Automation Anywhere (AA) Review

Enables us to automate processes that should not be manual but development and support are sluggish

What is our primary use case?

We have a lot of business use cases that we are using this tool to automate processes for. These include different business verticals, like credit, fraud, enterprise operations, and marketing. Each team has a separate dedicated RPA (Robotic Process Automation) team of its own.

We primarily automate processes for the banking and financial sectors. This means all credit related stuff, such as loan applications and operations.

I'm working on enterprise operations. We have different business processes that our business folks handle manually and our job is to automate them using RPA and the Automation Anywhere tool.

We are using the tool on-premise.

How has it helped my organization?

Automation Anywhere helps improve our organization by allowing us to automate processes that should not be manual. An example which we are working on currently is that we have a business process wherein we get emails from our business customer support providing monthly statements. Currently, we have a dedicated team who are taking the requests, going to our web, downloading the statements, and sending an email.

Because this does not have to be a manual process, we are currently working on automating the entire thing. So we'll be freeing up resources through automation which will save us close to 750k in a year.

What is most valuable?

The most valuable feature for me in the current tool is the ability to develop the code quickly. This is a feature which is out-of-the-box. It has about 90% of the things that we want, just included — a plug-and-play kind of solution. That helps us in quickly developing bots. It's robustness to access Excel documents is a useful feature because we use Excel a lot. So that kind of gels pretty well with what we need from the tool. So these two features are something which I can consider most valuable.

It is easy to use. You can get up and running using the training. It's pretty easy to get started with the tool. Only our technical team is involved in the development Automation Anywhere and bots, which is the direction our organization has chosen. We don't encourage non-technical team people to deal with it. That's our strategy.

We just did the PoC for IQ Bot, and it went fine. We have quite enough workload to be productive for this quarter, so probably early next year is when we are planning to start using IQ Bot.

What needs improvement?

One thing that they have to fix is scalability. We are scaling at a fast pace, and they promised us that they would implement multi-trigger. If they don't get that enhancement out it is very inconvenient. When we asked when they could deliver the stable version of that feature, they said it would be sometime in August or September. But when I discussed this enhancement with one of the product owners, it doesn't look like they have had that on their development roadmap for even a September or October timeframe.

But that's something which we are desperately looking for because we are scaling at a massive level, and without that feature, we are doing a lot of workarounds. It is a wasted effort. It would also be a good addition to the product. I am sure in a lot of organizations, are also facing that need or they'll come eventually to it. We have interacted with our customers and our partners and they agree. Some are already also in the same boat.

We would definitely like to see the Workload Manager (WLM). We thought that we would not need it. We thought that with the WLM feature, they were making a mistake and going nowhere. But right now, first and foremost, it is the most important feature I would like to have. The rest all are secondary for me. There are other organizations desperately waiting for that product. I don't see that the release will be happening soon.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have using this solution for a year and a half.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

The product overall is pretty stable. We do not see any big issues on the stability risk, so it is pretty decent in that way.

As with any other solution, it is evolving. We had our own challenges with the tool, but it is getting more stable as we progress. There is a learning curve.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

We are using it on a pretty large scale. We currently have close to 60 bots running in production, but in the coming couple of months, we will scale up close to 120 bots. We have plans to scale up much larger, then eventually move to the cloud. That is in our roadmap.

A big problem that we are facing with the tool is that it is not scalable. For example, we have processes that are going to run for 36, 40 hours. It is running as a single trigger. Currently, Automation Anywhere doesn't support multi-trigger. For multi-trigger, you develop a solution once and install in multiple machines and run parallel. AA doesn't support this so we had to do workarounds to make that achievable.

We also got a tool from Automation Anywhere that was supposed to fix or patch a problem, but it didn't work. It was a horrible, pathetic product that they brought out when it wasn't ready. We had such a very bad experience using the extra feature. We worked with Automation Anywhere to get it to function. They also said that they don't know that the tool will work if you set it up because someone developed it and he left the organization. That feature is still not there in Automation Anywhere. Even in higher management, they instructed us not to use that feature, even for basic functionality. That's how bad the product was. I just discussed it with one of the product owners about the same, and they also kind of agreed that the solution was brought out prematurely. In all, they wasted our time on something that did not work.

How are customer service and technical support?

We have tried to use tech support for this product and it was a pain. When we interact with them, we get all the lower level customer tech support. They have no idea how to solve feature problems. We might explain to them that a feature doesn't work right and only after four or five interactions, we asked to be escalated to a person who has good technical knowledge.

A person came on-premises and tried to explain a few things we had trouble with. We were much ahead of where they were because we did all the testing already. We could tell them more about what was working and what is not working than they knew. Again that person agreed that someone did the design and he left the organization. The person who came, who is representing the company didn't have complete knowledge of the product he was sent to fix. He just said to not use that product. Period. It is not the resolution we were hoping for.

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

We had already decided long before which product we were going to choose to use so we did not actually consider other products and used this first.

How was the initial setup?

We scaled up pretty fast. Initially, it took a couple of months for our pilot, then we were up and running pretty fast.

We follow the same standard methodology which Automation Anywhere recommends for creating bots. When going through the process, we try to optimize it before we start doing development, then making sure the process is suitable for automation. It's a standard process that we follow across the board.

What about the implementation team?

We have a consultant. and a vendor partner who worked on the installation. We are struggling with our vendor partner also. They are not up to the grade when it comes to knowing the product. So we are having a lot of challenges with our vendor partner setup.

What was our ROI?

Knowing about return on investment is not in the normal scope of what I do. But we have a lot of bots running which are saving time and effort while being more accurate, so I'm sure the company has an ROI.

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

Automation Anywhere University is pretty good. They make it available free for everyone. You can download and learn from it. The courses are tailor-made. It's pretty decent. One can just go through the courses and start developing bots straightaway.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We have evaluated other products: UiPath and Blue Prism. However, we chose Automation Anywhere for security purposes and the Control Room, so that it can be centrally managed.

Because I have experience with multiple RPA tools at an insurance-based company or a telco, I saw and worked with other tools, like Blue Prism, which are more efficient than Automation Anywhere. But as in financial institutions, like the banking sector, Automation Anywhere and some other products are predominant.

What other advice do I have?

identifying the processes which need automation. If you're just trying to start up with your automation journey, the recommendation would be to identify low complexity fruits first, so everyone can get a taste of what automation can bring to the table. Then try to go for complex things, because if it fails, this will be a big obstacle in your journey. So, take smaller steps, then once everyone gets a taste of what automation can bring, there is no stopping necessary. Start slow, but scale and learn fast.

On a scale from one to ten, one being the worst and ten being the best, I would rate Automation Anywhere around six or seven. The reason it is not a higher rating is for one critical thing: as your code gets longer, it is difficult to analyze. It's just lines of code going from top to bottom. It is pretty good at developing the code and does make things faster. But analysis is not effective. If I had to choose between six or seven, I would have to choose the six. 

The important thing for those considering the solution is to analyze what business processes are in place and select a tool appropriate for what needs to be accomplished.

We are not yet integrated with other applications. We are trying to integrate Automation Anywhere with Splunk, which is a dashboard that shows all the information in a dashboard. However, that's in the pipeline for early next year.

We do not use the Bot Store because we don't know the authenticity of the code that is running underneath. As a leading financial institute, we want everything to be transparent. We can't take code built by someone else not knowing where the data will go.

We do not use Citrix automation.

We do not use attended automation.

My advice is to really evaluate your business process before you choose a product.

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