Let’s say you are the proud owner of a super-efficient robotic process automation (RPA) bot built for a process using your web-based customer-relationship management (CRM) application. It’s been working flawlessly for the last couple of months. Then, late one Friday evening just as you are about to pack up, it crashes! Your inbox is flooded with email notifications from your robot: “Houston, we have a problem.” You know the process like the back of your hand, but you haven’t dug into code – and you have no one to call on a Friday night.
First things first, look for details on the error, either from the description in the email notification or from an error log file for the automation. These details will help you determine which route to troubleshoot. Then try this checklist of typical points of failure to help you find quick resolution.
- Browser availability/application access. Try to reach your CRM application on your web browser and confirm its availability. Points of failure can be related to downtime or scheduled maintenance by the vendor. If your CRM application is hosted on-premises, reach out to the infrastructure team. Ensure you are accessing the application the same way the bot would, whether that is via a public or virtual network.
- Login failure. Log in to the application using the credentials used by the bot. Do you get a login failure? Check with the application owner on any password changes or the infrastructure team if credentials are tied to Microsoft Active Directory.
- Object missing. If an email notification indicates the bot could not find an object/button on a screen, look for the button by going to the page manually. If the object/button is not visible, the application owner may have made changes to the page layout.
- Category selection. It’s possible the bot could not select a value in a dropdown/picklist. Check manually to see if the value was removed or reworded.
- Export location. The failure might be related to storing an export from the application on a shared drive. Log in to your computer using the bot’s credentials and navigate to the shared drive location. Verify if there is an access issue to the path or if storage is running low.
- Database connectivity. If your application uses a relational database management system (RDMS) hosted virtually or on-premises, check for availability of the database, access and storage.
- Code changes. After a bot has been running successfully for two months, it is unlikely that something is wrong with the code. Look for failure points within the application. Do what you did before the bot came to life: run the process by hand.
- Data. It’s possible your automation is failing due to a data scenario that was not factored in when the automation was designed. You may need to go back to your detailed documentation/workflows to track the point of failure, which may point to an un-coded scenario that would require code updates.
One of the most effective ways to mitigate issues is to build in error handling, an important part of the regimen of “hardening” to make bots run consistently and reliably. The more descriptive the error handling notes, the easier for business owners to troubleshoot and resolve issues without needing to reach out for technical help. Also, if your application is public, you can leverage free monitoring tools that will send you email alerts and text messages when a 404 error occurs.
And, finally, be proactive about managing change between the application, database and infrastructure teams. Coordinate and communicate the smallest of changes between the process owners and the RPA center of excellence team.
ISG is an automation consulting firm with deep experience assisting and educating clients in the best practices for building and deploying hardened bots and providing services to support clients that experience production problems. ISG offers a 24/7 dedicated global RPA helpdesk to support problems like those listed above, as well as a production support managed service that monitors control room operations and provides restart/break-fix services for bots. Contact us for more information about ISG RPA Help Desk services.
About the author
Tanya Kumar is a Managing Consultant in the Robotic Process Automation (RPA) practice. She is a highly accomplished, business-driven, technology leader with more than 16 years of experience in managing multi-technology applications across diverse industries and geographies. As a Sr. Consultant, Tanya’s role at ISG includes managing the support services function for RPA clients; post implementation. When on client engagements Tanya is involved in automation assessments, design documentation and implementations using Automation Anywhere technology.