Blue Prism has released the next major version of their enterprise automation product called Blue Prism v7. This version has greater significance as Blue Prism are moving towards a cloud solution as per their product roadmap and they have started this cloud journey with v7.
Q4 associates have been evaluating Blue Prism v7 for some time and this document looks to explain the new features becoming available in the latest version of Blue Prism product. The report has been produced by Q4 with no input from Blue Prism, the views and summaries shared in this report are from the Senior Blue Prism Specialists working at Q4 Associates.
Version 7 is comprised of two main components. The standard native tool and optional addon components.
Native Blue Prism Tool
This is the core enterprise Blue Prism product that organizations currently have in their environment. Organisations can upgrade from their existing Blue Prism installation to v7 by just upgrading the core product without installing the optional components.
The following are the key new features in the core v7 product that can be used after the upgrade.
- Application Server Controlled Resources (ASCR): In earlier versions of Blue Prism, communication between devices was direct and complex. This had resulted in connection issues in environments that consumed a lot of robots. From v7, with ASCR, all devices communicate directly to the application server in a more traditional model. This increases efficiency and Blue Prism claims ASCR allows organizations to deploy more than twice the number of digital workers into a single Blue Prism environment compared to Blue Prism version 6.
Organizations with less than 10 robots might not see any major improvements by using this feature.
- Native Citrix Automation: Developers can now automate applications presented in a Citrix Virtual Desktop Environment (VDE) using standard techniques within Blue Prism directly instead of having to use Surface Automation.
There are a couple of pre-requisites though. Developers will need to install Blue Prism inside the Citrix VDE and the Citrix Workspace application must be installed on the interactive client used to build the object.
In addition to the updated core product, Blue Prism has also introduced new optional components that can be configured to extend the capabilities of Blue Prism and provide functionalities like browser or API based access to the control room, a browser-based Automation Lifecycle Management tool, an automated object build tool, etc. These new components can only be installed in environments that have Blue Prism enterprise v7 installed already.
We feel these new components will provide the base for future development of Blue Prism product and its migration towards a cloud-based solution.
- Blue Prism Hub: A web-based solution whose primary purpose is to enable the administrators to install plugins or features. The Blue Prism Hub instance contains a Plugin Repository page that allows administrators to view and deploy new plugins as well as update existing plugins. This is similar to an app store in our mobile devices with the only difference being the plugins are created by the Blue Prism team who make them available for consumption by Hub administrators.
- Authentication Server: Provides a central authentication mode for users across three key components of the Blue Prism platform: Blue Prism Enterprise, Blue Prism API, and Blue Prism Hub.
Authentication Server must be installed and configured to use Blue Prism API or the browser-based Control Room.
- Browser based Control Room: Similar to the Control Room area from the current Blue Prism interface and provides similar dashboards and views that allow controllers/users to view and manage Blue Prism activity for all their environments.
The browser-based Control Room has four features available in this version:
- Sessions – View, filter, and organize robot activity in each environment.
- Digital Worker Health – View and monitor the status of the digital workers in each environment.
The browser-based Control Room is a free plugin available in the Plugin Repository of Blue Prism hub and therefore to access this feature, Blue Prism Hub must be installed and configured beforehand. Having a browser-based Control Room would be helpful for organizations who want to outsource the controller work to third party vendors without having to provide access to various internal systems or to allow other users (for example, business users) access to their robot queues.
- Blue Prism API: Enables connectivity between Blue Prism Hub and Blue Prism Enterprise and provides capabilities that can be used by external tools to interact with Blue Prism programmatically to perform activities like:
- Adding items to Blue Prism work queues.
- Monitor the status of work queue items and track queue activity.
- View, run, and monitor schedules and tasks.
We are excited about the Blue Prism API as this would enable scalability and supportable custom solutions to extend capabilities. For example, building custom mobile apps to interact with their Blue Prism environment so that the controllers can monitor and control the bots from their mobiles without having to login to the Blue Prism environment. Expect to see these types of solutions to hit the market in the coming years.
- Automation Lifecycle Management (ALM): ALM plugin allows management of a business process as it progresses through various stages of its lifecycle. It also allows the business analysts to capture and document the business process definitions along with the required applications and exceptions.
The ALM plugin requires addition license to access the above functionalities.
Version 7, rather than being a large upgrade to its core product, signifies more of a change of direction within Blue Prism to provide a more open, efficient, and useable product in the enterprise. The optional component features themselves are still in their infancy but will be extended and added to as Blue Prism goes through its normal minor release process over the coming two to three years for version 7.
We expect to see maturity built into these components in the coming 12 months with further services and components also added, all of which will require version 7. Along with this will come a variety of third-party tools and services organizations can use to do more for less.
The infrastructure changes are also significant and should resolve many infrastructure challenges organizations may face in the enterprise.
However, traditionally the first version of any Blue Prism release has not been an easy process for some early adopters with some bugs and inconsistencies. In our experience, the more the product changes the more these issues have occurred in the past.
We would recommend taking a standard IT practice approach for any upgrades to a major software version release. We highly recommend upgrading to version 7 but only once it reaches version 7.3.x which is likely to be released mid next year.
For organizations that are already in their upgrade cycle we recommend waiting until version 7.1.x which may provide increased stability.