By David Brain
The core of enterprise-level RPA integration is connecting with the various third-party applications in a business’s digital infrastructure. In our previous blog, we mentioned how screen scraping enables the automation of almost any software. However, RPA tools offer more specific features that increase integration speed and reliability. In this blog, we will shed light on some of the most common business integrations in RPA, which can bolster your business’s efforts to create a more capable automation.
Microsoft Excel and Microsoft Access
Microsoft Excel and Access are another set of applications that are often automated. Since they are widely-used, they are often well-integrated in RPA tools, through built-in connectors and commands. What sets the RPA vendors apart from each other are the specific connectors that they employ. Connectors come in the form of actions or objects that allow developers to easily access application functions. For example, they can operate the opening/closing and input/extraction of Excel data. Enterprise-level RPA connectors are intuitive and simple, requiring minimal configuration to get started.
RPA tools are typically well-integrated with internet explorer because it runs on the Microsoft framework. This means that most of its functionalities can be automated without the need for extra extensions. Actions like text/data input and extraction are possible because RPA tools can parse the underlying structure of a webpage. In fact, browser-based automation is mostly based on identifying and interacting with HTML elements, which will be covered in the next blog.
Mainframe system integration is a complex challenge or RPA tools. They are historically difficult to integrate with because most of them still use advanced, rule-based logic that is protected through the user interface. Thus, many RPA tools make use of mainframe emulators to establish a connection. Enterprise-level RPA tools must not only be able to integrate with a diverse range of these systems, which use different protocols and application bases, but also provide intuitive methods for automating them. Basic integration features are based on positional coordinates in the terminal, like screen scraping. Whereas, RPA tools with more powerful integration features offer specialized terminal recording, which is a quicker, straightforward way to create a fully-fledged mainframe automation. The overall efficacy of the automation will depend on the speed and accuracy that the RPA tool brings to the table.
RDP and Citrix
RPA tools have come up with different takes on automating over Remote Desktop Protocols (RDP) and Citrix servers, which are thin client applications. Some involve installing software on the Citrix / RDP server side of the connection, which allows direct interfacing but involves a more complex set-up. Others use surface automation techniques, like screen scraping, which tends to be slower but requires minimal set-up. The speed advantage certainly goes to the former integration method, but some enterprise-level screen-scraping speeds can be on par.
Being able to integrate well with each of the applications listed above is a hefty task or a single piece of software. So, it isn’t surprising that many RPA tools have strengths and weaknesses depending on the type of integration. We recommend that your business carefully examines its most important integrations, or that you seek a implementation partner like Symphony to ensure a successful RPA strategy. For more information on RPA integrations, and other topics like usability or architecture, check out the rest of our blog series.
This is part 11 of a 22 part blog series by the leading experts at Symphony Ventures. It addresses how to choose the right RPA tools for your business needs. Drawing from our global team’s extensive knowledge in automation consulting, implementation, and managed services across a range of diverse industries, we’ve drilled into the technical criteria to consider when selecting which RPA software best enables your company’s digital operation strategy. Read part 10, Why Screen Scraping is Essential to the RPA Toolkit.