelligent Automation Skills, and BluePrism Digital Exchange

Strengths:

  • Intuitive and very illustrative design and architecture
  • Effective control room and schedulers
  • A great option for .Net based platforms

Weaknesses:

  • No free automation software version of its license
  • The only source of RPA training is Blue Prism, available only for its customers
  • No code repository to maintain the versions of the code

What they say about themselves:

“A connected entrepreneur enterprise is at your fingertips with our digital workforce capable of self learning and continuous improvement. Empower your people to automate—freeing them up to create, build and share their innovations.” Blue Prism

What their customers say about them:

“It’s a very simple tool which help you to program and automate all kinds of tasks. As better things in Blue Prism you’ll find will be a helpful, intuitive and very graphic program. In addition, it’ll help you to understand better the basic programmation.” Fany C., G2 Crowd

Promising RPA startups – on the rise in 2019

 

1. StepShot

Overview:

StepShot leads this list as a one-of-a-kind RPA tool, automating pre-RPA routine. Initially designed as a smart recorder for the automatic creation of guides and video tutorials and used by more than 10 000 active users, recently, StepShot has announced the development of an innovative RPA tool to simplify RPA implementation. It will automate process design documents (PDDs) creation and building a fully working code-free prototype of a robot before applying the actual IT automation software to the business processes. Thus, StepShot could become a game changer in the 2019 race – as soon as it allows the user to automatically capture a process and easily export it to UiPath to get a prototype in order to analyze if it works for you and assess ROI.

Product:

StepShot Guides tool for RPA implementation – a solution for the primary stage, that is process discovery & prototyping.

Strengths:

  • You can get a fully-working prototype much faster without the need to spend money on the tools for robot creation (free trial available)
  • A perfect tool for Business Analysts and RPA Consultants – it requires zero knowledge of coding and works on both Mac OS and Windows
  • Webinars and demos available

Weaknesses:

  • Currently, only UiPath integration available
  • The tool is available and working but still under development – features such as a diagram editor and more output formats are expected soon
  • A desktop solution – currently, web recorder functions only as a Firefox extension

What they say about themselves:

“RPA process design and discovery made easy – a simple and fast way to implement RPA. Quickly create a process design document, build a code-free prototype of software robots and get the ROI from automation quicker than ever before!” StepShot

What their customers say about them:

“StepShot Guides is a very powerful tool which helps in automating your documentation routine. It’s simple but very powerful software to capture your processes and quickly create any type of documentation you need: video guides, word/PDF documents, WordPress articles, etc. No manual documenting anymore, now it’s all automated for you in just minutes.” Vivek M., G2 Crowd

 

2. AutomationEdge

Overview:

AutomatonEdge is also in the list of promising RPA tools 2019 – it has been recognized by Gartner in the Market Guide for Robotic Process Automation and IT Process Automation in 2017 and 2018 and, assumably, in 2019, they will only grow. Although the tool is relatively new, some global organizations have already become their customers, and that’s not surprising: AutomationEdge offers fast solutions with zero-coding = ready bots. Moreover, they provide F3 RPA bot – a tool which can be used live for free and Ready Bot Store – these add spice to this solution and can become the reason for its success in the RPA race.

Product:

They offer separate solutions for Robotic Process Automation, IT Process Automation, RPA on Cloud, Ready Bot Store, and F3 RPA Bot.

Strengths:

  • Fast implementation with no coding required, easy workflow creation, and drag-and-drop functionality
  • F3 RPA bot can be used for free
  • Customization based on business rules

Weaknesses:

  • Chatbot and AI framework needs improvement
  • Lack of integrations
  • Limitations with scheduling and infrastructure support

What they say about themselves:

“Intelligent Automation ensures all operations are done at faster speed and up to 80% reduced cost with almost zero errors. Intelligent Automation comes with all the essential technologies such as AI, Machine Learning, Ready bots and Chatbots.” AutomationEdge

What their customers tell about them:

“It has a significantly strong Robotic process (which they advertise). Exactly what we need regarding the future of automation and solution provider. Nothing new, but the easy-to-use tool of the AutomationEdge can automate the simplest task with less work. Have great expectations for this.” Mauro T., G2 Crowd

3. Catalytic

Overview:

Catalytic is another robotic process automation software program which presents a modern perspective on digital transformation. Identical to other RPA giants, it offers an end-to-end solution as automation technology and offers various integrations. The cherry on top, Catalytic Predict allows automating of potentially predictable tasks which have been previously executed only by humans. Although this RPA tool has been already functional for a couple of years, 2019 may become the year of a major breakthrough, as it is surely on track to success despite the fierce race with similar RPA tools, including widely-popular RPA giants and some smaller vendors.

Product:

Catalytic is an end-to-end solution for IT automation.

Strengths:

  • Possibility to get real-time views into all processes and observe trends on dashboards
  • Automatically collect clean process data
  • Catalytic Predict – automation technology for predictable tasks based on certain rules

Weaknesses:

  • Poor customization options with the main focus on pre-built components
  • No training, webinar, or demo in free access
  • No public reviews available and not much online info about the product

What they say about themselves:

“With cloud and mobile as table stakes, an API-first world, and widely available AI, you know we’re making very different design decisions than those bolting things onto their legacy systems.” Catalytic

What their customers say about them:

No reviews yet.

RPA giants vs. RPA startups

When thinking of the RPA market as a car race, the results of which depend on the support and engagement of spectators, we can draw a picture of potential ratings and winners. The obvious leader is UiPath – apart from the booming IT automation technology and the team behind it, the company has great support among spectators as it trains them on how to drive and allows them to ride for free as long as they want. Furthermore, UiPath is always open to brand-new robotic process technology and approaches fueling its engine to run on the fastest speed.

In turn, both Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism also make use of powerful IT automation technology, yet they stay abreast. While the former treads on the heels of UiPath and also tries to engage with the community by offering free rides and training, they do need the spectators who already have a driving license (= coding skills) to learn how to drive their car. Blue Prism is slower, though, and trails behind those two as it has even narrower support of technical people and needs to engage with the audience in a more comprehensive and convenient way.

On the other hand, there are RPA startups – fresh competitors in the race. They do have the potential to develop a high speed but have to be careful at a turn in the road – as freshers, they are not familiar with the speedway as thoroughly as their competitors, and this can cost them significantly. They have to study the racing track at first, make sure their engine uses the latest robotic process automation technology and is easy in operating, and have at least some support from the spectators. Thus, only when they are confident in their powers, can they slam on the gas and try to win the race.

In some cases, it’s good for RPA startups to rely on the technology of the race leaders and make integrations with them, as StepShot does with UiPath. This mix of integration with the market leader and a one-of-a-kind RPA solution can become a passport to success for this company. In turn, other freshers like AutomationEdge and Catalyst are targeting different IT automation technology, approaches, and audience, and as long as they are looking for brand-new solutions instead of using already known and widely-used maneuvers for success, they have the chance to become the leaders in the race.

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