The Granddaddy of Robotic Process Automation – A First Look at WinAutomation
WinAutomation is a longstanding Robotic Desktop Automation tool that is easy to use and provides great value for money.
Forrester Research, a research and consultancy firm, has recently released The Forrester WaveTM: Robotic Process Automation, Q2 2018. In this report, Forrester identified and evaluated 15 RPA software providers that matter the most in the current landscape.
But the RPA software market has much more diversity and strength in depth than just these usual suspects. A check with SSON Analytics showed that they are now 31 RPA software vendors listed in their Intelligent Automation Universe (as of the date of this blog’s publication). The actual number of vendors is likely to be much higher considering that not all vendors are listed on this website, and some of the RPA software available are open source.
For the benefit of our readers who would like to evaluate other options, we are going to review WinAutomation – a slightly off-the-radar RPA software that might just provide the Return-on-Investment (ROI) that you have been searching for.
Let’s dive in.
The Granddaddy of Robotic Process Automation
Softomotive can be considered as one of the pioneers of the nascent RPA industry. They entered the automation market way back in 2005 with WinAutomation, a Robotic Desktop Automation (RDA) tool that is targeted at individuals and small teams. And in 2016, Softomotive launched (perhaps somewhat belatedly) ProcessRobot, an enterprise RPA tool that is all the rage these days. (Note: Please refer here for the difference between attended and unattended automation.)
With such a long operating track record (by RPA standards), it is comforting to know that Softomotive’s products and services have been trusted by more than 7,000 companies worldwide. For this review, we will focus on WinAutomation, the standalone desktop version, but do note that both WinAutomation and ProcessRobot are built upon the same technology stack. As a result, you can get a clean and smooth upgrade from WinAutomation to ProcessRobot quite effortlessly.
In fact, this is one of the major selling point for Softomotive. Based on industry feedback, many companies would like to start small in their RPA journey, beginning with a Proof of Concept or small Pilot first, before scaling when these initiatives gain traction. In such instances, WinAutomation is perfect because these companies can quickly get their automation programmes off the ground without needing to make the requisite hefty investments in an enterprise RPA platform.
The other reason why you might want to consider WInAutomation is that it is a standalone, “serverless” product. This will likely appeal to companies who are cautious about investing in the IT infrastructure needed to support an enterprise RPA rollout, or for companies where purchasing and installing the server is not an easy, ready option.
The current version of WinAutomation is V8, and this was recently released in Jun 2018. For those of you who are interested, you can request for a 30-days trial license here. Once registered, you will be able to download an executable file for the installation.
Installation is straightforward and fussy-free - just follow the installation wizard and you are all set. Administrative rights is only required for the installation process, and not for the running of the bots. In addition, if you have a license key, you can activate the software without having to go through the internet (which certain companies may require).
Upon start-up, the first window that you will see is the WinAutomation Console. This is where you manage and execute all your robotic processes, setup triggers and schedules to enable your processes to run automatically, retrieve running logs, and other configuration options.
The actual design of the robotic process itself is done in the Process Designer. Similar to many competing products, the Process Designer has been, err designed with the business users in mind, that is low or no code is required.
The Process Designer is all visual (what you see if what you get). To develop a process, all that you need to do is to drag and drop the required Actions from the Actions’ Pane on the left to the Workspace in the middle. In WinAutomation, Actions are the building blocks of your automation projects. They enable you to perform all sorts of activities ranging from extracting text from PDF documents to advanced Excel manipulations.
Macro and Web Recorder
Automation recorders are fast becoming table stakes in the RPA software market these days. Truth be told, we remain sceptical about the robustness and reliability of the bots thus developed (read RPA that is so easy, every employee can use it), but we digress.
WinAutomation has 2 different recorders. The Web Recorder is used for automating web processes such as browser automation, form filing and web scraping. The Macro Recorder, on the other hand, can be used to automate any type of desktop applications.
Unique Value Propositions
Below are some of the interesting features provided by WinAutomation:
1. Triggers and Schedules – WinAutomation allows you to run your processes automatically without your interference using triggers and schedules. Some of the use cases include triggering a process to execute when a certain type of email is received, or when a particular file is added to a watched folder. The best part is that the processes are only triggered when the event criteria is met. This is important because you do not want to consume robotic capacity unnecessarily.
2. Secure Screen – One of the perennial concerns around RPA is security. To help ensure data privacy, especially when the process is running unattended, WinAutomation has added a feature known as secure screen. With this option selected, when the process is running, the screen turns blue and no one will be able to pry into what the robot is doing. Perfect for sensitive processes such as payroll automation!
3. Concurrency – Similar to the concept of employees multitasking, WinAutomation supports the parallel execution of many processes at the same time. This is unlike most other RPA software where work is done sequentially. By using a smart queuing technology, WinAutomation enables you to optimize the robotic performance in terms of time and efficiency (and hence more bang for your bucks).
4. Robot Compiler – WinAutomation has a pretty innovative feature known as the Robot Compiler. This compiler basically allows you to convert the process that you have designed and developed into a standalone executable file. You can then distribute this .exe file to any Windows PC to run the same automated process without needing to purchase the full WinAutomation license (note: you will still need to purchase a token per PC, but this cost is substantially less than the WinAutomation license itself). This can therefore be a very cost-effective way to scale your robotic operations or if you need to run the automated process in a large number of machines, e.g. in a contact centre or a backoffice.
Show Me The Money
But perhaps the most notable aspect of WinAutomation is its licensing model.
Firstly, WinAutomation does not charge separate licenses for WinAutomation Console and Robot Designer. In other words, purchasing the WinAutomation license allows you to both develop and execute the process. Most other RPA software require you to purchase separate licenses for the development studio and the robots.
Secondly, WinAutomation licenses are perpetual and not annual subscriptions, though you are encouraged to purchase the annual software maintenance (after the first year) which will grant you access to software support, patches and version upgrades. This drastically reduced the Total Cost of Ownership (TCO) for the RPA solution over its entire lifecycle. As mentioned in the Forrester report, “WinAutomation is a good option for companies that want to start small, get an immediate ROI, and scale to ProcessRobot.”
To learn more about WinAutomation, do check out its website, in particular its video tutorial section where you can learn more about its rich features and functionalities. Unfortunately, at this point in time, WinAutomation does not offer a free online training platform such as UiPath Academy. If you need more information, do get in touch with its partners here.
Do you know of any great RPA software that is currently “off-the-radar”? Do share them in the comments below.
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