In this article, the basic structure of robotic process automation software and its components are further drilled out. An RPA tool usually consists of three different parts, which are presented in detail below:
- Development environment (studio)
- Execution environment (orchestrator / control center)
- “Software robot” with the help of which the processes are carried out on a computer or server
Each component has its own properties and is used and operated by different users in a larger installation. Corresponding rights and access are managed in order to preventively do justice to some IT security aspects. First, the studio for the development of “robot processes” is presented.
Development environment (studio)
The workflows and activities are compiled in a studio software using drag-and-drop functionality and configured accordingly. Alternatively – or in addition – (partial) processes can be carried out directly by a user and at the same time recorded with a recorder – similar to the macro recorder in VBA, as you might already know from a product from the Microsoft Office range. The developed processes can be executed and tested step by step at any time using debugging. There is also a certain scalability when automating processes: (Sub) processes in other processes can be reused as so-called “snippets”. In this way, a developer can integrate the same work steps into another process.
Although the processes are basically developed and recorded by developers based on the technical requirements, a developer does not carry them out himself in the production environment. An explicit separation of the development, UAT and live environment is clearly recommended. To fully utilize the potential of the RPA tool and to do justice to security aspects, further software components are necessary.
Live environment (orchestrator / control center & robot)
On the one hand, a control center (orchestrator / management console) can be found in the live environment. Completed processes are uploaded to this platform and approved there – with the corresponding version history. Users, rights and all processes and devices can be managed in this control center. In addition, processes can be started manually or schedules can be entered for automatic execution. Logs and general monitoring functions provide information about robot activities and help with process improvement and auditing.
The third component of RPA software consists of the “software robots” themselves. They are by no means physical robots that can be found, for example, in a production hall. To put it simply, the software mimics the mouse and keyboard commands that a user executes when executing the process. An important distinction is that there are accompanied and unaccompanied robots (attended / unattended). An accompanied robot is executed on the user’s device and usually started by the user himself. The user is specifically supported, but the robot requires input and the decisions of the user. An unaccompanied robot, on the other hand, works in the background or even on a server. The processes are started automatically based on various events or due to the scheduling options in the control center. With the unaccompanied Robotic Process Automation, the activities are carried out in the background, so the speed of execution is also higher because the elements do not have to be displayed on the user’s screen. Depending on the process, it is necessary to evaluate which type of software robot is suitable. It is also conceivable that accompanied robots are implemented in a first phase, so that users and the entire organization can get used to the new possibilities and the handling of the software robots. This procedure can promote acceptance and thus have a positive impact on change management and communication within the company.
Final thoughts and comments
There are a large number of RPA software providers on the market and the components are named differently depending on the product. In principle, however, the platforms are structured identically and have their relative strengths and weaknesses. We (with the company Routinuum) are specialized integration partners of the RPA software from UiPath. The three components are called UiPath Studio, UiPath Orchestrator and UiPath Robot. The above representation of the components enables a more precise understanding of RPA software. In the effective implementation of an RPA project, the architecture can be somewhat more detailed and depends on the requirements of the company.