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RPA Performance Testing

In today's rapidly changing technology landscape, new ground breaking trends are emerging every day. Some of today's key trends driving financial services industry imperatives are -

1. Robotic Process Automations (RPA)
2. AI and Digital Assistant such as Chatbot
3. Block Chain
4. Big Data

RPA has created lot of buzz in the industry. Organizations are reaping in immense benefit by implementing RPA. As per Mckinsey, "110-140 million FTE's could be replaced by automation tools and software by 2020 ". RPA implementation has necessitated strong testing support to avoid any failures because it can be very expensive in the later stages of the development. One of the challenges faced by organizations is identification of bottlenecks and hotspots. As per IBM World Testing Report, 65% of organization are facing challenges related to Performance testing.

ChallengesImage.png

While organization are reaping RPA benefits, it is equally important to ensure the performance of RPA processes is up to the mark and it meets 3S (speed, scalability and stability) mantra.

Before dwelling deeper in RPA PT challenges and solution, let's understand the typical RPA landscape.

  • RPA landscape

RPAComponent_new.png

As seen from above diagram, RPAs possesses immense capability for integration with varied landscape. It can be easily integrated with legacy, web based, API based, mainframe applications and many others. They also promote reuse by "exposing" their learning's to shared library which can be used by other bots. PRA interacts with different systems via screen scarping, emails, OCR, APIs etc. replicating user actions.

  • Performance Testing areas

Having understood the landscape, let's focus on what are the key elements of the performance testing that should focus on.

1. Capacity related issues when concurrent jobs are scheduled by robots

2. Tasks completed in given time per bot

3. Licensing and bot utilization -

  • Licenses - Monitors total number of acquired robot licenses
  • Robot utilization vs. capacity - Monitors the percentage of acquired robot licenses that are utilized in production 

4. hourly/daily variability in robot usage

5. Elastic Scalability - Dynamically upscaling and down scaling hundreds of robots to ensure RPA meets user demands

6.Complete eco system performance - Along with RPA processes, we need to focus on each application in the eco system.


  • Challenges faced

While now we understand what should be focus areas, there are inherent performance testing challenges faced by RPA. They are -

1. Dissimilar technologies: As seen from RPA landscape, each application under RPA execution may belong to a different technology. We need to assure that each component meets performance in isolation and in E2E eco system

2. Performance testing tools availability: Diverse landscape adds complexity that one single PT tool cannot support varied needs of ecosystem. For RPA systems, there are no record and playback mechanisms available while for RPA backend systems, we have to explore appropriate COTS/commercial tools based on protocol support via POC, knowledge sharing, etc.

3.Test environment: The Performance testing environment may not be exact production replica due to cost or any other factors. We need to plan the realistic workload which will cater to scaled down version and any other dependency to achieve desired results within the ecosystem.

4. Monitoring solutions: Similar to performance testing tool availability challenge, narrow set of monitoring solutions exists to monitor platform, detect the performance issues and for bottleneck analysis. We have to explore COTS/open source tools to cover the varied technology landscape.

5. Continues delivery pipeline: Current RPA solutions are mostly commercials solutions and RPA engineers don't have any open source options available due to proprietary the binary file formats. This should likely change down the line as RPA adopts open source standards. Infosys AssistEdge RPA community edition is certainly a revolutionary step towards this.

6.Unavailability of RPA backend / interacting systems: Since complete RPA ecosystem is a complex one, there are chances that one of the interfacing system may be behaving poorly or down temporarily.. 

How do we overcome these challenges? What strategy we adopt? The solution lies in sociability test.

  • Sociability Performance Testing

Sociability test will focus on core RPA process and any systems interacting with RPA. Refer to the diagram below.

RPAComponent_new - Solution.png

  • Key aspects to look at -

1. Tools and technology - Tools used will vary and can be combination of open source and COTS system. We need to assess the complete technology landscape and consider two separate areas here - RPA vs other IT systems.
For RPA there is no specific tool for PT but we can collect critical stats by observing the monitoring console. For E.g. process run time, number of records processed, computing units used, license usage etc. So the monitoring console is currently our best bet to fine tune RPA processes.
For other IT systems, we can explore use of open source systems such as jmeter or COTS such as micro focus performance center, NEOLOAD, etc.
Key is to ensure E2E ecosystem testing to ensure accurate stats and stable systems.

2. Utilizing strong APM - APM such as Dynatrace/AppD will need to be installed in order to get the detailed system metrics and transaction response times on downstream IT systems. APM tool can help in baselining transactions etc.  These can be used to monitor the RPA Infrastructure on which it is hosted and backend/interfacing systems as well.

3. Test Data - For setting up data for test, you can look at RPA itself to create required test data etc. as well i.e. system under test will be leveraged for automation as well.

4. Service Virtualization - Service virtualization using tools CA Service virtualization, Parasoft virtualize etc. can help to emulate the behaviors of various interacting components. It may not be possible to leverage this solution in all situations but should help in cutting down the testing cycle wherever possible.

5. Establishing CoE - PT CoE will play crucial role as we have multiple teams involved in E2E testing. Establishing proper processes and governance models will ensure testing is done in minimal time and less cost.

To summarize, RPA itself automation process and script less, again scripting it using another automation tool may not work. So monitoring is our focus area along with workload formation to test in pre-prod. It's like batch run where workload will be initiated by RPA itself but you will use another tools for monitoring performance etc.

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