7 Steps to Select the Best RPA Tool & Vendor in 2023

Selecting the right robotic process automation (RPA) tool and vendor is crucial for successfully automating processes and driving ROI. The wrong choice can lead to implementation headaches, lackluster results, and wasted investment.

As an experienced data analyst and AI consultant, I‘ve helped numerous enterprises navigate the RPA vendor selection process. In this comprehensive guide, I‘ll share the precise steps and insights needed to confidently choose the best RPA solution for your unique needs in 2023.

Step 1: Understand the RPA Market Landscape

Before evaluating individual tools, you need a broad view of the RPA vendor landscape. The market has expanded rapidly, leaving many buyers confused about the options.

Here is a breakdown of the main types of RPA vendors:

Established Enterprise Software Vendors

These include large technology companies like IBM, Microsoft, SAP, and Oracle that have developed their own RPA offerings.

For example, IBM offers IBM Robotic Process Automation, SAP has SAP Intelligent RPA, and Oracle provides Oracle Process Automation.

These vendors leverage their existing relationships, integration capabilities, and enterprise expertise. However, RPA is not their core focus, so the solutions may lack specialized RPA features and depth.

Pure-Play RPA Specialists

Companies like UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism who exclusively develop RPA platforms and are considered RPA pioneers.

For instance, UiPath only focuses on RPA and process automation technology. This specialization allows them to constantly advance RPA-specific capabilities like computer vision, intelligent document processing, and process mining.

According to UiPath‘s 2021 financial results, its annual recurring revenue grew 57% year-over-year to $925 million, showing the strong momentum of dedicated RPA pure-plays.

Business Process Outsourcing Firms

Major IT services companies like Infosys, Genpact, and EXL that provide RPA services and solutions, often as part of larger business process outsourcing (BPO) deals.

For example, Genpact Corinthian is Genpact‘s RPA platform. Rather than developing their own tools, these firms typically partner and integrate with leading RPA software vendors.

They bring expertise in common BPO processes as well as change management and implementation services. Choosing a BPO provider can simplify your RPA journey.

Niche RPA Vendors

Newer entrants focusing on specific RPA capabilities, use cases, or integrations. This includes innovators like:

  • Kryon – Focused on unattended RPA bots and process discovery
  • EdgeVerve – RPA solutions for banking and financial services
  • WorkFusion – Leading intelligent automation capabilities

These vendors can provide cutting-edge solutions for particular needs, but may lack scale and support.

With this landscape view, you can create a long list of vendors potentially suited to your requirements and use cases.

Step 2: Identify Your Target Processes and Requirements

RPA software allows you to automate almost any repetitive, rules-based process. But where should you start?

Pinpointing the right processes to automate with RPA is crucial. I always guide clients through in-depth workshops to identify top automation opportunities within their organization.

Here are key aspects to consider when selecting your first RPA use cases:

  • High-volume, repetitive tasks: RPA delivers the most value when applied to high-frequency, repetitive processes. These are prime automation targets.
  • Manual, human-driven processes: Any process requiring significant tedious human intervention is well suited for RPA.
  • Rule-based processes: RPA bots excel at following predefined business rules and logic. Processes with clear rules and standards are ideal automation candidates.
  • Prone to errors: RPA does not get tired or make mistakes like humans. Processes with frequent errors made by people are strong automation possibilities.
  • Cross-functional processes: Bots can seamlessly interact with multiple systems and apps. Processes spanning different business functions or systems offer automation potential.
  • Quick ROI: For early success, target processes where RPA can deliver ROI rapidly, usually within 6-9 months.

Once you select your first process(es) to automate, you can define your specific RPA requirements including:

  • Required integrations (e.g. ERP, CRM)
  • Data types and sources
  • Users and access needs
  • Security protocols
  • Compliance demands
  • Performance needs

With target processes and requirements defined, you can narrow down RPA vendors that are best suited.

Step 3: Create Your RPA Vendor Shortlist

Now it‘s time to create a shortlist of vendors to evaluate.

Start by searching vendor lists on analyst sites like Gartner, Forrester, and Everest Group for their latest RPA magic quadrant, wave, or PEAK matrix reports.

For example, here is a snapshot of Gartner‘s 2022 Magic Quadrant for RPA:
Gartner Magic Quadrant for RPA
Next, filter for vendors that align to your use cases and requirements. Also leverage network contacts, conferences, peer recommendations, and advisors to compile your list.

Aim for a shortlist of around 5 leading vendors to evaluate further. Here are the key criteria I consider:

Core RPA capabilities

  • Bot development ease and speed
  • Control room and management
  • Analytics and intelligence
  • Integrations and connectivity

Intelligent automation

  • AI integration (NLP, ML, computer vision)
  • Smart document processing
  • Process mining and discovery

Enterprise suitability

  • Scalability and governance
  • Security and compliance
  • Support and services
  • Training and community

Commercial model

  • Pricing structure
  • License types
  • Implementation costs
  • Vendor stability

By shortlisting vendors that align to your needs, you‘ll maximize your chances of identifying the optimal RPA platform.

Step 4: Conduct Demos and Initial Vendor Evaluations

With your shortlist created, it‘s time to engage with vendors. There are two main steps I recommend here:

1. Conduct Demos Tailored To Key Processes

Schedule customized demos with each shortlisted vendor focused on your priority processes.

Provide them details on your specific use cases and requirements. Ask them to tailor the demo to showcase how their platform would automate those processes and meet your needs.

Pay attention to how intuitive and flexible their solution seems for building your required automations. Take notes on any limitations or gaps you observe.

2. Complete Initial Vendor Evaluations

Have your team complete a preliminary written assessment of each vendor after the initial demos and discussions.

Include criteria like:

  • Platform capabilities
  • Implementation approach
  • Service and support model
  • Pricing structure
  • Company viability

This will identify strengths and weaknesses of each provider and help you create a 2-3 vendor shortlist for the next evaluation round.

Step 5: Conduct Technical PoCs

Proof-of-concepts (POCs) allow you to directly test automation solutions, before any purchase.

Select 1-2 priority processes and conduct a POC with your 2-3 shortlisted vendors configuring and testing bots for those processes. Focus on:

  • Bot development speed and quality
  • Process automation effectiveness
  • Platform usability and intuitiveness
  • Vendor implementation support

Track metrics like development time, human involvement, and automation rates for comparison. POCs provide hands-on experience to deeply evaluate technical fit.

Here are sample steps for an effective technical POC:

  1. Define POC scope and objectives
  2. Select target process and gather required info
  3. Develop detailed test plan
  4. Build automation with vendor involvement
  5. Run POC test
  6. Gather results and feedback
  7. Analyze findings and compare vendors

Technical POCs provide objective, benchmarked insights into how well each platform automates your real-world processes. This data is invaluable for choosing your RPA software.

Step 6: Assess Security and Enterprise Readiness

Along with technical capability, you need to evaluate RPA vendors on enterprise criteria like security, scalability, and platform maturity.

Here are key questions to ask:

Security

  • What certifications does the platform comply with (ISO, SOC2, etc.)?
  • How is data encrypted in transit and at rest?
  • What user and access controls are available?
  • How are bots controlled and monitored?
  • How are exceptions and failures managed?

Scalability

  • Can the platform support our transaction volumes and growth?
  • How easy is it to scale across processes?
  • How quickly can bot capacity be added?

Platform maturity

  • How many years has the platform been available?
  • How many enterprise-level clients does the vendor have?
  • How many bots have been deployed on the platform?
  • How many employees does the vendor have?

Compliance and governance

  • Can the platform support compliance with regulations like HIPAA and GDPR?
  • What auditing and logging capabilities does it include?
  • How are bots, credentials, and permissions managed?

Thoroughly probe vendors on these aspects before committing to ensure enterprise reliability and readiness.

Step 7: Evaluate Ongoing Support and Services

The right RPA tool provides a foundation for process automation. But you also need robust services and support to successfully scale automation across the enterprise.

Here are key components to evaluate:

Training

  • Formal training programs for developers and users
  • Access to professionals for guidance
  • Availability of certifications

Maintenance and upgrades

  • Release schedule for new features
  • Resources to upgrade bots and frameworks
  • Infrastructure maintenance services

Support model

  • Technical support response times
  • Designated account representative
  • Premium support options

Managed services

  • Bot build and management services
  • Process analysis and documentation
  • Automation roadmap creation

Community

  • Forums for asking questions and sharing best practices
  • User events and network
  • Add-ons and templates from other users

Choose a provider that offers ample training, support, maintenance, and community. This ecosystem will help you maximize success.

Final Selection

With detailed technical and enterprise assessments complete, you can confidently select the right RPA platform for your organization.

Compile findings from your evaluations, POCs, and stakeholder feedback. Then weigh factors like:

  • Functional match to requirements
  • Automation effectiveness and ease
  • Enterprise reliability and scale
  • Total cost of ownership
  • Service and support model

Select the vendor that best fulfills your critical needs today, while offering flexibility and capabilities to support future growth. With the right platform choice, you‘ll be on your way to transformational process automation.

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