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To build or to buy – getting the most from Robotic Process Automation

Robotic Process Automation

To build or to buy – getting the most from Robotic Process Automation

By: Lisa Logan  | February 24, 2020

Home > Blog > To build or to buy – getting the most from Robotic Process Automation

What do you need?

Over the last few years, there has been an exponential increase in the number of companies adopting robotic process automation (RPA). If you want to get the most out of this new technology, there are several decisions to make. One of the most important is to decide between a custom solution or licensed off-the-shelf RPA bots. Finding the right answer requires you to examine your business requirements and the role technology plays in supporting your business. Do you build or buy?

If you want to learn more about RPA – read this first.

To customize or not to customize

Custom RPA solutions allow you get the most value by delivering only the features you need, and none that you don’t. Since off-the-shelf RPA bots address the common needs of most companies, custom RPA is better suited to meet your specific needs. Many bots offer features that don't apply to your business and most off-the-shelf bots will not allow you to modify their functionality in a meaningful way. Ask yourself the question – am I better served by trying to alter my own workflow to work within the constraints of the off-the-shelf solution or have one built that does exactly what I want it to?

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What do you need to automate?

What you’re trying to automate has a strong bearing on whether off-the-shelf RPA bots will serve your needs. When you plan your RPA journey, you want to look for the highest-volume processes and the ones that would have the biggest impact on your bottom line. Evaluate your processes and analyze whether custom is the right choice. Consider your business requirements and the needs of each department in your company- the best processes to automate and the ones that will give you the biggest ROI are often the processes that span your entire organization. Each process you want to automate will need to be evaluated on an individual basis. If you discover that your business processes and needs are so unique that it will be too costly or ineffective to use off-the-shelf RPA, then a custom solution is the better choice.

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These 3 factors strongly influence the efficacy of off-the-shelf bots:

1. Fit vs Need

Off-the-shelf bots are built with specific workflows in mind. For example, there are many off the shelf bots built to scrape emails and input data into systems. What you need to assess is: are off-the-shelf bots suited to the processes I am trying to automate? There are thousands of use cases for off-the-shelf bots, but the more variables and systems involved in the workflow you’re trying to automate – the stronger the case for a custom solution becomes.

2. Complexity

Depending on the complexity of the processes you want to automate, off-the-shelf RPA might not work for your specific workflow. Off-the-shelf RPA typically covers the general requirements of mass users and therefore include large areas of functionality that you will never use and are often very narrow in what they do. Custom RPA is tailored to fit your needs and can be built with your existing software in mind.

3. Cost

While considering all the expenses, it is important to consider the total cost of ownership and development. Though custom RPA may have higher startup costs, it will have lower operating costs and no ongoing licensing fees. On the contrary, off-the-shelf RPA will have lower upfront costs but you will end up paying higher fees for development as you add more features and typically must commit to an annual licensing fee. Additionally, when you scale, licensing costs also scale.

How can custom RPA help you accomplish your goals?

Secure your competitive advantage.

Your unique competitive advantage is heavily influenced by your business processes. Off-the-shelf RPA bots allow you to improve the way you work, but they offer your competitors the same advantages. With RPA built to improve your unique processes, you can double down on your competitive advantage, enabling you to do what you already do better than everyone else, even better. Whether that’s reducing costs to allow you to compete on price or freeing up your staff to work on higher value tasks, custom RPA can provide you with a unique opportunity to elevate the way you work and the services you provide.

Ensure your processes won’t be negatively impacted by changes to your off-the-shelf solution.

Off-the-shelf software gets updated and you don’t get a say when and how. If you’re using RPA to link together legacy systems and critical software or workflows stop being supported, there’s very little you can do about it. Custom RPA provides you with a solution that functions exactly how you want to it, for as long as you need it to.

Make sure you’re prepared to scale.

Custom RPA solutions are built to suit your needs, and that means planning for future growth. Are you anticipating business growth? A solution can easily be made to support that growth. Being able to rapidly adapt to changing business conditions can be the difference between market dominance and stagnation.

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Custom RPA in Action

Save cost – Using RPA to automate the process of creating and distributing compliance documentation, fivestar* reduced our client's review times from weeks to days and print output by 99%. This automated process saved over $1,000,000 per year.

Save time – Using RPA, fivestar* reduced the time required for our own project billing analysis from 40 hours to 1 hour. RPA enabled our management team to optimize resources across all departments.

Improve service – Using RPA to automate a complex ecosystem of integrations and data, fivestar* created a single platform that serves the needs of all stakeholders – reducing licensing and data management costs.

Increase productivity – Using RPA as a component of developing a client’s proprietary learning management system, fivestar* dramatically reduced manager time assigning training to employees and automated key reports.

The ROI of custom RPA

The case studies we’ve identified above show clear paths to ROI for custom RPA. The core of a successful custom RPA solution is ensuring you select the most effective and impactful processes to automate. The RPA market is expanding quickly, this has led to competitive pricing. But for a technology that has demonstrated ROI so clearly, competitive doesn’t mean cheap. Implementing a single bot for a single process can cost as much as $15,000 annually in licensing fees. When you want to scale that process, additional costs can apply. Custom RPA solutions help you avoid ongoing licensing costs by creating a solution that you own outright and giving you a clear picture of your long-term ROI without concern for fluctuations in licensing costs. Custom RPA solutions add to the ROI of RPA by removing long-term costs and providing increasing ROI the longer the process remains in place.

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Choosing custom RPA over an off-the-shelf solution has tangible benefits. It can give you a competitive advantage and boost your bottom line. Getting the most out of your RPA means working with someone who will take the time to understand every aspect of the process they’re automating. If you have a business challenge but are unsure of whether it can be solved through custom or off-the-shelf RPA, fivestar*can help you analyze your processes and make the right decision about the next step. Our goal is to be your long-term partner – we build solutions that will go the distance.


About the Author: Lisa Logan

Lisa Logan is a Marketing Specialist at fivestar*. Since the beginning of her career, Lisa has amassed experience in marketing communications with a focus on strategy and drive for results. She holds a Bachelors of Communications from McMaster University and in her spare time loves to travel the world and spend time with her family.

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