As a business expands to a larger size, automation becomes critical since it enhances digital transformation. Automation can help with scaling, increase operational efficiency and free up employees’ time, enabling them to focus on high-value tasks.
In fact, 53% of enterprises have already started their RPA journey and the top performers earn four times on their RPA while others earn two times.
Once you become aware of its importance, the next dilemma is choosing the adoption approach for your organization. Many people think it’s as easy as selecting a Robotic Process Automation (RPA) vendor. However, RPA vendors have a downside, and it’s prudent to consider alternatives:
The drawbacks of robotic process automation (RPA) vendors
While RPA is a part of the digital transformation journey, it’s not wise to follow the same rules you apply when seeking a CRM, ERP, or other systems. In addition, demand for RPA is currently much higher than supply, making quality implementations more elusive.
Here are a few complications that could come with a rushed RPA vendor selection:
Single Vendor Captivity – In many cases, once you start a relationship with a specific vendor, you’re more or less tied to them until the last bot built with them. Unfortunately, if you eventually find their RPA tools lacking, you can’t easily pivot.
You may have to try another vendor with those features and attempt to harmonize the two solutions, which is hectic and expensive. Or, you’ll have to overhaul your entire automation setup and start afresh with a different vendor.
Furthermore, you could struggle to get other repair and maintenance alternatives due to how a vendor built your automations. So if their support teams are not very swift or always available, it could take you a while to solve simple breakdowns, and this downtime can lead to revenue loss.
Limited citizen development – Many vendors will tout citizen development as a significant part of their value proposition when trying to sell you their RPA solutions. However, while low- and no-code approaches may be available, they often have a limited scope of what you can build.
Furthermore, there might not be adequate guidelines on security and other issues surrounding automations built by citizen developers. Therefore, tech teams have a harder time streamlining all solutions without standardized documentation procedures, quality assurance, and version control.
Unfriendly commercial models – Even when a vendor seems to have pre-designed packages in different price tiers, their offers may still be unsuitable. For example, your core operations may require the equivalent of a medium package, but it might lack one capability you need.
Inevitably, you’ll have to pay for the larger package, with plenty of its resources going unused. Basically, many robots will come with fixed costs, while with alternatives like serverless functions, you can get a pay-per-usage deal.
Lack of scalability – Some vendors have rigid deployment methods for the bots and apply a standard solution to client-specific challenges. Additionally, some RPA solutions don’t properly integrate with other tools like repositories, mainframe terminal emulators and Optical Character Recognition (OCR).
These, along with other factors like the absence of centralized bot control, can make scaling a vendor’s RPA solution a bigger challenge.
What are the available alternatives?
Other routes you can take when adopting automation technologies include:
Building automations via the cloud often requires a combination of tools for several purposes, such as:
You can use AWS Step Functions, a serverless function orchestrator that automates workflows. Step Functions can serve as a tool for plotting the path taken during a process. It provides a low-code environment for creating event-driven workflows that link various systems and services.
Step Functions also enable you to connect several AWS Lambda functions into applications performing larger and more elaborate tasks.
There are different kinds of tools you can apply in automated documents processing, and these include:
OCR – With Amazon Textract, you can extract text and other types of structured data like charts, forms and tables from documents using artificial intelligence. This tool can also understand the relationships between various pieces of data, which helps when establishing the logic for a workflow.
Transcription – You can use Amazon Transcribe to extract text from audio and video files such as customer calls or partner meetings. This tool continuously learns from previous transcriptions and notes domain-specific words, increasing its accuracy with each speech-to-text conversion.
Natural Language Processing (NLP) – NLP becomes crucial when dealing with human queries since they aren’t always adequately organized. And even when they are coherent, basic rules-based automation will always revert to the same answer once it detects particular keywords.
But with a tool like Amazon Comprehend, you can better understand a customer’s request since this tool can notice the context. Consequently, it carefully eliminates possible answers to the problem until it ascertains the actual desired outcome and prescribes the appropriate workflow.
Cloud tools like Amazon Lex V2 use Automatic Speech Recognition (ASR) and Natural Language Understanding (NLU) to enable you to build conversational interfaces that support voice and text. Moreover, the user doesn’t need deep learning proficiency to build, test and deploy conversational chatbots.
Thanks to the wide range of integration capabilities with other AWS tools like Comprehend and Lambda, Lex V2 bots can be used in an omnichannel manner and tied into the broader workflows. For instance, they can interact with a customer via web chat, email, voice and SMS.
And depending on the channel of communication, they can relay the requests derived from such interactions to the respective backend automation workflows. So, for instance, if a verification process can be done using an email link or an SMS, you’ll get an SMS code if you’re reaching out via SMS.
One of the main advantages of the open-source approach is the absence of up-front licensing fees. Additionally, a host of talent in the open-source community constantly contributes refinements to existing automations.
Therefore, you get to reduce costs and access various ideas to build on. Moreover, there are many open-source options such as Taskt, TagUI, Robot Framework, UI.Vision (Kantu), Open RPA and more.
For now, let’s take the example of the Robot Framework:
Robot Framework boasts one of the most developed and stable automation environments thanks to its large community and supporting foundation of many prominent vendors. Additionally, it can:
- Run on numerous platforms, so developers have an easier time setting it up and creating platform-agnostic automations.
- Be extended using a library of plug-ins.
- Offer default automations that can run on an enterprise scale.
How RPA vendor alternatives can enhance an insurance business
Standardizing and refining procedures
With tools like Step Functions, you can visualize an entire process, like underwriting or claims processing. As a result, you can see which action in the chain takes longer and speed it up by providing more computational resources or eliminating redundant steps.
As you continuously analyze, you’ll not only have traditional prerequisites like documents but also establish standards regarding maximum time per action and the number of necessary approvals. These make procedures more definite, enabling you to make promises you can keep when serving customers.
When relying on the cloud, you can quickly bring already-made microservices into the fold on demand. For example, a client may have used a specific payment method for their first premium, and they need to use a different one for subsequent renewals.
With minimal lines of code, you can add this option to an existing automated workflow, so they don’t always have to worry about payment options. The same goes for other actions like retrieving risk-related information from disparate sources.
Improving agent experience
Agents who serve customers have an easier time offering answers since they work hand-in-hand with conversational bots to receive already distilled requests. They also perform fewer steps when looking for account information or other information on offers whose details may vary depending on client attributes.
These automation tools also free up employees’ time, allowing them to focus on ideation for newer, more competitive and resonant insurance offers.
Various cloud services allow you to pay only for the resources you used in a specific period. This enables you to save funds that you would waste on provisioning bulk resources that go unused. In addition, once you’re past the development phase, many of these serverless functions are deployed and maintained by the cloud service provider.
Consequently, you can reduce your spending on in-house IT teams and other maintenance personnel under occasional contracts. Also, the open-source automation frameworks enable you to cut development costs by relying on pre-built elements from other community members.
All you have to do is focus on rigorously testing these elements and refining the security features attached.
RPA vendors may offer reassuring service relationships, but you’ll always have to move at their pace. What may seem like a much-needed improvement in capabilities won’t always be a business priority for them.
Accordingly, it is wise to consider alternatives that allow you to customize and integrate with other common tools in your industry. These solutions should also offer a more cost-effective approach to the initial development of automations and the later scaling and maintenance of assets.
Cloud services and open source automation frameworks offer the perfect mix of building things how you want them and relying on standardized external help. As long as you fully understand your business processes and the feasible automation opportunities they harbour, you’ll eventually maximize these solutions.