Automation Anywhere (AA) Review

Web scraping and OCR capabilities have led to considerable time savings


What is our primary use case?

The primary use case for this solution ranges from the web scraping to working on more complicated applications, which are built in-house. For example, in the case where we would have to get into an application that is not automation-friendly, we would use the OCRs to recognize the fields, insert information into the application then extract some of the information. We also do a little on the database front.

We are a solution provider for a back-end team who works on a different manual task.

We tried the same type of flow automation using a Python and VB application, but we don't have the leverage of OCR which is available from Automation Anywhere. 

Most of the automation that we currently handle is that which has already failed when using the previous versions with the VBAs and Python.

We are using this product on-premise, so we still haven't upgrade to the cloud.

How has it helped my organization?

In our organization, we track the number of hours we saved, not work for the customers, but work for ourselves. 

Those numbers were tracked in a tracker called Smartsheet. We saved approximately 10,000 hours of work for ourselves. The numbers are staggering, considering we have only been using Automation Anywhere for a short period of time.

What is most valuable?

I have not worked with all of the commands offered in this solution, but some of the helpful features are OCR and web scraping. 

The OCR application is excellent and has helped resolve many issues that I had been facing. Also, to some extent, the web scraping is more effective, and the delays are really good.

I am also a programmer with VBA, but I found that I am more comfortable with Automation Anywhere, because it is faster and you get more results within a short period of time. we use the Excel VBA.

Most of the times you find the solution that you are looking for in the Bot Store. You might have to customize here and there. It is a good place to get into because somebody might have the same type of scenario. However, I have not used it extensively.

What needs improvement?

This solution should be more user-friendly so that our clients can take a bot that we have developed for them, and then run it by themselves. As it is now, we write the VBA code and give it to the user, our client, and then they run the code. However, they do not like this. Having this is the next release would be helpful.

Automation Anywhere is intuitive. Initially, you may struggle a little, but once you get used to it, then it's intuitive and you don't really have to know all the commands beforehand. There is scope for improvement here.

The feature often asked about by the users, the product owners, is that they want to learn more about the bots themselves.

We have not used anything attended. As far as we are aware that feature not available, but it is to be released soon.

Version A2019 is something that could be beneficial to new users. At the same time, I cannot rule out completely that you need to have a very good programming skills. It will be easier if you have some knowledge on the programming front because you might be using a command which is already built-in. Therefore, you should know how the loops works and how the conditions work in order to implement them. If you want to do a bit of deep-diving into automation but you will need a little technical knowledge at this point of time.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using this solution for just over one year.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

We haven't had any issues with stability. The ecosystem provided is great, because we have bot stores that can be downloaded, so we don't have to start from scratch.

Before creating a bot, I can go directly to the bot store to see if the bot is already available. That way, I don't have to waste any time.

Most of the time we built the bots for ourselves. When we purchased the licenses from Automation Anywhere we had them provide us with training. It was approximately a week for the training.

Also, there was another training session for photo documentation purposes.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

Automation Anywhere is an excellent example of a solution that scales up. 

When we develop a task we modularise it and upload it into the repository. If another team member is working on another project and they require a section of my bot then it then gets downloaded and modified. Somebody else plugs in the variables, etc. In this way, the scalability is great.

At the moment, there is no setup in place.

We don't have a Citrix environment. It's mostly web-based. We also have in-house built applications that we use for our day in and out operations.

How are customer service and technical support?

The technical support team has been with me from the beginning of my journey with Automation Anywhere. I was not a good developer initially, so I give them all of the credit.

They have a very good support team. I would advise my colleagues to use the IT help desk as much as they can.

As developers, we have evolved. Initially, at the start of using automation Anywhere we had many struggles. We contacted support for some help and suggestions, and with the help they provided, we are now more comfortable with Automation Anywhere.

There were instances where they couldn't help me, but it was because of the task not being suitable for automation. I understand that there are hindrances in the evolution of a solution, but they helped wherever they could. I would say that in 80% of the cases, they were able to help me.

They need a better community support with online resources. Though, there are good resources in regards to other programming languages, such as Python, VBA, and .NET.

If you previously used a different solution, which one did you use and why did you switch?

Previously, we had been using VBAs and Python, albeit our use in Python was not extensive.

We chose Automation Anywhere because we heard that you don't need to have expertise in a particular area, and anyone can develop a simple bot in a short time.

How was the initial setup?

We still do not have a setup in place. We do have licenses, but we are trying to have more bot programmer licenses in place. As such, the deployment is still in progress, but from what I understand it is simple and straightforward. I expect that it will be completed within the next week or two.

Most of the team who were working on Automation Anywhere had a little programming background, such as VBA or Java. Initially, we struggled a bit to use the rich commands but Automation Anywhere provided initial training when we got our licenses. Somebody came and gave us training for three to four days. Then, it took about three to four months to transition from the PoC to using the bots.

What about the implementation team?

We handled the implementation ourselves, and have not sought out help from anyone.

When we initially bought the licenses, we had the Automation Anywhere team come down to train us. This lasted for approximately a week. They also visited on another occasion for documentation, but otherwise, we work on our own.

What was our ROI?

We do a cost-benefit analysis along with a feasibility study. We do this initially when there is a project that is lined up. We look at how many hours the project will take. We also delivery time and its urgency. Even if the project may not save a huge number of hours, we still might pick it up because of the urgency. Sometimes, we also look at it from an error reduction standpoint. There could be a lot of errors coming out because it was manually processed and this may cause the company issues. With Automation Anywhere, we reduce these errors.

I was not involved in the cost or purchasing, but as far as I know, the return is great. There are a couple of projects that we have worked on where we could have saved approximately 4000 hours on just one project that we built in two to three weeks. This is the type of impact this solution has.

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

We have purchased licenses, but are trying to obtain more bot programmer licenses. That should be happening in the next week.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

UiPath was the closest competitor that we were considering. We provided pros and cons for both UiPath and Automation Anywhere. There may have been a cost-benefit analysis done from management, but I was not involved in that area.

We just did a PoC with UiPath. We did not work extensively with it. The product was based more on a workflow model. Automation Anywhere will also have a workflow model with its A2019 version.

We were not compromising on quality for dollar value. If you are looking at it from all aspects then Automation Anywhere is the clear winner.

What other advice do I have?

We can automate anything with Automation Anywhere. Initially, we were skeptical about whether this small project would be automated or not because we were not well acquainted with the Automation Anywhere capabilities. After using the product for a while, we understood its potential, such as the OCR capabilities.

My experience with Automation Anywhere to date has been great, however, there are areas that I have not explored which could be features that should be added or improved upon, such as APIs. I have yet to explore this area of the solution and there may or may not be room for improvement.

We used to use Excel VBAs. However, if you want to manipulate stuff in Excel files, you have to write the back-end code in VBA. This is more effective than writing your code in Automation Anywhere. There are no hiccups in integrating with VBA.

We have completed the 11.2 expert certification in Automation Anywhere University and are in the process of completing 11.3. The University has a lot of stuff in their repository. As a programmer, you might not use all those commands extensively in your development. It's a good place to learn, but I didn't see everything being learned in the University being implemented.

For anybody who is considering this solution, I would start by suggesting that they look at their business requirements. We looked at it from a business standpoint because in our day to day operations, we needed automation. This is how we realized we needed a solution. If you are doing web scraping or another type of mundane task every day then you need Automation Anywhere.

I would rate this solution an eight out of ten.

Disclosure: I am a real user, and this review is based on my own experience and opinions.
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