The top 5 open-source RPA frameworks—and how to choose

In many companies, the first step towards automation and artificial intelligence / machine learning is the introduction of RPA (Robot Process Automation) technology.

Many companies use RPA to improve the efficiency of costs and IT processes. In many cases, reducing errors, time, costs, and redundant actions can improve the workflow for customers and other stakeholders.

At its core, RPA helps companies automate defined, multi-level manual tasks that are carried out on a large scale. RPA does this by creating software robots that copy human actions to interact with existing application interfaces.

RPA has the potential to reduce costs by 30% to 50%. It’s a smart investment that can significantly improve the bottom line of your business. It’s very flexible and can do a wide variety of tasks including process replication and web scraping.

RPA can help predict errors and reduce or eliminate entire processes. By using intelligent automation, you can also differentiate yourself from the competition. And it can improve the digital customer experience by creating personalized services.

One way to get started with RPA is to use open source tools that do not incur upfront licensing fees. Here are five options to consider for your first RPA initiative, along with pros and cons, and tips on choosing the right tool for your business.

Why Open Source?

At Accenture, my team mainly implements RPA using commercial tools. However, we also work with open source tools and may use a combination for a specific customer. However, open source options are an easy way to dip your toe in RPA waters without making major investments in software.

Compared to commercial RPA tools, open source reduces your software licensing costs. On the other hand, it may require additional implementation costs and lead time, and you will have to rely on the open source community for support and updates. (For more information on some of the potential drawbacks, see the discussion under “With AIOps, think twice before going open source.”)

Yes, there are tradeoffs between commercial and open source RPA tools – I’ll get back to that in a moment. However, as an operational component of your RPA implementations, open source tools can improve the overall ROI of your business projects. Here is our list of competitors.

1. Task

Formerly known as sharRPA, Taskt is a free C # program built using the .NET Framework that has an easy-to-use drag-and-drop interface that lets you automate processes without coding.

My teams often work with clients who only have C # development skills, and Taskt is a good tool for C # centric teams to get started with RPA.

You can explore Taskt using the examples on GitHub. There you can also find step-by-step instructions on how to set up your task automation process. Many of our developers have strong Microsoft / Azure backgrounds and find that it is much easier to script with Taskt using C #. The tool has a Microsoft influence that benefits teams that prefer Visual Studio or Azure development environments.

Bottom line: Taskt is a great tool if your team is used to developing Microsoft C # solutions.

2. Robot framework

The large community of open source developers of the Robot Framework has made it arguably the most advanced and stable open source RPA solution on this list. There are several important advantages to using the Robot Framework:

  • A consortium of vendors supports the open source community in updating the core product.
  • Robot Framework can run on multiple platforms, making it easier for development teams to adopt and implement.
  • The core framework can be expanded with an extensive plug-in library.
  • The standard bots that replicate the automation can be customized to meet a company’s needs.

While my teams use Robot Framework a lot, the tool is complex and may not be the best choice if you’re looking to prototype your first RPA solution or if you’re new to RPA. However, seasoned RPA developers will appreciate how you can use Robot Framework to manage complex RPA tasks.

Day 3 UI

TagUI is a layered and sophisticated tool with a rich scripting language that you can use to execute complex RPA instructions. You develop each instruction set called “flows” using the TagUI scripting language and save it in a text file with a “.tag” extension. You can then run each flow from a terminal window / command prompt.

Each flow script can identify:

  • Instructions for visiting a website or opening an application
  • Where should I click on the screen?
  • What content should I enter?
  • IF and LOOP statements

The richness of TagUI’s scripting language makes it a team favorite. We can get the tool up and running quickly, scripts can be shared as .tag files to create a library, and the script library is easy to manage. TagUI is suitable for medium-sized or advanced teams that implement RPA.

4. UI.Vision (vocals)

UI.Vision (formerly known as Kantu) runs either as a standalone client on your desktop or as a plug-in in your web browser. You don’t need to learn how to write scripts as it is controlled via a point-and-click interface. This makes UI.Vision an excellent tool if you are new to RPA and have limited IT resources.

Even so, my teams rarely use UI.Vision. We use it to demonstrate the capabilities of RPA in a live demonstration. However, the tool lacks the functionality required for more complex scenarios that other tools on this list support. This is the tradeoff you get with a point-and-click interface. More complex controls require scripts and access to the terminal window, which UI.Vision does not support.

5. Open RPA

While Open RPA offers a lot of customization and automation features, the main differentiator is architecture. In short, Open RPA is a mature tool that supports and scales businesses of all sizes. It supports many of the features listed with the other tools listed above, including:

  • Remote management
  • Remote treatment of the condition
  • Integration with leading cloud providers
  • planning
  • Analysis dashboards

Open RPA is also listed here because of the many active contributors to the project in the open source community. You can expect to see updates several times a week. My team has limited knowledge of Open RPA so we can’t vouch for it, but I’ll add it to the list as an alternative solution that you might want to try.

Open source and commercial RPA tools

For many small and medium-sized businesses, upfront licensing costs are an obstacle to getting an RPA initiative off the ground. In such situations, open source may be your best bet. In larger companies, open source tools can be used to fill in gaps that commercial products may not, such as: B. the automation of Python.

RPA is an emerging technology that is still in the early stages of adoption in many organizations. This is one reason why open source and commercial tools can be used to complement each other.

Since there’s no one-size-fits-all solution here, your focus should be on the benefits and value that RPA offers and the tools that can help you unlock that value given your budget. When your initiatives are mature, your toolbox will likely contain both commercial and open source elements. However, open source is a good place to start.

Just start

Open source RPA tools offer a significant advantage: Since there are no license fees, you can use the software without having to request the budget. Note, however, that licensing is often a fraction of the total cost of running RPA tools.

In fact, in general, open source tools are often more expensive to deploy and can increase risk.

Also, to scale RPA you need people who can write the scripts and manage the environment in which your bots run. The need for skilled RPA engineers becomes increasingly important as companies understand how to automate other business areas and the demand for RPA grows.

When developing your RPA strategy, first choose a simple open source tool to quickly demonstrate the value of RPA. Then when you move from prototype to scaled deployment, you need something more sophisticated.

In addition, there is not a single RPA tool that can meet all requirements. Hence, it is good to have a mix of commercial and open source solutions with a team that is able to use the tools to meet all of your business needs.

Keep learning

April 4, 2021