Automation Anywhere (AA) Review

Enhances productivity and business processes and it can do whatever humans can do and still provide a level of security


What is our primary use case?

We have ITMS (IT Service Management) and there are a lot of support tickets which are coming into that service site. As an enterprise application, there are too many tickets to handle live. This system is being used by service desk employees to enable them to address all the issues that customers are facing which they are tasked to resolve. 

Because the number of tickets is huge, managing those services and change requests is complicated to handle manually. We use Automation Anywhere now to process these tasks wherever it is not necessary to use the API to process the handling of requests.

If, for example, I have an application which does not have an API, but there is one activity where a user may need to be registered in that particular application for it to function, we use Automation Anywhere for that to supply the access. We get the data from the source data and use an Automation Anywhere bot to do the registration of the user into that application. This was being done by the service desk manually in previous instances, now it is automated using Automation Anywhere.

We have had about 300+ live tickets at the end of every month before using Automation Anywhere. We just went live last month using Automation Anywhere bots to take care of processing some issues. The total number of tickets that remain live has come down to around 80 as of the end of this month. It might touch around a hundred at peak times right now. But over a short period of time, maybe around six months, these unresolved issues could become zero at the end of the month. We are just evaluating the numbers from the date when we went live, so it is not so accurate. Definitely, the goal is that the count will become zero, and that is the target. It seems to be working well so far.

The other use cases that we have are open-ended right now. There are a lot of potential uses. For example, if a request comes into the service now to create a VPN account, we can automate that using Automation Anywhere. That work is in progress. Today that is a manual task where the service desk people raise another ticket to another team who will go there and create the VPN accounts. 

We are in the process of identifying certain processes that can be automated through a bot, as there are other services for internal support functions, like HR or IT. We are trying to take some of those services to automate them. In terms of the extensiveness, we have just started with that. We have around 10 new sketches that we have automated right now but we have around 13 to 14 sketches that we wanted to automate through this process.

We are using the on-premise deployment model.

How has it helped my organization?

As far as how the product has helped us improve our organization, we may be a bit premature to just to say that it has already decreased the workload. But looking into the decrease in the ticket counts, it suggests that it is helping process customer service requests and that it definitely is going to help us more in the future as we utilize the solution better.

There is one user registration process in one application where there is no API which has been published by that framework. This is a very proprietary in one application by a third-party. So, there was a help desk, and whenever a call went to the help desk, they had a front-end where they created these user registrations. Now, this is completely automated for all employees who are onboarded. We receive the data, it is put it into Excel, and from Excel, it will update it into the particular tool where the registration happens.

On the service desk, they are using ServiceNow with a VPN connection. Now, they are logging using Automation Anywhere as a bot, which logs into a ServiceNow. It will then take that VPN request and create it on the server.

What is most valuable?

To be very honest, I've not had the opportunity to go through all the features of Automation Anywhere. This feature where it can use a bot to go between a user and into other systems as a robot and do that work is very valuable. It can do whatever humans can do and still provide a level of security. That model is a good one. 

Developers don't have any challenges using it. We are still in the early stages of use, but it is working well. It is very easy to use for our developers.

What needs improvement?

One of the challenges that I think should be resolved — from what my team was telling me — is that Automation Anywhere is not able to connect to a database directly. I have not evaluated this myself. There may be good security reasons for this, but it should be possible.

For example, generally what we do now is to write scripts to push the data from the database and into the automation event. The direct access feature — which is not available according to my team — could solve the issue with the scripts. There's room for improvement in making more flexible solutions.

As of now, because I have not used the new version very extensively, I don't have any reference to say what features should be added to the next release of the product. My one thought is that I don't know about the possibility of reading from unstructured data and if Automation Anywhere has any features to access unstructured data sources. It would be good if it can read the data and build some intelligence over that to push data to the right application. We do have some requirements from clients in other organizations where invoices will come in to be scanned. Based on the analysis of the data, copies of the data can be sent to different, appropriate applications. We are using different tools to do this now. If this kind of feature for reading unstructured data is there, then it will be easier to incorporate in processes. That is good to add if it is not there already. 

There can be some options to connect to the database directly where we should be able to add some data. 

There was a limitation where we were supposed to login remotely to one server and carry out some actions. That integration was not possible.

For how long have I used the solution?

I have been using the product for about six months.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

In the Indian market, there are a lot of other service companies like us. In the market, there are other products competing with Automation Anywhere like UiPath. My team has technical experts in their technology and these experts also work with Automation Anywhere. When they are comparing the products, they say that the modules or the functionality in UiPath can do a better job overall compared to Automation Anywhere.

From a stability perspective, we run into an interesting issue. Somewhere in the licensing — especially for the Indian market — there should be some different pricing packages. For mid-size companies like us in our market situation, having multiple bots really costs a lot as a percentage of revenue. Instead of adding costs, we are trying to run with one or two bots which run about seven processes in all. It may not be the most efficient or optimal way to get the most from the product. From the cost perspective in the Indian market, if you want to grab the majority of the potential users, you will want to be considerate on the pricing side. A lower price may bring greater market share, user familiarity, and recognition.

Otherwise, stability seems to be good.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

From the scalability standpoint, I don't think there will be any issues except for the increased costs which could prohibit some companies on a limited budget from scaling. So technically it is pretty good, but there may be some restrictions or interference in budget or integrations.

We are using one or two bots that are running continuously.

How are customer service and technical support?

Support wise, I think the company is doing great. When we hired support staff to help us with the installation the support was very good.

Right now, we are just at the beginning of our implementation as far as what we envision it will be in the future. So far the support that we are getting is normal support. It is just okay. When we place a ticket, there is nothing bad, but also there is nothing extraordinary about the support like we were getting during implementation. What we receive now is just a normal support experience compared to the specialist who was very good.

We have not taken Automation Anywhere University courses.

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

One of the major reasons why we went with Automation Anywhere is that our company could have a global MSA (Master Service Agreement), where we could use this particular tool for our end customers also. As an organization, we had a global implementation with Automation Anywhere where the clients wanted to deliver this solution to the end customer also as part of their solutions. That's why — because that option was there — we just went with Automation Anywhere.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup for the program was not straightforward. It was definitely complex. As a layman who is unfamiliar with the product, I do not think people can implement it easily. Even people with a little bit of knowledge about the type of robotic engineering and applications are going to go through some challenges where they need help from Automation Anywhere.

So far in this installation, we have had to integrate with some internal processes. Also, we needed to incorporate solutions for the respective firewall openings to the internet. It has taken almost one-and-a-half months to do the basic installation of the software. It is not like pushing a button.

We initially deployed everything on server. However, the permission required Excel to also be a part of our process to be automated. So, we received some complaints on it this. This particular thing cannot be deployed on the server because of the license that we were holding. What I came to know is this feature is not available.

What about the implementation team?

We hired a dedicated person from Automation Anywhere who supported us at the time of the initial installation. Because we were installing this on the cloud infrastructure, we had to go through a lot of challenges. Because we had a dedicated person helping us to do this insulation, it saved us a lot of trouble, experimentation, and effort.

What was our ROI?

We are still in the process of deploying and evaluating both the solutions and the benefits. However, I definitely think we will see a return on investment. Looking into the number of tickets and seeing that they have decreased now because of some implementation of the solutions we intend to deploy is a good sign. We have around 40+ such use cases that we still need to deploy. Definitely, we are going to see some ROI using this product. It will develop more over time.

In one of the use cases, we use to have around 300 tickets per month which has been reduced to almost zero now.

Which other solutions did I evaluate?

We evaluated Softomotive and UiPath. 

With Softmotive, the performance was a concerned. It was breaking in many places. That is what we observed. 

With UiPath, it was good. It has got a lot of integrations and can directly talk to the database as well. All those details are there. 

The major reason that we selected Automation Anywhere was the licensing model.

What other advice do I have?

The primary advice which I would give to someone considering automation tools, in general, is don't just go for any RPA tool (Robotic Process Automation). You want to be sure that the tool you choose will solve some issues and resolve your problems. I've seen people just take any RPA tool just to say that they are using some RPA. It is not a status symbol, it is a tool for business. You need to define the problem and that RPA is the way to go to resolve the issue and improve business function.

If there is a process which cannot be completely automated using any scripts, and human intervention is very much required, consider going for this solution.

I will give an example. There was one use case where we had to read information from an Excel table and generate a report out of that. People might decide they need to start using Automation Anywhere or some RPA tool for this solution. But reading an Excel file is not really a commonly necessary use case for any of the RPA tools. Basically it can be taken care of in programming scripts or some small database script application. An easy solution would have given the proper output with less effort and they would still get what they were expecting as users. The point is to evaluate the problem and how complex it is before going to purchase any RPA tool which may be unnecessary. If it can be done through something else, it may be a more efficient process. 

Business users are not using the tool. They are just using the direct outcome.

We have not used IQ Bots, but might in the future.

We have not used the Bot Store. I would like to explore that in the future.

On a scale of one to ten where ten is the best, I would rate Automation Anywhere an eight. It is an eight because I'm seeing some results in the use case even early on whatever we are trying to automate. It has really helped our process so far and we will expand on that.

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