Although you don't have to ask modern businesses what is RPA, as the automation market proliferates, the choice of a specific tool is not always obvious. Next to the globally recognized software vendors, a given company may prefer an independent open-source RPA solution.
The main reason for such a decision could be the willingness to verify how RPA automation will work without incurring costs related to licensing and using commercial tools. At the same time, the goal is to avoid building the bots from zero, thus engaging specialists and burdening the budget.
Enterprises could associate open source applications mostly with developers-oriented programs so far. Many of those available on the market still address that group. However, the vendors quickly started to respond to the business needs and the enterprise automation market's direction.
From an RPA trends perspective, today's open-source RPA developers offer a middle ground in choosing between coding from scratch and buying. A growing number of them provide no-code and low-code tools, emphasizing convenience and ease of use. That allows many companies to get familiar with the technology and develop a well-thought-out strategy.
The described software is distributed with the source code, which opens a way for modifying all bots depending on actual needs. And this is what open-source stands for.
The idea behind the open-source software is to make the source code public, or more precisely, freely available for possible modification and redistribution. That means the companies may modify, share, and even build businesses on it.
The latter often results in misunderstanding. Even though every person or organization is free to change and re-share the source code of an RPA application, it doesn't mean the program itself must be "free of charge". For example, the game industry widely uses the Unreal Engine - a paid open-source software framework. The open-source license does not dictate the form, manner, or purpose of its distribution.
As with the proprietary (or close) code solutions (like Microsoft Windows), the potential open-source app user must accept the license terms to run the program. This state of affairs results from the requirements of the Open Source Initiative, which oversees the licensing processes. Thus, this type of software must be compatible with open-source community norms and expectations.
An answer to that question is not always obvious, but the argument for open-source RPA automation is the desire or market need to get to know the technology.
Such a product can meet all the expectations of a given organization or initiate further transformation toward automation, artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML). However, there are a few factors to consider regarding the software.
The cost of licensing one of the top RPA tools, especially in medium and small enterprises, the investment may be too demanding concerning the actual needs. In this context, an open-source product may be financially attractive. It will be a much less risky way to implement RPA in the company for the first time, the more so if it has a team of programmers.
In other words, it can benefit the operating cost of automation - licenses, services, and internal work. At the same time, due to the lower investment in software, the Return On Investment (ROI) is increased. It is also worth pointing out the lack of license restrictions regarding the number of created and implemented bots.
Yet, this does not mean that the described alternative cannot generate additional maintenance costs, often covered in commercial solutions. A fine example may be a support policy. While commercial vendors provide full support bundled, open-source solutions rely heavily on peer-reviewed feedback and community knowledge sharing.
Using a commercial RPA automation solution often forces the organization to rely on the manufacturer. The software vendor provides and guarantees the security mechanisms of the RPA tool. In most cases, the buyer has limited possibilities to interfere with their design - he is dependent on the external developer.
Running the open-source solution, the company has full access to the source code and thus can locate and fix possible vulnerabilities, errors, or flaws. It has the freedom to implement additional safety functions.
Nevertheless, a lot depends on the implementation team and the software. Managing the code requires a clear understanding of what it does across a given apps system. That means having various tools to audit the code, identify its weak points, and provide additional information or guidance. The same goes for maintaining the databases. All this may require other investments.
As was mentioned earlier, open-source RPA may be the best choice for companies aiming to explore the possibilities of RPA automation for the first time. A given firm can decide if the solution meets the actual or future needs and build a proper plan.
For example, for a company planning to automate the process of issuing several quarterly financial reports, it may be hard to justify spending on additional commercial software and a long-term contract with its developer. The point is that a given bot or bots will perform only four times a year.
Of course, it is just a simplification, but having an open-source RPA does not prevent the company from implementing new optimizations in the future - without further investment.
More so, when a significant advantage of tools with an open code is customization and scaling options. Especially with mature products that use cloud solutions. All that allows companies to configure and extend their software capabilities, thus building fully-fledged Centers of Excellence without disrupting the budget balance.
Having that in mind, it is crucial to know today's top open-source RPA automation vendors on the market.
Among today's RPA software companies, the most appreciated and mentioned open-source brands are Robot Framework, Taskt, UI.Vision, OpenRPA, and TagUI.