VBA stands for Visual Basic for Applications. It is a combination of the Microsoft’s event-driven programming language Visual Basic with Microsoft Office Applications such as Microsoft Excel.
VBA enables you to automate various activities in Excel like generating reports, preparing charts & graphs, doing calculations, etc. This automation activity is also often referred as Macro. This way it helps users to save their time spent behind running the repetitive steps.
Blue Prism is a UK-based software development company in the field of Robotic Process Automation. The group supplies software robot which helps to automate clerical back office processes that work exactly like a human.
The Robotic Process Automation which is shortly known as (RPA) was invented by Blue Prism. This fact itself shows that the company is pioneers in RPA software development.
Blue Prism software enables business operations to be agile and cost effective by automating, manual, rule-based, repetitive back-office processes and improving accuracy by developing a “Digital Workforce.”. The Blue prism tool offers flow chart like designer with drag and drop feature to automate each step of the business processes.
Secure, scalable, and central management of a virtual workforce of software robots
Complete automation solution that results in work distribution and queue management
Blue prism has many robust features like load balancing, encryption, and audit. It also offers robots that are defined and managed centrally
Blue Prism comes with various types of spying modes for different application types
It has many improved featues to configure Dashboards so that session information can be directed to external Analytics and monitoring systems
The latest version 6 of Blue prism provide support for Microsoft Azure and Amazon AWS cloud deployment patterns
Exception stages can be set to save a screen capture. When it is used in the production environment, this feature can resolve resource processing issues in a secure manner
You can automate Excel, XML, csv, pdf, image, etc.
There is no need to write any code while working with the Blue prism tool
It can automate software developed in Java, Mainframe, Web-based, Windows Applications
Components of Blue Prism
Blue Prism is a set of libraries, tools, and runtime environments for RPA.
Every software robot has two main parts:
What is Object Studio?
Object studio is a where we can create the Visual Business Object. It is abbreviated as VBO. VBO are created to interact with other applications.
We will see that Object Studio looks very like Process Studio. There are key differences, which are:
Object Studio offers some “stage” which are not available in the Process Studio
Object Studio does not have a Main Page, but it does have two default pages
Pages are organized as a flat group instead of hierarchy like in the Process Studio
Benefits of Developing VBO:
Consistency and scalability
Lesser Bot creation time for subsequent processes
System changes only needed to be updated in one location instead of for each process. Bot maintaince becomes easy
What is Process studio?
Process studio looks similar to a traditional flowchart. It is an area where an actual process is created. Apart from features offered by Object studio, it allows business logic, control loops, variables, and object call to be sequenced, and tested in a visible business flow. Each Page in Process has its tab, and generally, the process defined in the Process Studio is pretty similar to a flowchart.
A process acts like a human user. It implements a software robot’s logic. It is almost similar to personal interaction with several applications to carry out a series of steps which can invoke actions to carry out same steps.
Process diagrams are comprised of various stages connected together using links to form logical structures.
Stages are selected from the toolbar and placed on the diagram using the mouse.
They can be selected, moved, resized, formatted, cut, copied, pasted, and deleted, much as you might expect.
Stages also have various properties that can be accessed by double -clicking.
Links are created using the link tool by dragging the mouse from the center of one stage to the center of another.
Dragging without the link tool can be used to select more than one stage at a time.
How to Create a New Process
From the main Blue Prism window, select “Studio” from tabbed menu at the top of the screen.
Figure: Main screen Toolbar
Or select the Studio icon from the left-hand navigation menu.
Right- click the Processes heading under studio and then select “Create a Process” from the context menu.
Name the new Process “First Process”.
Enter a brief description of the Process.
The new process will appear beneath the Processes heading. Now double-click it to open it.
Along the left-hand side of the screen is the Stages toolbar. To put a stage on the page click and drag it into position. Try this by dragging a few different stages onto the page.
You will notice that one of the stages in the stages toolbar has a blue rectangle highlighting it. Whichever stage is highlighted will be the one added if you click directly on the page. Click on the calculation stage on the toolbar to highlight it.
Figure: Process Studio Stages Toolbar
Here, you can notice how the cursor changes and has the calculation stage icon next to it. Now click on the process page to add a calculation stage. This saves you having to return to the toolbar if you have several stages of the same type to add.
Even with the calculation stage cursor you can still drag and place other stage types.
When stages are on the page you can:
Double click on various stages to view their properties
Press the Save button but keep the diagram open.
Space in Process Studio is effectively infinite, and pan and zoom tools can be used to maneuver around the diagram. The grid lines and “snap” settings are on by default, but these can be switched off (via the View menu) if necessary.
Advantages of Process Studio
A process is very much similar to a business object.
Every process is defined by using one or more pages
Each page contains various stages and data
Always begins at its Main page
Each page in a process has an individual tab, which allows you to divide he processes into various logical groupings.
A process acts like a human user who thinks and types very fast.
Need to publish the process then only it visible to Control Room.
The biggest advantage of the process studio allows you to design the logic by assembling the design surface graphically.
What is Business Objects
To implement RPA system in any organization, a real process would be needed to do some useful tasks and to do so; it would need to work with external applications.
The interface to an application is never contained in the process diagram, but in a separate diagram which is called Business Object.
A Business Object is never configured in Process Studio but in a distinct, environment which is called Object Studio.
The main aim of Business Object is to provide an interface to single application.
A Business Object is not exposed to Control Room and is never used on its own. Instead, it is always used by a Process.
Benefits of using Blueprism
It doesn’t need IT skills to implement
It can be easily implemented in the short time span of 4 to 6 weeks
Provides the highest return of your ROI, tremendous payback with self-funding returns
Automates the application’s controls and fields, irrespective of their onscreen position to increase bot’s speed
Custom Digital Front- ends integrate front office agents and back-office automation to improve human-robot interactivity and productivity
Robust and feature rich analytics suite.
Double-byte character set support allows you to expand RPA to systems and processes that need double-byte such as Asian languages
Multi-tiered Encryption Algorithms provides secure connectivity, data storage, and access
Enterprise-wide Password Vaults with certified CyberArk Credential Management for consistent enterprise-wide credentials
Custom Permissions feature allows user-specific access to robot groups, robots, processes for secure robotic automation process
Improved Control Room to offer real-time feedback on robot status and allows you to get the complete insight into the digital workforce.
Build highly efficient and automated end-to-end business processes
Blue-prism International Case Studies
Following are 2 prominent case studies of Blueprism implementation.
Case 1: National Retail Bank
Allows them to perform the Inter-bank transfer in just 20 sec using Blue Prism vs. 10 min manual process
130 processes automated
100 robots deployed
200 + FTE saved audit conducted in 1 min with automation versus entire working day process of almost 8 hours.
Case 2: Global Telco
The Telco launched RPA software in 2013. They wanted to optimize their back-office operations.
In the context of RPA, this means you should start off by documenting the process that you will be automating.
We call this the Process Definition Document (PDD), and it minimally comprises of the process map, as well as a detailed step-by-step walkthrough of the process. These process steps are usually augmented by screenshots for clarity purposes, and may include pertinent information such as possible exceptions and error handling.
Other useful information to include inside the PDD are:
· Contacts of the process SMEs
· “As is” process metrics, e.g. transaction volumes, average handling time (AHT), etc
· In scope and out of scope
One hidden advantage of doing this is that the PDD can serve as part of your organization’s Business Continuity Plan (BCP). For example, if there is an outage in the production bots, your SMEs should be able to pick up the PDD and follow the instructions there to perform the process manually (as a last resort, of course).
If you fail to plan, you plan to fail.
The same goes for RPA development as well.
It is generally not advisable for one to jump straight into RPA development without first considering the high level design.
What this means is that you need to identify beforehand the various components that altogether make up your solution, and how these components interact with one another.
One great hack — create a generic and process agnostic framework that enables you to deal with any use cases in a consistent and structured manner.
Implied from the previous point is the importance of modularity.
Modularity in this context means simply to break down a complex programme into bite-sized, more manageable components.
There are two important benefits of doing so.
Firstly, there are often common steps that occur across different processes, for example, logging into the SAP system. Rather than generating these steps from scratch every time you automate a new process, a smarter and more efficient way is to create a separate workflow that does so, and add this to your automation library.
So the next time you have a process that requires logging into SAP, you can simply invoke this workflow file as follows:
This greatly enhances the reusability of your content.
The second benefit is that modularity supports fine granular development and testing. This is especially useful when dealing with complex processes, as you can independently assign the development and testing of specific components to individual developers.
Ignoring the readability of your RPA script is a common mistake made by many new RPA developers.
Readability in this case means how easy is it for someone else (other than the developer) to take the script and understand what the software robot is being programmed to do. In fact, for complex processes involving hundreds or thousands of steps, the developer himself often lose track of what is going on if he does not take active steps to ensure readability.
Ensuring good readability will also drastically reduced the amount of time you spend during troubleshooting and debugging, as well as during bots maintenance.
To do so is fairly straightforward. Mostly, you need to make a conscientious effort to provide meaningful names for workflow files, activities, arguments and variables.
Moreover, as a best practice, all your variables and arguments should be aligned to a naming convention:
· Variables should be in camelCase, e.g. firstName, lastName
· Arguments should be in TitleCase, e.g. FileName, DefaultTimeOut
Also, all your workflow names should contain the verb describing what the workflow does, e.g. GetTransactionData, LoginToSAP.
Last but not least, you should make judicious use of comments and annotations to describe sections of your code which are not as intuitive. It is important to be selective though as you do not want to end up clustering your programme with redundant comments.
5.Avoid hard coding
Where possible, you should avoid hard coding all the external settings (e.g. file paths, URLs) within your script. By hard coding, we mean that the only way to change these settings is to amend them from within the script itself.
Hard coding should be avoid because these settings are prone to changes over time. For example, the file location where you download the daily report to might change due to business requirements.
The idea is to minimize unnecessary changes to the script, especially if it has already been deployed to production, to avoid introducing additional bugs or errors. Also, if these settings are used multiple times within the script, if you hard code, you need to know exactly where the changes are required (chances are that you do not).
The most efficient way to store these parameters is to use a configuration file, an example of which is given below:
In this example, we have created an Excel spreadsheet containing three worksheets where the external settings, constants and automation assets are stored.
6.You are not alone
No, I am not referring to the 1995 Michael Jackson classic.
Chances are that as a beginner, you are likely to encounter some seemingly “insurmountable” problems during your development stage.
Rather than tearing your hair cut trying to resolve your issues, keep calm and google it! For it is highly likely that someone else have encountered the same problem and found a solution for it.
You will be pleasantly surprised by how helpful Professor Google can be.
By the way, if you happen to use UiPath, do check out their forum as well. There are a lot of active discussions and you can frequently find answers to your most pressing questions.