UiPath Review

Easy to use: People with zero technical background can scale up in a matter of weeks and build bots


What is our primary use case?

The primary use case of UiPath, with every organization that I've worked with as a consultant, has been to make business processes more efficient and the work of their employees more enjoyable. 

How has it helped my organization?

By utilizing this technology, you're able to get value through your value streams quicker. When you realize value, that means you can work with your customers more quickly, as well as build customer loyalty and employer loyalty. These have definitely been some of the byproducts of using the software.

When I was working as an RPA manager, managing a program for an insurance company which supported insurance lifecycle processing, one of the components was that they had to review insurance policies annually. It was very cumbersome. We were talking anywhere from 10,000 to 40,000 daily. It was almost a 20-FTE process. We were able to automate that completely.

However, the real value came when the organization understood how to apply RPA and it actually began creating brand-new business processes specifically for RPA. So instead of hiring new people, they said, "Hey, we've always wanted to do this, we don't have the budget to bring on and train people, so let's build bots to do it from day zero." Once they were able to understand that I could do more than just automate processes, that I could build new business lines with bots, that was an incredibly valuable result of using this software.

The benefits are very high when you automate business processes. Before using RPA, I was working in technology, building macros and things of that nature. But the way we're able to build sustainable, functional bots that really work well in the long-term makes the benefit a ten out of ten.

What is most valuable?

This is going to be an interesting answer, but the most valuable feature of the software is not the software itself, but the community that supports it. When I first started learning the software to support a program, I had to self-teach; there wasn't a budget for training. But going through their learning platform and then connecting with the community when I didn't understand how to utilize some of the functionality, that was far more powerful than the product itself. The network around the product is amazing.

The great thing about the UiPath RPA Academy is that it's not stagnant. Even though my first go at getting certified as a developer was three years ago, I literally have to go back the Academy and learn it every year because there are new features and new functionality. An example is the RE Framework they've incorporated. The living nature of the Academy gives a lot of value. But hands-down, the way that they give practical exercises, the fact that they give you applications you can download to learn how to interact with bots by simulating an actual operational environment, makes it a very impactful learning experience.

In addition, I find the solution easy to use. I have personal experience using all three of the major software vendors that are in this space right now, including Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism, and I would put UiPath as number-one, specifically from a learning perspective. I've been able to take people with absolutely zero technical background and quickly scale them up in a matter of weeks so they're building bots. I haven't been able to accomplish that same feat with the other platforms.

What needs improvement?

Being a person who has held every RPA role from developer to analyst, architect, and executive, one feature I think it needs - from a documentation perspective - is the ability to easily extract variable details and data. They do have a Variables panel that you frequently interact with, but I constantly have situations where those need to be adjusted or I want to be able to present those to a business. Sometimes it's difficult to extract those, and if you're not tracking them while you build, you can quickly get into 200 to 300 variables in use, especially using the RE Framework where you're passing workflow arguments in and out. I would like to see something like that.

In addition - and obviously UiPath is aware of this - we have to continue to improve the OCR capability. Computer Vision is excellent. I've used it on Azure. I've created PeopleSoft environments and worked through the Computer Vision feature. It works amazingly in a Citrix environment. But I speak with multiple organizations and a lot of them have the same problem of processing documentation from the mail room or from vendors, etc. That's a huge component. If we can get that embedded in UiPath, so we don't have to rely solely on OCR vendors like Captiva or ABBYY, that would be a huge step forward in being able to service all organizations.

There could be improved logging and functionality. But if you truly understand the software, adding logging to what the bot is already doing is as simple as typing on the right line. It's incredibly easy and you can embed it. Even though what it currently logs is limited, it's easy enough to create logs or reporting without a lot of effort.

Outside of that, it's really hard to come up with other recommendations. The software is solid.

What do I think about the stability of the solution?

I was recently reading about the document processing framework that they just implemented. I gave a demo two weeks ago on the Computer Vision functionality that was in beta. So the sustainability is there. They're focused not on just how good RPA is and on making it better, but they're also integrating it with future-tech. That is where the stability comes in.

What do I think about the scalability of the solution?

UiPath's scalability and stability are exceptional. They are constantly releasing new versions.

Scalability is all in the delivery. I've definitely run into multiple organizational roadblocks with my clients because they get six months down their delivery timeline and they're not meeting their OI, they're not scaling. That generally comes down to how it's being delivered. If you have experience, you're working with a partner, you're working with people who have used this solution at scale, you can generally bypass a lot of those roadblocks. It's definitely scalable if you have the right expertise.

How are customer service and technical support?

I have used both technical and customer support. When I was going through training, trying to learn some of the software, I had issues when I finally purchased licenses. The issues were related to putting them in Orchestrator and installing them. Support was definitely very supportive, very responsive when trying to get feedback.

Even when it comes to the community, as well, if you're just trying to learn the software, to learn the features and functionality, the community network is there to quickly respond and support you so you can get back to getting value, instead of getting hung up on one piece of functionality.

Which solution did I use previously and why did I switch?

I have seen cases where an organization moves from a different automation solution to UiPath. At one point, we were transitioning from Automation Anywhere. There were very basic bots, these weren't complex processes, but we built a bot in UiPath that read the XAML of the Automation Anywhere script, converted it into activities in UiPath, and built a bot. We had a bot that builds a bot.

An example of why people move to UiPath is that when I was the director of RPA for a finance company, when I set up the program I had to go to EVP and pitch the prices and the costs. When I gave him the cost for all the software, to bring a vendor on, he told me "no." It was way too expensive. But UiPath has this amazing option called the Community Edition. What I was able to do was download the software, teach myself how to use it in about 45 days and, within two months, I had automated a pilot process, completely on my own. I was able to walk it into the EVP and say, "Look what I was able to complete. You told me no money, no funding, but now can I get funding?" Then I got funding and was able to bring on a team. That's one perfect example. They said "no," so I got a free version that cost me nothing.

In terms of how companies know that they need to invest in automation, in this day and age, with the speed at which information and technology move, it's at the point where this is not a new topic. A lot of organizations, through word-of-mouth, internet searches, or conferences, or events such UiPath 2019 here in DC, realize it as soon as they hear the success stories. It's impossible to ignore. Most organizations are like that. They hear about it, they realize that it's something they should consider, it's something they have to do, and they take the next step.

How was the initial setup?

The initial setup is absolutely straightforward; it provides a quick and easy installation. Given that you may have to go through some technical hurdles to get permission to download it, I'm not talking about that. But if you have all the permissions and you're allowed to download and install it, it's absolutely simple. It shouldn't take more than ten minutes.

Technical prerequisites are not needed to use the software, but technical resources can speed up the ease with which you deploy. Given that you're generally not interacting with UiPath in isolation but with other business applications as well, you want to make sure that there's technical support in case you have some issues. Or, if there's something that you didn't experience in UAT but that comes up once you get into production, it's good to have some additional support. It's not a requirement but I would recommend it.

What was our ROI?

ROI is one of the most frequent questions I get from organizations. You should be seeing ROI in less than six months. If you're not returning your cost and more, from a licensing and personnel standpoint, in the first six months, then it is not a software issue and it is not a delivery issue. In that case, it is a scoping issue. You're probably looking at processes that shouldn't have been automated in the first place.

Every organization that is successful with the software is reaching their ROI in six months or under.

The amount of time saved with bots is an interesting question but it's hard to answer with a pinpoint response because it depends on an organization's strategy. I've seen multiple organizations that use attended bots, so they're just saving a fraction of the time. But then I've been in organizations where they've automated a process end-to-end. A process that previously required 20 FTEs went from having 40,000 hours of manual work to zero.

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

For pricing there is a variable at play, and that's scale. Depending on how you want to scale - whether working with a partner or directly with UiPath - there's a specific cost per license. But then it's all about optimizing a process, and what we call "license utilization." We try to maximize each license, and we'll have it running three or four processes.

The cost is nothing, it's peanuts, when you see the capabilities. When you're talking about one license supporting what was previously done by 14 people, what is $1,500, or whatever the licensing cost is for unattended bots?

Even more importantly, as a technology expert, I know that I could do some additional coding and automate the running of the bots. But why would I spend that extra time when they have Orchestrator. I could have a person running them as well, but the Orchestrator license is far cheaper than a resource; just click "run." When you compare the results that you get, the price is a moot point.

What other advice do I have?

If I was going to give any advice to someone who was just about to utilize the software, I would say that the most successful organizations that apply this technology make it an entire team effort. It's not started in one business unit. And if it is, it's socialized across the enterprise. That's the quickest way to scale: getting everybody onboard. The second-biggest thing is that the most impactful projects you will get will come from your people, your internal workers. And until you get them to understand what the software can do and its capabilities, it's going to take you longer to scale your program. So make sure everybody's socialized, and make sure everybody truly understands what the software can truly do. They're going to give you the best opportunities to benefit from it.

Deployment should definitely be done using the support of experts. Even when I owned my own RPA program, and I wasn't in a consulting capacity, I still reached out to a third-party to get support. While setting it up is something that you can do internally, given that most objectives include speed-to-market and quick scaling - wanting to see results in 60 days instead of six months - it's going to be very difficult to do alone, especially if your goal is to have 100 bots in a year. If your goal is ten, you can probably manage it. It's important to use experts if you are looking to rapidly scale.

I have implemented UiPath in virtual environments, including on-prem, Azure VMs and servers, SQL-based data storage, as well as AWS. I've never had any issues with the responsiveness or the application having any problems operating. The biggest consideration that you have when trying to deploy robots in a virtual environment is making sure that your architecture is sound. You have to integrate through severs and you have to take into consideration firewall updates. And then there's interacting from the cloud if your applications are on-prem. You have to make sure that the bot doesn't have any issues. But if your architecture is solid and your infrastructure is set to support the applications in a cloud environment, there shouldn't be any issues. You wouldn't notice any difference compared to having them on a desktop on-premise.

I would agree that UiPath eliminates human error, but I would add the caveat that good code eliminates human error. I've been doing this for a while and I've seen bots that mess up. It's in your delivery methodology. If you have a sound delivery methodology - you're going through a rigorous UAT cycle and are having outputs audited by the subject matter experts - you should literally get to zero errors. Maybe you will have five percent exception cases, but your error percentage should be zero.

Having worked with all the tools, they all have little niche components. As long as UiPath continues to focus on knowing what the next wave of technology is that businesses really need to use to be efficient, and they start embedding that skillset in their software, that's all you could ask for. They need to stay in front of the power curve of technology, which is impossible, but they're trying.

I've never had a bad issue with UiPath. My experience with them has always been pleasant and engaging. They're never stuck at just giving you software, showing you how to use it, and then walking out. They're always focused on improving your business. If you focus on that, and focus on generating value, you can't lose.

Automation technology is the number-one driver across an organization now. Trying to find ways to do more with less has been the going mantra for organizations for years now. It's no longer feasible to simply run operational efficiency or Six Sigma projects to try to get gains. The only way that you're going to get significant gains is going with an automation-first approach. That's where I see a lot of organizations headed, even spending more on RPA software than on cloud implementation. It's a very big focus, and I don't see that slowing down any time soon.

On a scale from one to ten, I would you rate UiPath as an eleven. It's excellent software.

**Disclosure: My company has a business relationship with this vendor other than being a customer: Partner.
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