Diving Into the World of Enterprise Automation Tools
Welcome! This is a series of articles based around enterprise automation tools. This first article is meant to not only give a general overview, but to also collect your feedback. We will be building an interactive scoring worksheet that will let you evaluate various enterprise automation tools against your priorities. To make sure it is as useful as possible, we want everyone to chime in with what is important to them in this space.
First, What Is Enterprise Automation?
Automation is the application of technology to streamline a process. Enterprise automation would then be automation that can work across large and complicated business ecosystems. An enterprise automation tool is then any device or technology that can help with this.
Second, Why Is Enterprise Automation Useful?
For a business, operations are like the blueprint for what keeps the company alive. And as complexity builds in an organization over time, along the way those operations tend to pick up cumbersome processes that bog the employee down in manual tasks. When more efficient ways are found to achieve the same business goal, employees save time, or it can allow for an employee with fewer skills to do the same task. Either way, this results in freeing up the business to have its resources better allocated. A business that has efficiently allocated employees is one that will be able to increase its profits, lower its costs and ensure its survival while maximizing its growth potential.
Some Automation-Related Terms to Know:
- RPA = Robotic Process Automation. This is a software-based technology that utilizes scripts (or “bots”) to emulate human execution of some business task. Some examples include customer service routing of customers, credit applications, customer order processing tools, data transfer from one system to another, and more. Robotic Process Automation is generally more task-oriented and involves completely removing human input from the bulk of the tasks, saving humans for more complex tasks or outliers.
- BPA = Business Process Automation. This is a software-based technology that streamlines complex, multi-step business processes from end-to-end. Some examples might include automating the onboarding and offboarding processes of employees, the product fulfillment processes, supply chain management, and more. A key difference here is that this involves helping out across a single, complicated process in multiple ways, without losing context, and without necessarily removing all human input.
- iPaaS = Integration Platform as a Service. This is a cloud-based application that addresses data, process, service-oriented architecture, and application integration. Technically, an iPaaS doesn’t need to involve automation (it could just involve the integration of data, for example, to simplify things), but many iPaaS tools do tackle automation. Although, some iPaaS tools do it as a secondary activity or an after-thought, and not as their primary focus.
Some Tools We Might Be Evaluating
To start this series, we identified a handful of platforms that offer the tools required for enterprise automation. Each of these products provide the key capabilities needed to successfully automate enterprise workflows. These tools were selected because they are all highly-rated and are a mixture of everything from large tech enterprises to upcoming tech unicorns. The other goal in selecting the initial list was to avoid platforms whose tools only offered limited or simple integrations. Since the goal of the study is focused around determining the best enterprise automation tools for you and your specific circumstances, the platforms need the capability to work in a wide variety of business processes.
The list below shows the platforms we initially identified for our full study. They each offer deep integration with both on-premises and cloud services and allow the creation of custom integrations for applications without only pre-built connectors. The list is in no particular order and does not represent a ranking for their offering. Below each platform is a list of key features that each company highlights.
- Highlights: Low-code / no-code platform, auto-scales, sync data at any speed, securely connect to cloud and on-prem solutions, modern RPA, enterprise workflow automation.
- Reviews: Super easy integrations, great support, best blend of simplicity and robust capability, intuitive platform.
- Informatica Intelligent Data Management Cloud by Informatica
- Highlights: cloud-native & AI-powered, broad ecosystem support, industry-leading security and scale, most comprehensive integration platform, low-code / no-code experience.
- Reviews: Able to integrate just about anything, scalable solutions / handles a large volume of data flawlessly, has a promising roadmap.
- Anypoint Platform and Mulesoft Composer by Mulesoft
- Highlights: full API lifecycle management and API integration in one product; allows for you to build and deploy to on-premises, hybrid, or cloud environments; has no-code, low-code, and code options.
- Reviews: Mulesoft Composer has been out for more than one year at the time of this writing and has little feedback. The Anypoint Platform is very focused on APIs and is a leader in that space. However, Mulesoft was also recently bought by Salesforce and some think that the resulting price increases haven’t been in alignment with any extra value being delivered.
- Boomi AtomSphere Platform by Boomi
- Highlights: Distributed architecture, low-code, pervasive Intelligence, unified platform, enterprise-grade security.
- Reviews: Completely integrated package, wide range of connectors, ease of use, supports very complex integration use cases.
- Highlights: Jitterbit focuses on API, EDI, iPaaS, and app building while most of its customers tend to be mid-market in size. One differentiator is that they do offer professional services as well, in case you want professional assistance with any of their offerings.
- Power Platform by Microsoft
- Highlights: Build end-to-end business solutions; utilizes low-code, drag-and-drop tools; connects to hundreds of data sources; enhances workflows with AI.
- Reviews: Great tool to automate monotonous tasks, allows anyone to start automating very quickly, easy built-in connectors and actions, great monitoring and tracking capabilities.
- SAP Integration Suite by SAP
- Highlights: Connect and automate your business processes, smoothly integrate on-premises and cloud-based application and processes, thousands of pre-built integrations and connectors
- Reviews: Great mapping capabilities and out-of-the-box connections, great support from SAP, significant reductions in delivery times, supports high-volume interfaces
The goal for this first article in our series is not to rank these platforms, but to provide a starting point for our evaluation. We are actively seeking feedback on what platforms we should include in our full enterprise automation study and want you to share your insights as well. What we are looking for in recommendations are products that can provide full scale enterprise automation solutions and the criteria that should be used to rank them. These products should offer vast integration capability while still ensuring high availability, scalability, and security. The next section will discuss some of the initial criteria that will be used to evaluate the products during our full study.
The Criteria and Scoring of These Enterprise Automation Tools
Our goal is to put together an interactive scorecard that any of you can use to evaluate an enterprise automation tool. Not only that, we want you to be able to confidently know which tool best suits your situation and what you value. With that being said, this initial post is only meant to lightly cover the criteria that will be used to score all of the tools. We want feedback from readers, vendors, and those with automation experience to help us craft this scorecard as well. So, please, leave feedback! It’ll benefit everyone in the end.
Here’s a look into what we believe this process will look like:
First, this means putting together a long list of features and other related considerations, such as pricing, customer service levels, or technical skills required.
Next, we will ask for reader feedback, do our own research, and compare to user feedback to assign a value between 1 and 5 for each item. These values are meant to determine the relative level of importance for each item on the list, purely from an enterprise automation tool perspective.
Then, depending on whether we are evaluating a feature or non-feature, we will multiply the first value by a second value.
- The second value for features will be determined by:
- 1 = Cannot do in the tool
- 2 = Can do in the tool, but it requires a manual workaround
- 3 = Can do in the tool without a workaround, but it’s not easy to use
- 4 = Can do it in the tool and it is user-friendly
- 5 = Can do it in the tool and it is user-friendly and works fast and at scale
- And, non-features, such as pricing, we will rank it as follows:
- 1 = Mostly negative feedback found
- 2 = Below average / lots of negative feedback found
- 3 = Average / Cannot find data / Not applicable
- 4 = Top-quartile / mostly favorable
- 5 = Industry-leader / only good things are heard about this
For the non-features, there will be some level of subjectivity here, but we will make a real effort to maintain consistency across the enterprise automation tools we evaluate. This is also where we will look to reader feedback for how best to tackle some of the inevitable issues that will arise.
We are also looking to you, readers and users, to provide feedback for which things you find most valuable for enterprise automation tools. We’ve already begun compiling a scorecard behind the scenes and will be turning this into a usable file for you. But, we want to hear from you and outside vendors regarding what we should or should not be considering and to what extent.
Some of the main areas we will be looking into, in no particular order:
- Process management capabilities
- API management
- Data integration and transformation
But, again, we will be looking heavily to readers and current users for how in-depth we go here. Many of those above points could be split into further sub-points, for instance. We pass the ball back to you here, because we want you to get the most value possible from our research and expertise in the world of enterprise automation tools.
To Wrap Things Up...
This scorecard and series of articles will give readers a deeper knowledge of what enterprise software can do and an evaluation of each enterprise platform according to the key areas that have been defined. If there are additional features or aspects of the software that readers would like to learn more about, reader feedback is welcomed to help shape the analysis of future articles. The next report will include a completed list of criteria, why they are important, how they’re weighted, and more. We look forward to partnering with our readers to create a report and an interactive tool that will be both educational and give practical guidance on the enterprise platform selection process.