What is our primary use case?
It is looking externally at how we can enable the government to identify efficiencies and improve effectiveness. The other is, internally, how can we drive efficiencies within HR and finance, with everything that a big corporation can do.
- How do we help the government realize these benefits?
- How do we help our internal workforce benefit?
It is two different things, and they are similar, but they're not the same thing.
A lot of people externally are worried about the elimination of jobs, but at the same time, they still want that efficiency, and they are looking for it. We want to drive the effectiveness of the workforce, whomever we're working with.
There are plenty of automation opportunities out there: DoD, the federal government, and commercial space. There are all sorts of stuff that we can do. Internally, we feel the same way. There are lot of things that we can do to make ourselves run more efficiently. If we are preaching to the government that they need to be using this, it's beneficial for us to say, "This is what we have done as a company."
Our company is 25,000 people across the globe. There are certain opportunities for us to include automation in what we do every day. We are doing it now by instituting RPA, specifically, and the tools that the UiPath bring to the table. It will be a game changer for us, if we can get it done at scale.
Automation is growing at our company. A lot of what we do is focused on AI. Going from zero to AI is a Herculean task. It's extremely difficult. However, there are many steps in-between zero and AI that we can do now to help realize the benefit to the company or the federal government, such as the benefits of the efficiencies that we can identify. That intermediate, non-threatening first step can be RPA, which ultimately will lead to enabling AI, but is not AI.
Within our company, we are looking to identify what those pre-AI steps are, with the goal in mind that we know that the federal government is asking for AI. What we do in the interim is a type of level set, where you can build an algorithm, AI, or machine learning algorithm. This ultimately is what they want, but what they need right now is to aggregate their data in a structured way to be able to feed into those algorithms. That's step one. This is the first step to getting all your data right. It's not easy, because you have to take people out of the mindset of AI.
How has it helped my organization?
A lot of times, in the government, people say, "I'm wearing two hats." It's an idiom. The question I have in response is, "What if we could take one of those hats away?" We can take one of those responsibilities that someone finds cumbersome, or annoying, and remove that from their task list. We have them tell us the steps of their process, so we can automate it, if not pieces, but all of it. That is our starting point with a lot of people, "We can take this off your plate," which is definitely exciting for a lot of people. It scares some people too, but we're working on that.
What is most valuable?
The most valuable features are the unattended bots. Initially, we are going to be looking at a number of attended bots in a pilot phase for our HR internal operations personnel. We are going to come in and try to remove tasks from their daily lives, such as ten minute tasks brought down to five seconds, or we could just completely eliminate them, making them unattended.
The training and certification online is very helpful.
The software is easy to use, as a drag and drop function. Even if it wasn't, the type of support that we get from the people who work for UiPath is paramount to the capability of the tool. The ease of use has exceeded our expectations.
What needs improvement?
The Academy Live that I took was only a half a day course. There needs to be diverse set of courses for those introduced to RPA for the first time. There are different people who show up to this course:
- The developer who is interested in automation and automating different facets of the tasks that they have, either at work or for their clients.
- Business managers who want to know more about what RPA can do for my business or company. They want the operational and strategic level versus the tactical level of how do I get automation to do the thing I want it to do?
The course was only a half a day, and although we were able to provide two automations and build two bots, it would be helpful if that was extended to include the RPA story and pitch. E.g., What's the story that we need to tell in order to get people to say, "How do I get into the pilot phase now."
I would like to have the course do an introduction, "Welcome to the course. This is what RPA is. Now, let us build your first bot."
The sales elements of why RPA should be there too:
- What is the value proposition that RPA brings to the table.
- Here is the expected ROI for a menial task, saving an hour a week equals this in the long term. Even if you can cut a 25 minute task out of somebody's daily routine, this is the benefit in the long term.
That wasn't there as much. I wasn't really expecting it to be there, but in the long term, if there are a number of different types of training courses which are offered, people will have different breadths of understandings of RPA can really do, e.g., it needs a hardcore developing training and a capture manager. It needs to explain what sort of things a capture manager needs to know. Maybe not necessarily how to develop the architecture for it, but what does that even mean? For example, how easy is it for me to get Orchestrator onto a server? How do I become a reseller of the software? These are the capture manager responsibilities, and it would be helpful if they were explained. While this is probably more of a day two of a training rather than day one.
I would like to see a UiPath user group to discuss issues. I am unaware of all the activities and features, and this would help. Right now, there is just the user's guide and UiPath GO! It would be great if this feedback went back to the UiPath development team. We should also be notified of new features through an alerting system on UiPath GO!
What do I think about the scalability of the solution?
With our focus on the federal government, they're looking at dozens of bots: Scaling of five instances of Studio, 10 bots of Orchestrator, and three unattended bots. That is far easier to scale than in the commercial world, where they are asking for 1000 instances of Studio and 500 unattended bots, touching 100 different processes. We haven't had that experience yet.
How are customer service and technical support?
The current staff at UiPath won't let you fail (the customer support and customer success managers). They are not going to leave you hanging.
They are an honest broker. They told us when things aren't going to work. They've been upfront and transparent about everything with us.
How was the initial setup?
Our developers have found that it is relatively straightforward. With any installation issues that have come up, we have always had somebody just be able to pick up the phone and call.
What was our ROI?
ROI depends on the complexity the project. Unattended bots tend to see ROI immediately, where attended bots take longer. The savings starts as soon as a bot is deployed.
What's my experience with pricing, setup cost, and licensing?
Getting licenses has been relatively easy.
We have all the prices for the software. Every project is up for a negotiation on how it's going to be done. A lot of times, with the federal government, it will be necessary to put it on contract. When we are bidding for something, we need to know, how many bots are we talking about? The tricky part is when the government is unsure what they actually want. A lot of times when contracts or proposals are put on the street, the government wants something that can support 100 bots. That's not really helpful given that the price points for unattended and attended are different. So, clarification is often necessary when we're asking, what ratio of attended to unattended are you really asking for?
There is some initial sticker shock from a lot of people regarding cost, until you show them what the actual benefit is. Initially, people are just going, "Why?" So, the retort for that is, "Look how much you will save, time, and budget-wise with one bot. If one bot costs X, this is how much it will save you over one year. This alleviates the "Oh my gosh" face, when it's 1200 dollars for a bot.
Getting clients, and our own people internally, to recognize that this is an investment in efficiency to drive effectiveness. If you can do that, and you can get past any initial sticker shock, thinking strategically and long term, then you've got them. But if they say, "Look, my budget this year is only 10,000 dollars. Why would I put that into bots?" That becomes a different type of discussion. It's mostly focused on, you're thinking about today. We need you to be thinking about three years from now.
Which other solutions did I evaluate?
If you look around at the other software systems, we have chose to go with UiPath because of the ease of the interface and also the customer support that we get from their people. There are a lot of tools out there. The reason why we have gone with UiPath is because of the relationships that we have built and the type of success that we are going to get working with their account leads.
We looked at Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, and briefly at a couple of the start ups. However, we figured that they didn't have the ATOs that we needed to go within the federal space. There are a lot of people who say they can do this, or they say that they have an offering that can do this. In many cases, that is absolutely true. We wanted to be with a company that we feel is up and coming and will be around in the next decade. We want to use software that is going to be recognized by the federal government as number one, or at least very close.
What other advice do I have?
Be prepared, because you are going to be asked a hundred question. This product takes a team. Your senior management needs to want this product and sign onto training. You will need developers capable of using the UiPath software.
UiPath is not just a technology business. It really comes down to a people business. The people and culture that UiPath provides us leads us to use their software more often.
The NextGen workforce is not going to be cutting and pasting for eight hours a day. That is not a function that a human should be doing anyway. Therefore, we treat RPA as a digital assistant, because who would not want a digital assistant.
People are finding ways to automate the reporting functions that Workday can really provide. This is not at an individual level. At the individual level, you can go in and check your benefits and check your 401K. However, at a macro level, we need people to run Workday reports pretty much daily, and that gets updated in the systems that we have. Therefore, our HR and finance people are all working with Workday, as people of incorporate these big management systems, trying to find new ways to automate them.
It is now on us and our team to be able to implement automation with the Workday, and have it work more efficiently. That will be our next challenge moving forward, automating Workday.
Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.