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UiPath’s latest platform upgrade to version 21.4 highlights four key angles – continuing its quest to be the biggest (not just the loudest) Big 3 RPA vendor. The updates represent a sort of holistic approach to addressing customer needs as well as aligning with the holy quad of RPA success, and are detailed further below: 1. scale and governance, 2. finding new automation opportunities, 3. user experience, and 4. cloud. If you took the brand names away and did a blind review of the narratives of UiPath, Automation Anywhere (AAI), and Blue Prism (BP), you pretty consistently get these same four things. But using a fine sieve, it shakes out as Blue Prism being the most robust “enterprise-grade,” AAI is cloud-native not “cloud-washed” virtualized SaaS, and UiPath is the best at listening to its customers.
While we can muse on the overarching similarities of the messages, we’ll give UiPath credit for consistently prioritizing the updates, improvements, and new offerings that its customers ask for. BP does this well too, but with odd, awkward silence gaps which let the market assume the worst. And while AAI’s re-architecting of its platform to cloud-native may be a great long-term business decision, no client asked for it.
UiPath and its customers present the same top-down and bottom-up view for deploying automation at scale as others. Scale also needs governance – and UiPath will have to focus on matching the BP reputation as the “enterprise-grade” vendor. UiPath’s new Automation Ops is aimed squarely at governance: It enables admins to set up targeted policies towards user groups and deploy them across an organization, as well as governance by monitoring and controlling what every user is doing. This approach seems ideal for a center of excellence (COE) and helps take some of the heartburn out of citizen developers/StudioX users.
To keep battling for the enterprise-grade tag, UiPath will need to marry innovation with scale, speed, and governance, alongside well-presented enterprise-level success stories from its customers – like Autodesk, that recently spoke at UiPath live:
“Don’t let governance lock people out – it’s about lightweight governance – even in significant processes… when you scale 100+ bots having a governance structure is critical but it’s a balance – it’s about setting the guardrails within which people can innovate and develop.”
– Prakash Kota, CIO, Autodesk
Daniel Dines, UiPath CEO and Co-Founder, was certainly most excited about the task mining element of 21.4 at UiPath Live – and the wider market talks the same game. AAI launched Process IQ in 2020 and BP offers its decidedly light process assessment tool; Kryon and NICE launched their desktop process discovery capabilities way back in 2018.
Customers increasingly show a mindset of looking for automations across the Big 3’s marketing, events, and marquee client stories. 21.4 brings process mining improvements, but also task mining into general availability: allowing users to identify, prioritize, and get a head start on the development of automations. Using both task and process mining together can be powerful (see our take on process intelligence and the power of AND) in understanding how an org works and what you can automate. 21.4 wants to further enable users to take task mining outputs and convert them into process description docs or workflow files for the citizen (or otherwise) developers to build automations within UiPath Studio.
AAI is claiming a potential target market of over a billion knowledge workers – and Microsoft continues to push the Big 3 as Power Automate RPA becoming a standard part of Windows 10. UiPath showcased new features at UiPath Live, from RPA developer goodies to end-user improvements with an upgraded interface. Users can take automations from the studio and drag and drop them onto desktops. Citizen developers can “automate entire surface areas of desktops” through Microsoft apps and beyond. Users are also able to capture complex data elements from spreadsheets. RPA developers can use new AI tools for document understanding and have the ability to make ML models from scratch looking at new document types across a variety of apps like Workato and Tableau. UiPath has also introduced IT automation activities to manage the scale-up and scale-down as required – to manage cost as well as infrastructure.
AAI has built a legitimately cloud-native automation platform (A360), and BP Cloud is also seeing adoption – but the narrative of cloud and automation has spread so rapidly through the market it’s increasingly difficult to cut through the hype; so is a cloud offering, in whatever guise, just becoming a license to play?
With customers increasingly choosing to deploy automation in the cloud, across the Big 3 (albeit at varying levels of adoption), UiPath, like its competitors, is putting more features and products into cloud – including cloud insights to measure ROI, and workflow migration as part of the 21.4 release. UiPath’s “platform philosophy” is built around choice for customers i.e., Platform-as-a-Service for quicker starts and Software-as-a-Service for choice. “Most” new UiPath customers are choosing public cloud infra or their own datacenters but percentages were not specified.
UiPath’s first quarter as a publicly-traded company saw strong performance for Q1 fiscal 2022 with 65% revenue growth and over 8,500 customers. UiPath is positioning the key tenets of its latest platform, version 21.4, to compete in all the major aspects of the Big 3 RPA vendors’ battle for the top spot: scale and governance, finding new automation opportunities, user experience, and cloud. While market changes in consumption models (e.g., managed services) and commercial approaches (e.g., free/bundled RPA) may change some of this trajectory for them all, UiPath needs to stay focused on keeping those 8,500 customers happy and helping them grow. And, ahem, some indication of progress with its Cloud Elements acquisition is necessary ASAP.