Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has transformed the way businesses operate by eliminating repetitive tasks, reducing errors, and improving efficiency for years. As organizations increasingly rely on RPA to streamline their processes, ensuring that the bots operate smoothly and consistently has become critical to their success.
RPA developers are experts in preventing errors in their scripts and ensuring that they perform optimally. They draw on their vast knowledge and experience to identify and address potential issues before they become problems. They also understand how to provide instructions to the bot so that fewer failures occur, and if they do, how to address those problems immediately.
In this blog post, we will explore the several types of RPA errors that can occur, including anticipated failures, silent failures, and standard failures, and provide tips on how to address each of them with guidance from R-Path's own RPA developers.
RPA developers are well-versed in the potential failure points of bots and can create measures to handle these scenarios, known as anticipated failures. When automating a task that involves logging into a system, a developer might foresee that the login credentials may change over time. To prevent a bot failure, the developer writes code that prompts the bot to update the credentials when they change.
Example of an Anticipated Failure
Suppose an organization has an RPA script designed to send automated emails to customers. The bot has been working flawlessly for months, but the organization knows that email addresses can change. To prevent a bot failure, the RPA developer would write code that checks the email address before sending the email. If the email address has changed, the bot would update it before sending the email.
✏️Pro Tips for Mitigating Anticipated Failures:
- Make error handling specific to a single potential issue; making the script too generic could cause false positives.
- Build the script to pass on a detailed error report to the person maintaining the automation, even if the developer believes the error has been fully anticipated in the script.
Silent failures are the most dangerous type of bot failure, as they are not immediately noticeable. They are rare, but they occur when an RPA bot fails to perform a task but does not report any errors or issues. The bot may continue to perform subsequent tasks in the workflow, leading to incorrect results or more points of failure.
To prevent silent failures, RPA developers must monitor the bots and analyze their performance. Developers should also implement a notification system that alerts them when a bot fails to perform a task. By doing so, they can quickly identify and fix the issue before it causes any significant problems.
Example of a Silent Failure
Imagine an organization has an RPA bot designed to retrieve data from a third-party API (Application Programming Interface). The bot has been running without any issues, but the API has updated its authentication requirements. The bot continues to run, but it is no longer able to retrieve data from the API. To prevent this, the RPA developer would implement a notification system that alerts them when the API authentication requirements change.
✏️Pro Tips for Preventing Silent Failures:
- Create deliberate error-throwing measures in script building specific enough for the portion of the script in question to be properly reported.
- Record specific variable values and output log files and completion emails. Also, take screenshots throughout the process so you can see what the bot is seeing.
A standard failure occurs when an RPA bot stops executing for an unexpected but observable reason. Standard failures differ from anticipated failures in that measures have not been put in place to prevent this event from happening.
An RPA bot designed to copy data from one system to another may fail to execute because the target system is down. In this scenario, the bot stops executing, and an error message is generated. To prevent standard failures, RPA developers implement error-handling procedures that can identify and flag errors so that they may be addressed quickly.
Example of a Standard Failure
An organization has an RPA bot that is designed to process invoices. The bot has been working without any issues, but the invoice processing system goes down. While not a failure of the script itself, the bot is unable to connect to the system and stops executing any further steps. To prevent this, the RPA developer implements error handling procedures to detect the issue and alert them to act.
✏️Pro Tips for Preventing Standard Failures:
- Web elements and actions are very common in RPA script building since many systems are internet-based. Our RPA developer team suggests that all references to web elements be as flexible as possible to handle minor changes to the underlying code; never hard-code them.
- If a bot is interacting with a file, it is important to have a standard naming convention among the users. This is especially important if the bot is looking for files with dates. For example, a user names a file “Aug.” If the bot is looking for “August” this can cause an error that is not a failure of the script itself, but of the way the file is named.
RPA developers are essential resources for organizations seeking automation. They have the knowledge and expertise to prevent bot failures and ensure that automation runs smoothly. To prevent bot failures, RPA developers need to anticipate potential issues, monitor bots for silent failures, and implement error-handling procedures for standard failures. By doing so, organizations can achieve maximum up-time for their bots and fully enjoy the benefit that automation brings.
Are you a Citizen Developer who lacks access to an RPA Developer team? No worries!
Play to your strengths as a subject matter expert and follow these 3 steps to prevent bot failures in low-code/no-code scripts:
- Begin with a clear understanding of the process you want to automate. Use your business expertise to analyze each input, output, and potential exceptions that occur in the process "as-is" today. To help you visualize the process, you can use mapping resources like Visio or Signavio.
- Test and monitor all your scripts. Avoid setting your bots on autopilot and forgetting about them. Use an automation recorder to see what your bots are doing as they complete each automation step. Many RPA platforms have built-in recorders, such as Microsoft's Desktop Flow Recorder or Automation Anywhere's Recorder Package. Some platforms may offer a testing strategy or allow you to create a bot specifically for testing. Regardless of the method you choose, do not skip testing!
- Seek guidance from the RPA community. It may seem obvious, but there's a huge community of RPA experts and developers who have been in your shoes before. Look for RPA platforms with extensive support resources, such as support communities, courses, and certification paths.
Prefer to have professional guidance? We can help. Our team can step in to help with initial decision-making on the processes you’ll automate, implementation, maintenance, and scaling your automation program. We genuinely believe in a team approach – partnering closely with each client on their organizational goals and expectations post-automation. With our guide, Automation is a Team Sport: A Step-by-Step Guide to Build Your Automation Capability, we explore in depth the team and steps to take to build your automation capability from scratch. This is a wonderful place to start if you are just beginning your automation journey.