The best RPA tools for small and large businesses

RPA tools can save businesses, both large and small, time and money by automating repetitive tasks that humans just don’t like doing. Unfortunately, RPA is not as simple as flicking a switch and having the process automated. If you have never worked with RPA tools before, you will need to learn a few things in order to pick the right tool for you and your business.

There are many tools to choose from, including those designed to serve mammoth enterprise companies, often subject to hefty license fees. Then there are the RPA tools targeted for SMEs, featuring low-code and no-code options, and even RPA tools with AI capabilities. By the end of this article, you should have a clear picture of which tool is right for you.

# What is RPA?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a technology that automates mundane tasks humans typically perform on computers, like form filling and repetitive clicking. It involves programming software robots, or "bots," to mimic human interactions with software, thereby handling tasks such as entering data, processing transactions, or generating reports. RPA saves time, reduces the likelihood of errors, and frees employees to focus on more creative and strategic tasks. While RPA is extensively used in large enterprises to enhance efficiency, its adoption in small businesses and SMEs, as well as in less tech-heavy industries, is less widespread.

# How can RPA help my business?

RPA can significantly boost your business by automating routine and repetitive tasks, allowing employees to focus on more complex and strategic activities. This shift can lead to increased productivity as bots work faster and can operate around the clock. Additionally, RPA improves accuracy by minimizing human errors in tasks like data entry, ultimately enhancing the quality of work and reducing the likelihood of costly mistakes. Implementing RPA also leads to cost savings by lowering the need for manual labor and reducing operational costs. Overall, RPA can streamline processes, increase efficiency, and offer a quick return on investment, making it a valuable tool for businesses looking to optimize operations.

# How expensive are RPA tools?

The cost of RPA software tools can vary widely based on the scale of implementation, the complexity of the tasks, and the specific needs of a business. RPA costs can range from $10,000 to millions for enterprise customers once you factor in consultancy and license fees. Not hampered by the enterprise selection processes, enjoy a broader choice and more competitive pricing. This includes RPA agencies offering full services at a cost, open-source RPA products free from license fees (though development fees may apply), and self-serve RPA tools like Axiom.ai (opens new window), which start at as little as $15 per month. This diversity ensures the tools servicing the small business sector are innovative and constantly evolving to meet customer needs.

# Do I need to be an expert to use RPA?

If you choose the right tool, you will not need to be an expert to implement RPA technology to automate your business. Enterprise RPA vendors such as UiPath and Automation Anywhere allow you to run and manage your own bots; however, building complex automations will likely require hiring an agency with trained RPA engineers. For open-source tools like Robocorp, you would also need to hire an RPA engineer to implement any bots in your business. On the other hand, tools like Axiom.ai (opens new window) are self-serve platforms designed to enable you to create your own bots to automate browser tasks. While there is a learning curve—since the browser can be a challenging environment for creating automations—you do not need to be a coder to use these tools.

# In the Age of AI, is RPA still relevant?

AI is buzzing, but Robotic Process Automation (RPA) remains highly relevant and plays a crucial role in automation strategies. While AI introduces advanced capabilities like natural language processing, RPA excels at automating software interactions. What is truly exciting is the integration of AI with RPA, referred to as Intelligent Automation in enterprise settings. AI enhances RPA's capabilities by enabling it to handle more sophisticated tasks that involve unstructured data and adaptive responses. This merging of technologies allows businesses to automate an even broader spectrum of processes, increasing efficiency and innovation.

# Types of RPA tools on the market

It will come as no surprise that there is an RPA tool to suit any type of business. From long-tail businesses looking to automate and empower themselves to mammoth enterprise companies looking to save time on millions of processes, there are probably three core categories to consider: self-serve, open-source, and enterprise.

# Self-serve RPA tools

Self-serve RPA tools that require no licensing fees can be a cost-effective option for businesses looking to automate simple processes without a significant initial investment. These tools are typically open-source or offer a freemium model where basic functionalities are free, and users only pay for premium features. Examples include:

  1. Microsoft Power Automate (opens new window) - Focusing on integrating and automating workflows across Microsoft applications, it's a powerful tool for businesses.
rpa tool power automate
  1. Axiom.ai (opens new window) - A no-code tool for anyone to create browser automations. Aimed at users who want to implement their own solutions. Charges based on runtime. Free to try.
rpa tool axiom.ai
  1. AutoHotkey (opens new window) - Although not a traditional RPA tool, AutoHotkey allows for scripting and automation of the Windows GUI and can be used for simple automation tasks without any cost.
rpa tool auto hotkey

These tools typically offer community support and documentation, enabling businesses to start automating with minimal assistance. However, for advanced features, enterprise-level security, and dedicated support, investing in a paid license might be necessary as your needs evolve.

# Open Source Tools

Open-source RPA tools empower businesses with the flexibility of customization and the benefit of avoiding licensing fees. This makes them a popular choice for businesses that can develop solutions in-house, putting them in control of their automation technology. Here are several notable open-source RPA tools:

  1. Robocorp (opens new window) - A new entrant in the RPA market, Robocorp utilizes an open-source stack and is built on Python.
rpa tool robocorp
  1. Taskt (formerly sharpRPA) (opens new window) - Taskt is built using C# and provides a user-friendly platform to automate Windows-based tasks. It's geared towards developers with a technical background.
rpa tool Taskt
  1. TagUI (opens new window) - Designed to be a straightforward tool for automating web interactions and desktop applications. It uses simple syntax for scripting, which can be easily learned by those new to programming.
rpa tool tgaui
  1. OpenRPA (opens new window) - An open-source RPA tool that offers a comprehensive suite for automation. OpenRPA is designed to be user-friendly, making it accessible for both technical and non-technical users.
rpa tool OpenRPA

These tools generally have active communities and provide documentation to help users get started with automation. They are particularly suitable for organizations that have some technical expertise in-house and are looking to reduce costs.

# Enterprise RPA Tools

Enterprise Robotic Process Automation (RPA) tools support large-scale implementations, offering robust features that cater to complex automation needs, high levels of security, scalability, and comprehensive customer support. Here are some of the leading enterprise RPA tools:

  1. UiPath (opens new window) - One of the most popular RPA solutions, UiPath offers a highly intuitive and visual approach to building automation workflows. It supports a wide range of process complexity and integrates seamlessly with numerous enterprise systems.
rpa tool UIpath
  1. BluePrism (opens new window) - Known for its strong enterprise-grade features, Blue Prism emphasizes security and compliance, making it a preferred choice for industries like banking and finance. It provides a model that is scalable and capable of handling a high volume of processes simultaneously.
rpa tool Blurprism
  1. Automation Anywhere (opens new window) - This tool combines traditional RPA with cognitive elements like natural language processing and reading unstructured data. Automation Anywhere is user-friendly for non-developers and robust enough for complex enterprise tasks.
rpa tool Autoamtion Anywhere

These enterprise RPA tools provide not only the technology to automate tasks but also the analytical tools to monitor and optimize the performance of bots. They are typically backed by strong vendor support and a vast partner ecosystem to ensure successful deployment and operation.

# Wrapping up: Choosing the Right RPA Tool for Your Business

When choosing your solution, ignoring any specific feature requirements, there are three key considerations: cost, implementation, and security.

# Cost

If you are a small business looking to implement RPA, enterprise solutions are likely not for you. While they offer excellent tools, the licensing fees and developer costs can be prohibitive. Small businesses with technical skills should look at self-serve tools or possibly explore open-source options. However, if you are a large-scale business looking to automate processes worth millions, enterprise solutions are most likely a good fit. That said, self-serve or RPA tools may be worth considering for smaller processes or for prototyping MVPs to quickly assess the impact of automation.

# Implementation

When it comes to implementation, if you are a citizen automator or enjoy tinkering with tools such as Zapier and e-commerce platforms, the self-serve market is a good fit. You can create bots and implement the solutions yourself without needing to code. However, if you lack technical skills, you may want to consider hiring a bot builder to create the automations for you. If you're a large company looking for a comprehensive review of your processes, implementation, and ongoing management of automations, then enterprise or open source solutions are ideal.

# Security

Security is perhaps the most important consideration, especially if customer data is part of the processes you wish to automate. Self-serve tools will most likely not come with the certifications that enterprise solutions offer. Security may even be a blocker for large companies using self-serve tools or open-source options. However, enterprise-grade security comes at a higher cost. When choosing a tool and considering your security needs, it’s essential to think about the data involved in the processes. If sensitive data is involved, you must select a secure tool. The good news is that security can be just as robust on self-serve, open-source, and enterprise platforms. For example, self-serve solutions and open-source options can be installed on your own computers, and with the right setup, processing data on your own network can meet the most stringent security requirements.

If you have not tried RPA before and are looking to create an MVP, self-serve tools can be a great way to get started without investing too much money and time, suitable for both large and small businesses.

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