Should an enterprise’s robotic process automation (RPA) strategy include working with more than one vendor? In a recent interview I had with a global manufacturer of automotive parts about its multiyear RPA project with Redwood Software, it came to light the company was simultaneously using leading RPA vendor UiPath.
“You don’t want to put all your eggs in one basket,” said Anna Berger, functional design lead in finance at Faurecia, which has operations in 35 countries.
The multivendor RPA strategy makes sense for the automotive company.
Redwood Software has extensive experience in automating finance processes, in particular ERP systems from Oracle and SAP. Faurecia has worked with SAP for over a decade, rolling out a single, integrated SAP system to about 98% of its 300 sites; it has some 35,000 users in SAP.
“We have taken the position that for processes which are quite standardized and which are very linked to SAP, we want to go with Redwood, which is strongly integrated with SAP,” Berger explained. Faurecia is using Redwood on a major project to consolidate 25 shared services down to a handful of regional platforms.
UiPath and Redwood RPA projects follow similar best practices. For example, tremendous effort goes into making sure the process is accurately described and that everyone agrees on the process description. But the automation focus is different.
“UiPath is for topics which are less linked to SAP and which may have to go between multiple systems and [involve] processes which are less standardized,” Berger said.
Multivendor RPA strategy
Forrester Research analyst Craig Le Clair, who follows the RPA market closely, said a multivendor RPA strategy is becoming more common. “I see it trending that way,” Le Clair said. One reason for the movement toward multiple vendors is that RPA came in initially through the business side, which hired its own integrators.
As the IT side has gotten involved, business units that are happy with their RPA deployments don’t want to switch vendors, resulting in a multivendor RPA strategy by default. Secondly, the RPA platforms have different talents — increasingly by necessity.
“When you have a lot of the market value captured by the top three RPA vendors, the other 40 have to find spots,” Le Clair said, referring to Blue Prism, UiPath and Automation Anywhere as the triad at the top. A vendor like Redwood, which specializes in finance processes and has expertise in Oracle and SAP, has developed a library of bots to automate this area of operations, saving companies time.
The RPA platforms also tend to split between those that are focused on back-end functions where interaction with humans is minimal and those that are being deployed in call centers, where the automation must co-exist with an employee who may be jockeying between 15 and 20 screens. An example of the bifurcation in the market is Blue Prism, which doesn’t do contact centers, Le Clair said.
In any case, Forrester believes the RPA market is still on a strong growth trajectory for 2019.