Delivering on the 2020 Vision
At it’s annual Forward III conference in October 2019, UiPath announced a major expansion of its RPA platform to create the first-ever, end-to-end automation lifecycle management solution. Groundbreaking!
UiPath followed up in November 2019 with the release of its 2019.10 long-term support (LTS) Enterprise Edition, as well as a product rollout schedule for the announced platform expansion. There is much to unpack, and tremendous customer and partner excitement. Let’s dive right into what’s new!
What We’re Most Excited About
We’ll focus on five new and exciting capabilities in the UiPath platform expansion:
- Understand and improve business processes
- Accelerate time-to-value and improve delivery quality
- Make AI real with cognitive capabilities
- Beyond Azure – integrate with Microsoft products and services
- Measure and improve business outcomes
There is so much more – UiPath announced 900 new features and 3,000 bug fixes, among other things. In this post, we’re only scratching the surface!
Understand and Improve Business Processes
C-level executives focus on achieving business outcomes that align with strategic corporate goals. To enable these business outcomes requires a scientific and data-driven approach to understanding current business processes, as well as associated challenges and pain points, before assessing automation potential and prioritizing use cases for RPA.
Enter UiPath’s Explorer family of products, and UiPath Enterprise Connect Hub. Together, these new products provide end-to-end capabilities for:
- Process analysis
- Process understanding
- Process documentation
- Process assessment
- Process design
- Business outcomes (together with UiPath Insights and/or other reporting and analytics capabilities)
- Process improvement
Explorer Enterprise and Process Gold create data-driven visual process maps of front-end and back-end tasks, respectively. What we like most is the process maps include business exceptions, and therefore potential for improvement! Often, while business users are aware of process challenges and pain points, what’s lacking is the visual representation and the data to measure the impact, both drivers to assess and enable process improvements.
Documentation of both current state and future state business processes is possible with Explorer Expert, and the output is a process design document (PDD) ready to be shared with business analysts and development teams to create a functional and technical design for RPA. RPA developers use the PDD and other documents to design and script the workflows in UiPath Studio.
We’ll discuss later in this post how UiPath Insights measures business outcomes and provides invaluable business and operational reporting and analytics to illustrate how RPA is performing and delivering value. Insights is integral to the end-to-end automation platform because it “closes the loop” with the business process capabilities and enables customers to continuously identify problem areas that are opportunities for improvement.
Finally, Connect Enterprise Hub, as the product name implies, “connects” the automation pipeline, process documentation, and reusable components in one easy-to-use, cloud-based solution.
Accelerate Time-to-Value and Improve Delivery Quality
Once our customers understand the benefits of an RPA solution, the first question is usually: “How do I start?” Followed by, “How soon can I expect to realize initial benefits?”
We’ve always been big fans of UiPath Studio, the low-code / no-code development tool, however to deliver automations faster and with better quality, Studio required a major upgrade. UiPath delivered! We’re excited about the capabilities to scale and accelerate RPA solutions with more complex, longer workflows, improved attended robot operations, and the ability for larger RPA development teams to collaborate, standardize and re-use workflows, activities and tasks.
UiPath’s platform expansion enables the design and implementation of advanced workflows:
- Processes from previous workflows can be chained to save time and reduce errors (and debugging) through re-use.
- Large, complex workflows benefit from improved team development capabilities (through new source code controls).
- Analyzing and validating workflows against existing projects and workflows, as well as configured rules, simplifies checking for errors and enforcing best practices.
- Searching for project files now includes fuzzy search and non-greedy search.
- Property defaults for project activities can be centrally managed on a per-project basis, and overridden at the activity-level if necessary.
UiPath has improved the debugging experience to improve testing and remediation to deliver better quality RPA solutions. Very much based on an agile, test-driven development approach, UiPath Studio encourages continuous debugging of workflows. Several functions have been combined and improved to expose the necessary information during test execution, as well as enable root-cause analysis and remediation of exceptions.
Make AI Real with Cognitive Capabilities
We believe that RPA is on the journey to intelligent automation, so making AI real with improved cognitive capabilities is very exciting. Possibly the most exciting set of capabilities in UiPath’s platform expansion. In fact, when we visited UiPath’s Forward II annual conference in October 2018, there was more hype than reality about combining RPA with AI. Only one year later, during the Forward III conference, UiPath announced and demonstrated AI Fabric, integration with cognitive capabilities from its partner ecosystem, and AI-based applications on its UiPath Go! Marketplace.
UiPath is introducing cognitive capabilities to improve the following:
- Visual understanding
- Document understanding
- Process understanding
- Conversational understanding
We’re excited most because UiPath mitigates several RPA challenges and pain points, including robots being able to recognize user interface (UI) elements, extract data from PDF documents, manage business exceptions in workflows, and interpret business intent in virtual assistant conversations.
We would like to cite two computer vision examples to illustrate the benefits:
- Computer vision will significantly improve accuracy of reading and extracting data from documents, when compared to optical character recognition (OCR) technologies.
- Computer vision will improve speed and accuracy of identifying UI elements on a webpage, when compared with scripted selection of the UI elements.
- In both scenarios, computer vision should be able to accommodate minor changes in document layout or UI element placement, respectively.
Beyond Azure – Integrate with Microsoft Products and Services
UiPath has developed an impressive technology alliance ecosystem with 120+ technology partners. Microsoft is among a handful of UiPath’s strategic partners, and with the platform expansion, the benefits of that partnership are becoming apparent. UiPath now offers RPA customers much improved integration with Microsoft products and services, beyond the Microsoft cloud platform. We’re excited that UiPath continues to grow and expand its “open partner ecosystem” to leverage existing, proven, market-leading products and services from third-parties through native integrations or connectors.
Existing and upcoming Microsoft integrations include:
- Modern Workplace
- Outlook, Excel, Word
- SharePoint, OneDrive, Excel Online, Outlook Online
- Coming (2020): Microsoft Teams, Cortana Enterprise
- Business Apps
- Dynamics 365 (UI automation and native integration)
- Common Data Services
- Coming (2020): PowerApps and Flow integration
- Apps and Infrastructure
- Coming (2020): Azure Windows VDI
- Coming (2020): IT Automation (Azure Operations, Active Directory, Exchange)
- Data and AI
- SQL and SQL Azure
- Azure Cognitive Services (see also above “Make AI Real”), including Computer Vision and Facial Recognition
- Bot Framework integration (Druidsoft and Avaamo)
- PowerBI templates
- Coming (2020): more cognitive services (Microsoft Read, Form Recognizer), embedded document understanding
Customers will appreciate the improved Microsoft integrations for several reasons:
- Leverage existing investment in Microsoft infrastructure, products and services
- Faster time-to-value for customers already using Microsoft products and services
- Improved RPA adoption because of “known” and “accepted” Microsoft products and services
- Future-proof RPA investment through continued Microsoft product development, upgrades, and compatibility
- Access to Microsoft AI initiatives
Measure and Improve Business Outcomes
As mentioned earlier in this post, C-level executives focus on achieving business outcomes that align with strategic corporate goals. UiPath Insights with powerful embedded analytics measures, reports, and aligns RPA operations with specific KPIs and business outcomes. Customers will be able to answer questions, such as: How successful are our automations? How can we measure and improve their performance? How exactly is our automation strategy impacting the company’s bottom line? In fact, customers should be able to calculate their return on investment (ROI) from RPA! Now that’s exciting for the CFO, COO and CTO!
Of course, customers are able to leverage their existing analytics environment (e.g., Kibana / Elasticsearch, Microsoft PowerBI / SQL, etc.), deploy Insights standalone, or combine Insights with an existing analytics solution.
UiPath Insights incorporates a number of exciting features:
- Visibility to business and operational metrics in a single, intuitive, configurable user interface.
- Benchmarks RPA operations, including business outcomes, utilizing custom fields to store benchmark data.
- Schedule and share dashboards and reports with key stakeholders based on user group permissions.
- Utilize machine learning (ML) to forecast critical KPI’s and identify potential problem areas and bottlenecks.