Robotic process automation (RPA) is one of the fastest-growing trends in the IT industry. This next-generation of workflow management capabilities is poised to be an essential enabler for companies seeking to optimize their digitally transformed business processes for peak efficiency. For RPA vendors, one of the critical capabilities that must be developed in your solution is the integration capabilities with a wide variety of third-party systems and data sources.
Integration is a must-have feature for RPA solutions
When customers are implementing RPA solutions, they are often doing so alongside the deployment of things like IoT devices, mobile apps, SaaS solutions, embedded sensors in machinery, or other connected data sources. The purpose of RPA is to connect these independent technology components together seamlessly and to orchestrate business and operational workflows to achieve the desired outcome. The possibilities of what can be automated using RPA solutions should be limitless. However, most RPA solutions can be limited by the number and types of end-points to which they can connect.
The diversity of data sources and components and the lack of universal standards in the industry make integration and connection management a significant challenge in the RPA space. Those vendors who master the integration challenge find themselves in a much better competitive position than those who don’t.
Differentiator or Minimum Viable Product?
For many market segments in IT, integration capabilities are a differentiator – customers see the value. However, you can still sell your offering without it. That isn’t the case for RPA. Integration is an essential capability and part of the minimum viable product (MVP) for taking your RPA offering to market. If your solution can’t integrate or lacks the ability to manage integrations, your offering will not be well received.
Basic integration capabilities may be required features for all RPA offerings, but more robust capabilities can genuinely differentiate your offerings in the eyes of customers. There are three key things that customers are looking for when evaluating integration capabilities that RPA vendors should focus on
- Ability to connect to a diverse set of end-points
- Ease of establishing new connections and maintaining those long term
- Performance in processing data
The Buy vs. Build Decision
For RPA vendors, the need for integration capabilities is clear – without them, customers won’t buy your solutions. The decision that product development teams need to make is how to acquire the capabilities that customers demand – build them yourself or buy them from someone who is an expert in the space. Because of the complexity of the integration challenge, building an integration engine and enhancing it to support new end-points can be a daunting task. Many smaller RPA vendors are turning to open-source technology for integrations. Using this approach comes with many risks, the viability of the open-source solution is unknown, and the ability to access support or maintenance for these solutions may not be available in the long-term.
Larger vendors are increasingly choosing to leverage embedded integration capabilities into their solutions. Not because they can’t build it themselves, but because it helps them get products to market faster. Why spend months building something when you can use a pre-built capability and have it fully integrated in a few weeks?
Ultimately, RPA vendors must make decisions that balance engineering cost, time to market, and product differentiation when selecting what integration capabilities to include in their offerings. And how to acquire them. In most situations, leveraging an embedded integration platform like DataConnect Inside from Actian is a better and more cost-effective option than trying to develop something yourself.