25 August 2020
One of the great ironies of the information age is that, even though computers were invented to help companies automate processes, deciding how to automate your company has never been harder.
The problem businesses face when selecting software is that traditional categories like reporting, integration, business process management (BPM) and others have become blurred to the extent that the categories are now meaningless. Reporting tools now do integration. Integration tools now generate reports. And BPM and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software do everything.
At Managed Functions, we regularly incorporate lots of other applications in the solutions we deliver to our customers and we thought it would be fun and useful to put together a list of automation applications for all to see.
To that end, we have put together The awesome list of reporting, AI, machine learning, BPM, low-code, integration and RPA software. We call it the PIRATE Profile list.
The Pirate Profile list displays 100+ software application that can be used to automate all or parts of your business. Clicking the logo of the application will sort the list by that application so you can see similar applications.
You can view the PIRATE list by clicking this link.
Two things make choosing business automation software hard:
Take the following five systems as examples:
If you are looking to solve a business problem such as making your sales team more effective by targeting your best sales leads, any of these five systems can solve the problem. But you’d struggle to find a Gartner report that puts these systems together in a Magic Quadrant or a Forrester report that has all of these in a Wave.
The PIRATE profile gets its name from the six features we see as the most important for automating business processes:
Presentation: You can think of this as reporting and analytics. Most business process automation requires the presentation of information back to the business users. Sometimes this involves reporting on the process itself (Number of transactions, errors etc) or presentation of the output of the process such as a report showing your sales pipeline.
Integration: In order to automate a business process, you typically need to get the data out of systems and push the data back into a system. APIs (Programmable Interfaces) are the best way of doing that but integration can involve less prosaic approaches such as SFTP data transfer and even automated email data exchange.
Robotic: RPA (Robotic Process Automation) companies got their start by replicating the actions a user performs on the screen. Many enterprise systems don’t provide APIs so the most cost-effective option for getting information out of or into these systems is often to use a bot to automate the user interface (although this should be a last resort if there are no better ways of integrating).
App: Often business processes require user input at certain points, particularly as a means of handling errors. For example, an invoice that is automatically processed may not match the PO and a user will need to review and decide whether to approve or reject. This is an area of significant investment right now and this leaders in this space will change rapidly over the next few years.
Transformation: This is arguably the most important capability for business automation. Very rarely can you take the output of one process and map it directly to the input of another. You need to do something to the data to make it better and make it fit. We call this transformation.
Extraction: It is surprising how much business process data is locked away in PDF documents (e.g. invoices, statements, remittances, application forms). Extraction is the act of pulling data from these documents and making it available for transformation, integration or robotic data entry.
You'll note that lots of the applications in the PIRATE Profile list are machine learning (ML) and AI companies yet ML/AI is not one of the six features. We see AI and ML as a means to an end rather than the end itself. For example, a company may use ML to extract data from PDF documents - but the feature is the extraction capability not the ML approach they use to do it.
No, it does not.
The applications we have included in the PIRATE profiles are applications we have used and liked, or applications that are category leaders and need to be included for completeness.
Let's take a look at the PIRATE profiles for CloudWright, Informatica and Dell Boomi. You can see from length of the lines above the I, T and P that they each focus their application on Integration, Transformation and Presentation in that order. But an application's PIRATE profile makes no judgements about which application is better than any other. It merely reflects our view of the relative importance that each application places each of the six features. Interestingly in the screenshot below you can see that Informatica is the only one of the apps to have Robotic capability and the Boomi is the only one that does not have PDF extraction capability. You can see that, in our view, Cloudwright places more relative importance on their App than Informatica. Does that mean that CloudWright's app is better than Informatica? It does not. All it says is that Informatica places more emphasis on their Robotic capabilities than their App which pushes their App down in relative importance.
Any system can be included on the PIRATE list. The only criteria is that we have to think you’re a credible automation solution. To be considered credible, we either need to have personal experience using your application or we know of you by reputation from sources we consider credible.
We’ve chosen this criteria because it ensures the list doesn’t contain junk but still allows for open-source software or startups to be included on the list along with established players.
We will update the PIRATE Ranking as new information becomes available. For example, Dash, the Python data visualization company, is enhancing its low code capabilities so, at some point, App or Transformation may overtake Presentation as its top feature. When it does, we will update the PIRATE Profile.
We’ll also update the PIRATE Profile for a particular application when we’ve simply gotten it wrong. For example, our experience with the application may be outdated or a one-off anomaly rather than the typical experience. If you think this is this case with a particular application please tell us so we can investigate and update the profile. You can email me at [email protected]
Also, if you know of an application that should be included in the PIRATE Profile but is not, please drop me an email.
We hope you find this list useful in your quest to improve your business operations :)