reduction in OpEx
decrease in worker execution time
increase in worker parallelization
in client time saved
Thoughtful Automation is a Bots-as-a-Service solutions provider. Their aim is to enable businesses in the mid-market to leverage the power of automation by offering a solution that is cost-effective, efficient, and scalable without any additional overheads.
They were using UiPath to build automation solutions and it proved to be a very expensive platform when one of their customers (Fort Lauderdale-based behavioral healthcare company) approached to automate their highly manual invoicing process. However, the $55,000 implementation costs for a single UiPath robot was an absolute no-go and beyond budget for that mid-market customer.
“We were losing money to build that bot, just to prove the model worked,” - Alex Zekoff, CEO, Thoughtful Automation
Thoughtful Automation decided to research for an alternative solution which was not proprietary, offered ownership of code and was cost-effective to scale without any additional overheads.
“We wanted the ability to basically own the code, control every setting, so we could send requests to the cloud platform and get it back a certain way. We don’t want to be in the business of managing servers or databases. We want to focus on solving business problems using all the tools available to our advantage.” - Serhii Romanets, Engineering Lead, Thoughtful Automation.
Romanets and team started evaluating open source RPA technologies and after considering Python-based Robot Framework and Selenium, they concluded that they needed a hybrid open source and SaaS offering, Consequently, the team came across Robocorp’s technology - the ease of use of Robocorp platform and resource-based pricing was a perfect match for their business model as well as for their customers.
Thoughtful Automation realized that most SMB and mid-market companies miss out on the benefits of RPA because of the steep upfront costs and long (3-6 years) payback periods. In addition businesses also need internal technical RPA expertise for hosting and maintenance of post-implementation.
For Zekoff, this was a “missed opportunity” and loss of potential revenue from businesses in that market segment. Zekoff wanted to drive the implementation fee of his bots down to $0, and adopt a “minimum viable bot” strategy that would accelerate delivery times. Clients could see a return on their investment right away and pay a nominal monthly fee for usage, hosting, and maintenance. Thoughtful Automation could then add to the bots’ capabilities over time as the client’s needs evolved.
However, implementing the above on UiPath proved to be challenging. Thoughtful Automation had to pay for not just the robot licenses, but also for the hosting and managing the robots. For each robot, Thoughtful Automation estimates they paid $1,000 for the SQL servers + $20,000 for the orchestrator + $8,000 for the license for a total of $29,000 per robot every month. Zenkoff realized that this was an expensive and inefficient way to build bots, just to prove that the model worked.
In addition, Thoughtful Automation’s development team had already started to run into roadblocks due to UiPath’s prescriptive ways of building. Built primarily for business users who don’t code, packaged offerings force developers to work within a highly prescriptive support model that fails to support more complex needs. As a development-focused company, sticking with a proprietary tool from a technical perspective was no longer a viable option. Even on their cloud offering, UiPath’s packaged technology meant Thoughtful Automation would still pay more for their support model and own less of the design decisions. “What we want is to be able to own the responsibility of the code. We don’t want to assign that to the vendor,” said engineering lead Serhii Romanets.
Knowing the team wanted to move away from packaged software, Thoughtful Automation started to evaluate open source RPA technologies. They had two key criteria: they wanted to be able to control development at the code-level, and they wanted a low-maintenance cloud solution that could easily scale horizontally from 1 to 100 bots without additional overhead.
The team considered frameworks like the Python-based Robot Framework and Selenium. But while that solved the scalability problem, it didn’t solve the deployment problem. They wanted to focus on solving business problems, not the business of managing servers or databases.
Realizing that they needed a hybrid open source and SaaS offering, the team found Robocorp, which was not yet generally available. Zekoff reached out to Robocorp to get early access. From just playing with Robocorp’s preinstalled examples, reading the documentation, and running his own Python tests, Romanets knew within minutes that he had found the solution for their needs. “Robocorp manages the orchestration, servers, databases, and makes it easy for our developers to quickly get up to speed,” said Romanets. “I just have to focus on automation as code.”
Robocorp’s resource-based pricing also easily supported Thoughtful Automation’s goal of a $0 implementation fee. Instead of paying per robot license that sits idle when in off-peak hours, Thoughtful Automation could ensure that their costs were as optimized as possible, paying only for the robot minutes that they used.
From start to end, migrating their bots from UiPath to Robocorp took just two weeks. “But that was just for our first bot, and I was spending a lot of time familiarizing myself with Robocorp’s libraries and getting the settings configured,” said Romanets. “Our next bots are already being developed in about half that time.”
For the first bot that the team migrated over, runs originally would take an average of 100 seconds. In Robocorp, the team saw run times decrease to 40 seconds, or a 60% reduction in individual threads.
“From an infrastructure and management perspective, what used to take hours getting up and running, with Robocorp, I don’t have to deploy anything. It’s gone from hours to really nothing,” said Romanets.
Thoughtful Automation also knew they needed to increase their robotic workers’ parallelization to ensure their clients’ backlogs were completed as quickly as possible. But because of charges per robot license, they were constrained to a 1x parallelization per license. With Robocorp, their already more efficient robots were running even faster at a 10x parallelization, the soft limit currently imposed by Robocorp.
What previously took 2 employees processing 30 invoices a day at full capacity, Thoughtful Automation was able to reduce to ¼ of an employee processing 90 invoices a day, or 8x in employee time saved and a 3x increase in invoice processing speed.
At the time of this writing, Thoughtful Automation has successfully implemented solutions for customers in healthcare.