Automation Anywhere Blog

Screen Scraping as the Basis of a New User Interface

Premise number one: legacy systems cannot always be thrown out. Reasons for hanging on to them include budget (it isn't always cost-effective to build a new application), ignorance (it may not even be feasible to try to understand how the system works) and ownership (you get to use it, somebody else owns it and runs it). Premise number two: many user interfaces are moving to the web-based, browser interfaces. Given these two premises, is it worth building on screen scraping to construct a new user interface to an old application?

Image source: sbtech.co.za
Image source: sbtech.co.za

What Justifies a New User Interface? While screen scraping itself can be a worthwhile activity when automated with Automation Anywhere, building a new user interface can only be justified if the right levels of user activity are high enough. Automated screen scraping allows users to repeatedly execute business processes rapidly and reliably without the effort of manually reproducing access procedures and application manipulation. A completely new user interface is only warranted when users need to access the system in ways that cannot be predicted, and when the old user interface is too clumsy or restrictive. How Much ‘Web’ Can You Put Into a New UI for an Old App? With Automation Anywhere, you can be very creative. It’s possible to think of scripts that handle screen scraping on the back-end to retrieve information from the legacy system, and that then package the information with sorting, searching and graphical enhancements. Using screen scraping to export data into other applications such as Excel to take advantage of further functionality and possibilities of display is also well within the capabilities of Automation Anywhere. Likewise, it can control both web objects and Windows objects to improve the user experience still further. It’s Still an Old Application Behind the modernized user interface there is however still a legacy application that runs the danger of becoming crankier and more brittle as time goes on. Just maintaining the application rather than trying to improve or extend it may introduce changes in the way it acts and reacts with any external interface, whether old or new. IT personnel will need to deal with the application itself and any effect it has on ‘wrappers’ or new user interfaces. Business Changes, So Must Software While Automation Anywhere makes it easy to integrate changes in business processes, trying to modify back-end software is another matter. Fundamental changes in the way an organization operates or serves its customers may not be reflected in legacy software, leaving it increasingly distanced from the current situation. Like cars, TVs and sofas, there comes a time when a legacy application just falls too far behind modern standards of performance, functionality and usability. In such case, no amount of engine tuning, satellite reception, new seat covers or UI revamping will be enough. The legacy app will have to go and be replaced by one that has been built using new technology and that runs on today’s hardware and operating systems, rather than yesterday’s.  However, the good news is that Automation Anywhere will be just as good for automating business processes with the new application as for the one before. If you’d like to know how Automation Anywhere, the automation software with extensive easy-to-use functionality, can help you to automate screen scraping, user interfaces and the use of applications in general, try a free Automation Anywhere trial to see what it can do for you.

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Automation Anywhere empowers people, whose ideas, effort and focus make the companies they work for, great. Delivering intelligent automation technology for business & IT processes so you and your company can always be depended on.