Blue Prism is one of the founders of what we now call RPA. Despite customers in the Benelux having primarily been served from EMEA until recently, Blue Prism has many major customers in the region. How does Blue Prism distinguish itself in a market that has become ever more crowded in recent years? We took a deep dive.
In total, Blue Prism has more than 100 customers in the Benelux. According to Grant Goodband, Enterprise Sales Executive at Blue Prism, these customers are everything but small. He indicates Blue Prism’s customers are reputable and using its solutions broadly. Parties like Aegon and Shell in the Netherlands, and Proximus and Belfius in Belgium.
As an example, Aegon uses Blue Prism to, among other things, transfer incoming authorization requests from customers into a system. This reduces the risk of administrative errors and allows employees to focus on other things. Aegon also uses OCR to convert incoming PDFs into data. OCR extracts relevant data from an incoming customer invoice.
At the basis of RPA
It is not surprising that, despite a relatively limited presence in the Benelux region, Blue Prism has built up a strong customer base. “For example, when Aegon started applying RPA and automation in general, we were the only game in town”, Goodband points out.
Blue Prism is, as far as we can tell, the oldest RPA player. Generally, the organization is regarded as the founder of the discipline. The company was founded in 2001. UiPath (2005) and Automation Anywhere (2003) are two examples of popular automation players, both being a few years younger than Blue Prism. Kofax may be much older (1985), but didn’t get into RPA until the acquisition of Kapow Software in 2013.
As you can see from the founding years above, Blue Prism wasn’t the only option for Aegon some five or six years ago. Both Automation Anywhere and UiPath were on the market as well. However, as far as we know, these had virtually no focus on the Benelux at the time either. To illustrate, UiPath had its Benelux launch in September 2018. In this light, it’s quite understandable that customers ended up with the founder of RPA when looking at deploying such technology.
Blue Prism goes deep
Yet, there must have been other reasons why, for example, Aegon turned to Blue Prism. According to Goodband, there certainly are. He says Blue Prism simply offers more, and goes deeper when it gets complex. Furthermore, Blue Prism is very strong in financial services. Before being used more broadly, the platform was developed for this purpose. Therefore, it is quite logical that a customer such as Aegon should turn to Blue Prism.
When we hear that Blue Prism is going deeper, we immediately ask ourselves what that means for its ease of use. It’s usually one or the other. Solutions that are both user-friendly and in-depth are rare.
If we point this out to Goodband, he immediately admits that solutions such as UiPath and Power Automate from Microsoft are probably easier to use. However, in this case, there’s a downside to such simplicity. For example, Blue Prism is significantly better at exception handling. When a bot does not work as initially intended, because something has changed in the sequence of actions for example, this creates an exception. Blue Prism usually resolves this better and faster than solutions from other vendors. The same applies to debugging or finding and resolving errors in programmed processes. In other words, you sacrifice some ease of use, but get a more robust solution in return. Especially in more heavily regulated segments of the market, this is of decisive importance.
Incidentally, the emergence of a solution like Microsoft’s Power Automate is not necessarily bad for Blue Prism. The threshold for using such solutions is relatively low. This results in wide use across all kinds of markets. There too, users eventually run into more complexity in the processes that are being automated. This is when Blue Prism comes into the picture. Its market is only getting bigger.
Blue Prism Cloud makes life easier
As indicated above, these days, we don’t talk about RPA exclusively when it comes to companies like Blue Prism. It’s much more about a broader automation platform. Besides RPA, you can think of things like OCR, NLP and low-code/no-code to automate things. These technologies create a ‘spaghetti architecture’ (to use Goodband’s words), with all of the implications that come with it. Organizations risk spending more and more time thinking about, integrating and managing diverse technologies. That’s not the reason why an organization starts automating in the first place, of course. In fact, it’s even contrary to those reasons. Organizations want to spend less time on those kinds of tasks, and focus more on the results of automation.
The ‘spaghetti problem’ will not be the same for every organization. However, it can prevent you from getting the total value from an automation platform. Especially if you don’t have the people to deal with it or prefer not to use them. That, of course, is a waste of investment. Blue Prism Cloud is a solution for these types of organizations. This SaaS version of Blue Prism’s platform was designed to take care of all of these tedious tasks.
There’s also a second way in which Blue Prism Cloud makes life easier. If you get to a certain level of RPA, you irrevocably end up with more IT tasks, Goodband points out. For example, as an administrator, you have to constantly make sure that employees engaged in RPA have sufficient resources. This becomes increasingly important as you deploy RPA and related technologies more broadly. With Blue Prism Cloud, you no longer have to worry about that, Goodband says. If you (temporarily) need additional capacity, the platform scales up automatically.
Mature cloud offering
Blue Prism is not the only one with a cloud offering on the market. Goodband is certainly aware of that. Nevertheless, he claims that Blue Prism Cloud offers more than the SaaS solutions of its competitors. Blue Prism Cloud may only have been available under its current name for a few years, the underlying technology is much older. The Blue Prism Cloud we know today is built on the Thoughtonomy solution, which Blue Prism acquired in 2019. That company was founded in 2013. In a way, then, Blue Prism has been working on a SaaS platform for RPA and automation since 2013, while others have only been doing so for a few years. Therefore, the claim that Blue Prism Cloud is more mature than its competitors’ cloud offerings, is certainly defensible.
Cloud-first, but not forgetting on-prem
Blue Prism Cloud is quite popular at the moment, Goodband indicates. Many customers are opting for SaaS because it allows them to get started quickly. In the cloud, you can start within two days, while on-premises usually takes at least weeks. That is, if you want to deploy it right the first time.
However, as indicated before, Blue Prism has quite a few customers in heavily regulated sectors, such as financial services. There, the cloud is not yet universally accepted within the laws and regulations. That’s why it’s also important to mention that on-premises customers get precisely the same functionality as customers using the Blue Prism platform in the cloud. Of course, there are commercial differences between the two, that is in the way customers procure the solution and services. Also, typical cloud features such as the ability to quickly scale up and down are not available on-premises.
Towards autonomous digital employees
In a broader perspective, Blue Prism Cloud can be seen as an important part of Blue Prism’s overall vision: the ability to offer fully autonomous and self-sufficient digital employees (or robots) to customers. The organization is not quite there yet, Goodband indicates. He won’t and can’t give a clear date for when that moment will come, but Blue Prism is undoubtedly close.
An essential part of Blue Prism’s vision is the ability to unburden human employees who work with their digital colleagues. That’s what makes SaaS offerings so important for them, Goodband states. In that process, it’s also less and less about RPA. That’s not what customers and end users are interested in. They want a solution that works as it should. Only then, there is enough confidence to truly push ahead and make maximum use of the possibilities that a platform like Blue Prism can offer.