What is our primary use case?
In the financial environment, such as in the banking and insurance sectors, we use them to automate mundane tasks, the kinds that require repetitive human work with not much thought process involved.
We use it for simple things like automating the processing of work queues, reading information from an email, extracting the attachments and forwarding those to available people.
How has it helped my organization?
It helps us reduce the number of people involved in mundane tasks.
In the case of Absa, it has really impacted them, the way the customer interacts with the organization when it comes to certain processes. They have become one of the better banks in terms of technology now.
When having to fill out an application, for example, there's an app. In the back-end of that app, the whole process is automated. They get an acknowledgment within a couple of seconds. That is the way it has a positive impact on the organization. If the end-user or the client is happy about the way things are going now, as oppose to the way things were before, then that's a big win.
What is most valuable?
The automation in version 6 seems to be a lot better than it was in previous versions. In my opinion, that is great.
The matrix in terms of reporting is becoming more friendly. It can be used with other analytics tools and that too is a great thing. You can pull stuff into stats, you can pull stuff into any kind of data analytics tool, like Tableau for example.
You can easily see where all your problems lie, in a visual way. It's always nice to have a visual representation of things, whether you're a kid in school or whether you're a professor at a university. Seeing things at one glance makes a lot of difference, instead of having to read through the fine print and see where the issues are.
Another feature I like about Blue Prism is the Control Room and how easy it is to find exceptions, to find common issues, and to troubleshoot your exceptions. Your Control Room person, without any development skills, can easily pick up what the problem is, with the exceptions, especially when there are a lot of exceptions related to one use case or process.
What needs improvement?
Blue Prism is lagging in terms of artificial intelligence. There is no artificial intelligence in version 4 or 5, which most people are still using as far as I'm aware. To be fair, they do have AI in version 6. Still, it's lagging terribly. Blue Prism is the inventor of the name of the term "RPA," and it's disappointing to see they are sitting around.
Blue Prism, in my opinion, is very solid because it has so many years of evolution and backing. It's more solid than the other platforms but I feel that the intelligent automation needs to be jacked up to where the other platforms are, at least.
Cognitive learning, for example, where it can actually follow your movements on the screen, is not there in Blue Prism. The bot will only do what you program it to do, whatever processes and objects that you refer to. It only follows that. There is no cognitive learning happening, whereas Automation Anywhere or UiPath can actually follow your movements, follow the steps that you're doing and then, bang, can go ahead and repeat those processes. And at the same time, it will learn to do it better as well.
Also, when exceptions are being passed to Excel, there's a huge issue dealing with the date format. You actually have to program your date as a text, as opposed to as a date, and that is something I would like to see improved. I cannot say whether it has been fixed, as I don't have exposure to the new version.
For how long have I used the solution?
One to three years.
What do I think about the stability of the solution?
We have had the odd case of the robot falling for no reason. Then you restart the whole thing and you find it runs okay. To me, that's a very big problem with stability.
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
The stability issue is there, especially when you scale it up. If you're doing 1000 processes a minute or every 10 minutes, and then you scale it up to 10,000, I think Blue Prism has a problem with that. Guys from the banks have told me they really don't look at Blue Prism as being scalable enterprise-wide because it does tend to fall over.
Having said that, I haven't necessarily heard of issues like that in the international environment, but I have heard of issues like that here in South Africa. Having read of the success stories, worldwide, and the extent to which they've been involved in enterprise-level, I wouldn't necessarily say this issue has come to the fore.
How are customer service and technical support?
I'm sorry to say their technical support is very bad.
The technical support, the client support, the academic support, are almost nonexistent, if you ask me. I have had very nasty experiences where we're stuck in a deployment and we are about to go live and there's an issue and we ask for help and we get a reply a day later or two days later, if they reply at all. In my case, I had to rely on the community that I'm involved in - the LinkedIn group and WhatsApp groups that I have connections with. I was able to solve problems that way. If I have a problem with Blue Prism I won't go to Blue Prism for help. That's how bad it is.
I would generously rate technical support at four out of 10.
Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?
Blue Prims was the first tool that I used in automation and, in some ways, I got stuck with it. There was a huge demand for it in South Africa so I have always followed the Blue Prism path. But after having used Blue Prism, I used Automation Anywhere and am extremely happy with it. Their support is extremely good.
How was the initial setup?
Depending on your environment, setup can become very complex, especially if the permissions and access are not dealt with correctly. Your change management has to be very clearly outlined and mapped out before you even go into an environment where you try to implement Blue Prism.
You have to have access to a SQL Database and if that is not all sorted out, you're going to struggle. Even just deploying it, and your bot access and your VDI access, etc., it's really quite difficult to do in a very secure, locked up environment.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Blue Prism is pretty steep compared to the others, much more than Automation Anywhere. That can be a hindrance as well.
What other advice do I have?
In terms of world usage, the market slice Blue Prism has, it is only in third place now, simply because it has been lacking in certain areas. The lackluster Robotic Process Automation Blue Prism is a dumb robot, as opposed to Automation Anywhere which is capable of cognitive learning - and that's a big plus. Even if it's in a very simple manner, even if it's not an IQ Bot, there is a lot of cognitive learning that's built into the other platforms which I find much better to use.
Even if you take out UiPath which is bigger - it now has a huge amount of money that was invested by Israeli investors who have pushed UiPath to a point where it has expanded to almost every country now, including trying to get themselves established in South Africa. Even if you take them out of the picture, and they are the biggest threat, Automation Anywhere, which is much younger than Blue Prism, is still way better and rated much higher than Blue Prism in terms of market share and popularity, ease, etc.
If I wanted to choose a platform, depending on the environment, I would not be fixed on one platform. The companies that I worked for previously only focused on Blue Prism while others only focused on Automation Anywhere. That's the wrong approach. You should be agnostic, you should use a tool that is appropriate for the scenario. There are some things that, obviously, Blue Prism will do way better, way faster than Automation Anywhere and there are some cases where Automation Anywhere would be more suitable.
For example, if you are looking into natural language processing, Automation Anywhere does a far better job of it in terms of reading an email and making a decision based on the content of the email. Blue Prism can't do that.
I would also say you need to get your planning right. Once you have that right, you'll have no issues with implementation. Seek advice from people that have successfully implemented it. There are many community groups and a lot of people in the Blue Prism community, so become part of the community; there's a lot to be learned from that.
Overall, it's pretty solid, it's pretty good if you want to start doing things in robotics or process automation, but it's definitely not the end of it. I would suggest that people always look at other platforms and see where they could be used in a given situation.