On the Radar: UiPath

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UiPath, founded in 2006, plays in the very fast-growing Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology market – and has a clear strategy to configure its business in a way that enables it to scale as quickly as possible.

Who?

UiPath is an emerging specialist Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software tools vendor. The company’s core team is based in Bucharest, Romania, and the company has sales offices in London and San Francisco.

What does it do?

UiPath offers a portfolio of RPA technologies called the UiPath RPA suite that can be deployed in a number of configurations to support automation use cases at varying levels of scale and sophistication. Broadly speaking, the UiPath RPA suite – like other RPA offerings – is designed to automate data entry, data gathering and other rule-based tasks usually carried out as part of high-volume, repetitive service fulfilment work in call centres, shared-service centres, and back-office workflows.

The main components of the UiPath RPA suite are as follows:

  • UiPath Studio (see figure below). This Windows-based, graphical development tool is used to define processes that robots will execute, and will be familiar to any user of Microsoft Visual Studio. To specify the behaviour of robots you can use either a drag-and-drop design approach (leveraging Microsoft’s own notation for Windows Workflow Foundation, on which UiPath technology is built); or you can have Studio capture and record actions you perform using Windows, Citrix-delivered or web-based applications – in which case Studio will automatically generate flow specifications from the actions it captures. You can specify decision-points and branches in your process flows, so robot behaviour can be tuned to the context they’re operating in (for example, based on the data they’re taking as input, on other system conditions or on the data they pull from systems they’re operating). You have the opportunity to create reusable templates (for standardising the automation of common actions, such as logging into a particular system or retrieving a customer’s details from a particular system) and share those with others; and if you wish, you can integrate UiPath Studio with Microsoft’s Team Foundation Server (TFS) – in which case TFS will manage collaborative working in your team, version control of process definitions, and so on.
  • UiPath Robots. Robots mimic the actions of application users, according to process flows defined in the UiPath Studio. Robots execute process steps using the Windows Workflow Foundation technology that’s delivered as an integral part of its .NET framework. Robots execute automated actions across Windows desktop applications, in web-based applications and in applications delivered via Citrix virtual desktop environments. With some additional integration work, robots can also drive mainframe terminal emulation windows delivered using technology from vendors like Attachmate, Micro Focus and Rocket Software. Robots can also read data from and write data to Microsoft Office documents, and can also send and receive email messages and run Microsoft PowerShell scripts to automate systems tasks. There are two types of UiPath Robots:
    • Front Office Robots are triggered by human users, and support the work of people by (for example) scraping information from multiple systems and presenting them to users on one single form or window; or taking data entered by a user and entering it into multiple systems automatically.
    • Back Office Robots run unattended, and are instead triggered by the presence of work in pre-defined queues (which are configured within the UiPath Orchestrator defined below) or via their REST APIs.
  • UiPath Orchestrator. The Orchestrator is a server platform that takes operational management responsibility for robots as well as for the deployment of processes, configuration of work queues and other runtime environment aspects. When managing Front Office Robots, Orchestrator’s role is principally about deployment of automated workflows and logging. When managing Back Office Robots, Orchestrator’s role is much expanded – being responsible for managing the remote execution of robots, monitoring and scheduling of tasks, operation of the work queues that robots ‘listen’ to and take work from and configuration of robots in operation (configuration items such as login details, which will alter depending on the process definitions that robots are executing).

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