Automation Anywhere (AA) Review

MetaBots' reusable drag-and-drop code helps business users save time

What is our primary use case?

We have so many use cases. One of them is in finance and accounts. We have customer billing portals where there are invoices and purchase orders. The bot goes through these and gives a roll-up of the billing numbers. It goes through each customer portal. One example of a customer is IBM. It goes to the IBM portal, it logs in with bot credentials to SAP Ariba, opens an invoice and matches the purchase order items with that invoice, line by line. It then posts that invoice for billing purposes in that customer billing portal.

How has it helped my organization?

With the above bot in place, the cash-collection process will actually improve.

One of our other use cases is that in our general ledger process, our accountant was actually doing cash-to-bank reconciliations. He was going into SAP, downloading the open items, and then going into the bank statements and comparing the balances. By using Automation Anywhere, we were able to automate this process and now a bot is actually working as a bookkeeper and it's trying to close all the open items of the previous month and the current month. It ensures that the unidentified balance between the bank and the SAP balances is zero.

That cash and bank reconciliation is part of our book-closing process. It used to take 20 days for books to be closed. It now takes between ten and 12 days to close the books. That's an eight-days reduction and that's because of only one activity we have automated. 

As we speak, we have automated general entries and the AR reconciliation process as well. The time needed for our month-end close has been reduced.

What is most valuable?

MetaBot is the most valuable feature. Other products have robotic functionality but MetaBot is a kind of functionality by which code is created. For example, if you log in to the SAP Ariba portal and the MetaBot functionality is used, then whenever anyone within our company has to use the SAP Ariba portal, they will not need to code the process again. It will become a drag-and-drop functionality so business users who do not have coding knowledge can drag and drop. Out of ten steps, that user is able to drag and drop six of them to MetaBot. He is left with only four steps that need coding. It saves a lot of time, but these functionalities cannot be achieved overnight. You have to invest time and energy, create a set of libraries.

What needs improvement?

There is room for improvement when this application is used in a Citrix-based environment.

Another thing I have noticed is that the previous version does not have log functionality. If an external audit is happening, those logs are not available to show what changes have happened in the application. But in the new version they improved it and now those logs are available. So when our external audit came, we were able to demonstrate that whatever changes are happening in the application are getting logged somewhere and saved for future reference. In the future, if any fraud happens, we'll be able to backtrack that fraud into that application.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

Stability is good, but it totally depends on the kind of infrastructure the organization is using. If the organization using Automation Anywhere has a sound infrastructure, the stability is good. But if the infrastructure keeps changing, then the application becomes a little erratic.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Scaling is very easy. We were able to scale it up very easily.

For 2018, we thought of doing eight projects, but we completed 25. We're definitely planning to scale up, but scaling up does not depend on Automation Anywhere. It actually depends on our organization's strategic plan, and how fast we want to do it. As an organization, we want to be a tortoise in the journey, rather than being a hare. We want to have a consistent pace of implementation. Initially, we were like the hare and did some extra implementations, but now we are trying to match it up with the pace of the organization. Sometimes, too big a change can rock the boat, which we don't want to do.

But equally, we were able to demonstrate that this application can do wonders for the organization, help us to digitally transform the way we're working, and introduce a new way of working to any organization. Now, humans have started adopting bots as their new team members.

How are customer service and technical support?

Automation Anywhere has a very nice support team, and it's just a call away. You don't have to log tickets, although that functionality is also available. I have a dedicated person at Automation Anywhere. I can call her at 12 am and she will pick up and ensure that the issue is prioritized and solved the next day for me. I like the way that is done. It doesn't cause me sleepless nights.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is straightforward. They have a guidebook to help our IT infrastructure team to set it up. It was very easy. Anybody who does not come from a software background could read it and would be able to install the application and start using it. I have done it myself and I don't have a technical background. It's like downloading Microsoft Word and using it. It's very simple.

Our deployment took three months.

Our implementation strategy is PDCA: Plan, Do, Check, Act. We planned this implementation, and then did it. We then checked whatever was not done correctly in the first instance and acted on it to complete the implementation. We believe in having a very simple approach. We planned to do automation using Automation Anywhere and then we acted on it. Then we checked that out of, say, ten milestones, we were able to close seven of them. We acted on completing the other three milestones.

What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?

They're very flexible around pricing and licensing.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated:

However, the Automation Anywhere payment plan, the flexibility they have shown, and the customer service support were fantastic. At a customer service level, we don't want to buy a product and then struggle with the support they're providing.

What other advice do I have?

Go slow. Don't rush into things. Try to adopt this implementation around the business strategy your organization has. Don't follow other organizations blindly. Have a digital policy around adopting this technology. Have a Chief Digital Officer, who is able to understand this and then internally sell it.

Don't go with a "big bang" approach, but rather, go with the right test use cases, and then try to actually solve a complex business challenge through this implementation. Don't implement it just for the sake of it. For example, when we implemented it our focus was not to implement robotics. Our focus was to use this technology to solve a complex business problem so that it makes a meaningful difference in the lives of people who are doing that process daily.

For example, now a bot is able to do customer billing for us and we are able to collect fast. It directly impacts the revenue. On the other hand, if the cycle closing month-end is fast, my CFO has more time for his final quarter closing. He has more time to go through what didn't go well, rather than struggling to close the books and not having time to do an analysis and get insights into what actually works. So we are trying to solve complex business challenges. We're not here to implement robotics.

We could use any technology but, up until now, this technology has helped us.

We have ten-plus users of this solution in the roles of bot manager and bot runner. There are eight people responsible for implementation and deployment and they are solution architects.

**Disclosure: IT Central Station contacted the reviewer to collect the review and to validate authenticity. The reviewer was referred by the vendor, but the review is not subject to editing or approval by the vendor.
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