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Microsoft Aims To Upend The RPA (Robotic Process Automation) Market

TAKE NOTE (Insights and Emerging Technology)

RPA is the fastest growing segment in enterprise software, according to Gartner. As a result, the mega tech operators are looking at the market. SAP, for example, has acquired Contextor to bolster its efforts. And yes, it’s possible that IBM or Oracle may pursue a similar acquisition strategy.

Microsoft will perhaps be the most impactful. At the Ignite conference, the company announced Power Automate, which is an offshoot of its Power Platform (this includes business intelligence capabilities, low code and workflow management). There are more than 275 prebuilt connectors for apps and services. Of course, there are deep integrations with Office 365, Dynamics 365 and Azure.

As for the current RPA market, the main players include UiPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism. All have raised substantial amounts of capital and have significant market shares.

It’s also important to keep in mind that there are actually more than 70 RPA software vendors! In other words, there will likely be consolidation in the coming years.

So what will be the impact of Microsoft? Well, here are some responses:

Automation Anywhere: “Last week at Microsoft Ignite, we announced a deeper collaboration to provide more simplified access to Automation Anywhere Enterprise A2019 from Microsoft Azure. As the partnership expands between the two companies, customers will be able to leverage Automation Anywhere software bots to automate more complex business processes and provide greater capabilities with Microsoft products.”

UiPath: “UiPath is focused on providing a comprehensive platform to customers who are in need of a flexible solution that can be tailor-fit and easily integrated with a wide range of solutions in the AI ecosystem. Our latest product release validates that strategy, as we’ve made it easier than ever for every employee—regardless of their technical proficiency—to reap the benefits of rapidly automating their work without the need for developer resources or coding.”

Blue Prism: “Blue Prism focuses on enterprise interoperability over robotic desktop automation. Because Blue Prism is the only end-to-end solution on Azure, we see Microsoft’s move into this market as a strategic partnership opportunity and a chance to tell a ‘Better Together’ story that benefits customers with a broad range of solutions to meet their hybrid and multi-cloud needs.”

While Power Automate is a good solution, Microsoft is still playing catch up. According to Bill Galusha, who is the leader for product strategy for RPA and content intelligence for ABBYY: “The features announced are really table stake-type features you would expect where business users automate tasks by recording human interactions with an application. Still, there’s a lot more sophisticated capabilities that RPA vendors have today that focus on making orchestrating hundreds of these robots in production enterprise-ready.”

However, for the existing RPA players, there will certainly be a rethinking of strategy because of Microsoft. The company’s CEO, Satya Nadella, has shown a keen ability to fight hard and win battles.

“Current dominant RPA players such as UiPath, Automation Anywhere and Blue Prism will need to focus on enhancing the user experience with orchestrating tasks and managing automatons,” said Thomas Phelps, who is the Vice President of Corporate Strategy and CIO at Laserfiche. “Microsoft’s sheer size and adoption by corporate IT will help it to establish a foothold in the RPA software categories and scale quickly.”

But one thing is clear with Microsoft’s move: it’s a big-time sign that RPA technology is strategic, not just a passing fad.

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UNDER DEVELOPMENT (Insights for Developers)

Going Mobile with SAP Screen Personas – Part 3

Creating Viewports

In our previous Slipstream Engine blog, we began looking at how we might adjust an existing flavor to better suite a mobile device using Adaptive Flavors. This allowed us to create a child version of our existing flavor that felt as if they were built specifically designed for our devices, while keeping the parent flavor’s functionality.

What our last blog did not cover, however, is what to do in situations where the existing screen is even more complicated than our parent Sales Order Specialist flavor. In particular, it didn’t address how to adjust more complicated screens like Sales Order create or a Purchase Order create screen to a point where a mobile user does not feel overwhelmed.

This blog will discuss how to we can achieve further simplification of screens with a divide and conquer approach using SAP Screen Personas Viewports..

An Introduction to SAP Screen Personas ViewPorts

In our first Personas blog SAP Screen Personas : Get Up and Running Quickly Using These Steps, we used SAP Screen Personas to simplify the VA01 transaction to the simplest possible form in order to complete a Sales Order. We did this by hiding input fields, merging tabs, and we were left with a final screen that looked like this…

SAP Screen Personas VA01

While this arrangement of fields and tabs works fine for a desktop application, its is clearly too large and cluttered to be used effectively on a phone. But, as we’ve stated before, we have already reduced this field to its simplest form possible to allow us to successfully create a sales order. How can we further simplify this field when every field and table column is required?

The answer to that is Viewports.

Creating SAP Screen Persona Viewports

Viewports are additional screens that can be created for SAP Screen Personas Flavors that contain its own unique subset of screen elements. Viewports allow us to take one complicated screen and split its contents among two or more successive screens. By spreading the contents across multiple screens, we can reduce clutter of that single screen while still maintaining the same information and input fields required to complete the transaction.

To illustrate how a Viewport would be created, lets start off by recreating our VA01 Flavor we created in the original Screen Personas blog series (with a few minor tweaks), this time created for the Slipstream engine

VA01 using Sliptream with a Flavor

Just like in the first SAP Screen Personas blog, we have taken original screen and reduced it to only the fields that our hypothetical user base requires to use the transaction.

This is looks great for desktop, but we run into some issues when we display this for mobile. The screen is too wide to display without horizontal scrolling…

VA01 flavor on iPhone

As has been done last month’s blog, Going Mobile with SAP Screen Personas – Part 2, we could potentially address this just by creating an Adaptive Flavor for mobile devices. However, this does not address the issue of the screen being too crowded for a mobile device. Instead of just creating an Adaptive Flavor, we will create a Viewport.

To do this, we open our Parent Flavor, navigate to the “Design” tab, and click the “Viewports” option (note that Viewports can only be created for the Parent Flavor. These can later be edited for separately for each Adaptive Flavor).

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Dig Deeper – Adaptive Flavors

Q&A (Post your questions and get the answers you need)

Q. I have a general understanding of DevOps, what exactly is DevSecOps?

A. OK, a simple DevSecOps definition, it is short for development, security and operations. Its goal is to make everyone accountable for security with the objective of implementing security decisions and actions at the same scale and speed as development and operations decisions and actions.

Every organization with a DevOps framework should be looking to shift towards a DevSecOps mindset and bringing individuals of all abilities and across all technology disciplines to a higher level of proficiency in security. From testing for potential security exploits to building business-driven security services, a DevSecOps framework that uses DevSecOps tools ensures security is built into applications rather than being bolted on without judicious thought afterwards.

By ensuring that security is present during every stage of the software delivery life-cycle, we can experience continuous integration where the cost of compliance is reduced and software is delivered and released faster.

The benefits of DevSecOps are simple: Enhanced automation throughout the software delivery pipeline eliminates mistakes and reduces attacks and downtime. For teams looking to integrate security into their DevOps framework, the process can be completed seamlessly using the right DevSecOps tools and processes.

Let’s take a look at a typical DevOps and DevSecOps workflow:

A developer creates code within a version control management system.
The changes are committed to the version control management system.
Another developer retrieves the code from the version control management system and carries out analysis of the static code to identify any security defects or bugs in code quality.
An environment is then created, using an infrastructure-as-code tool, such as Chef. The application is deployed and security configurations are applied to the system.
A test automation suite is then executed against the newly deployed application, including back-end, UI, integration, security tests and API.
If the application passes these tests, it is deployed to a production environment.
This new production environment is monitored continuously to identify any active security threats to the system.

With a test-driven development environment in place and automated testing and continuous integration, organizations can work seamlessly and quickly towards a shared goal of increased code quality and enhanced security and compliance.


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