Many people look at starting to learn about RPA as a way of improving their career prospects, as its supposed to be an easier way of getting a job in information technology. RPA’s suitability for those with limited or no previous experience requires further investigation.
So, is RPA worth learning? RPA is worth learning as it is a niche skill, is in demand, requires no programming skills to get started as most tasks can be done using scraping and clicking actions, has plenty of free resources available making it cheap to learn and has a lower learning curve than other technologies.
In essence RPA makes an excellent choice for learning for those people who have basic technical skills and are looking for a career into IT. The benefits of RPA include:
- RPA is a niche skill
- RPA is in demand
- RPA requires no programming skills to get started
- RPA requires basic tech skills
- RPA is easier than other technologies
- Learning RPA is quicker than other tech
- FREE RPA resources help to learn
- RPA decision making is easy
In the following parts of the article, I’ll look at these points in detail to see why they make RPA worth learning.
1. RPA is a niche skill
I found RPA to be an excellent niche skill that I found very suitable for me and I enjoy immensely. I’ve worked with other technologies and have not enjoyed my time working with them as I have with RPA.
I think many people who embrace RPA will find it to an excellent skill for them to learn and use in a possible RPA career.
2. RPA is in demand
RPA is an in-demand skill, with plenty of opportunities to enter the world of RPA and progress further. The biggest benefits of RPA are its the ability to help organisations become more efficient by allowing their employees to automated processes they would normally do manually, freeing up their time to do other work.
In many of the jobs, people do there mundane tasks that take time like preparing reports by extracting information from multiple other reports. So if this can be automated, then the hours or days spent compiling the report can be spent on some other activity.
It’s the automation of legacy applications where RPA has made a name for itself, by being able to realise cost savings from the RPA automation. This has created a lot of demand for people with RPA skills and automating legacy applications doesn’t require the level of RPA skill modern applications require to automate.
Legacy is a term used to describe older applications that are outdated and obsolete but still used by an organisation because they haven’t migrated away from the legacy application due to complex migration issues or maybe just don’t want to spend the money doing so.
These legacy applications are ideal for RPA automation with the benefit that the skills to use the legacy applications may be difficult to recruit or obsolete themselves.
So if the legacy application processes are automated using RPA tools, then there will be cost savings from not having to use expensive recruits and also from keeping the legacy applications in use, without having to buy replacement newer applications.
3. RPA requires no programming skills to get started
The RPA basics don’t require any programming knowledge or any superior math ability, instead, the way the RPA tools are designed for the simpler automation capabilities makes the tools exceptionally ease to use.
If you do have some programming knowledge, that’s fine as it will allow the transition into using RPA for complex tasks easier, but for people with no programming knowledge at all, RPA is definitely worth learning.
It’s important to appreciate RPA has evolved from easy to use recording technologies, that allowed people to record what they were doing and then convert these into scripts (macros) they could repeat over and over again without intervening themselves.
This simplicity from its origins has been carried forward into the later incarnations of RPA technology, making the basic functionality of the RPA tools, a breeze to use.
This simplicity has opened up RPA to more and more people, allowing them to automate the many manuals tasks they have to do in their day to day jobs, not only saving them time but making them more efficient, freeing them up to do other work that can’t be automated.
API for expert users only
Complex tasks will require some programming knowledge, especially when it comes to accessing other systems application programmable interfaces (API) and sending instructions on how to interact with the system.
So instead of using the front end of the system, such as a screen displayed in a web browser, the instructions can be sent to the back end of the system where the ‘brain’ is and where the processing and decision making takes place.
By bypassing the front end, the RPA tool isn’t impacted when the front end is changed, such as changing the layout, as this would require the RPA tool to have to automate the tasks again.
With the back-end API, there is no need, as long as there are no major changes in functionality. People with programming skills work as RPA developers, creating API integrations between the RPA tools and the back-end systems.
4. RPA requires basic tech skills
To start learning RPA doesn’t take much in terms of technical skills, as long as you know how to do the basics with a computer, then it shouldn’t present any problems. Being able to use a web browser, word processor, a spreadsheet to name a few applications is about as basic skill set you need.
The RPA tools themselves are very intuitive and a lot of time and money has been spent on making them easy to use, leading to them becoming easy to learn.
RPA’s popularity has been compounded around the globe as an easy to adopt technology and in order to achieve this, RPA technology has become easier and easier to use, with more people taking their manual work tasks and automating them.
5. RPA is easier than other technologies
The market-leading RPA tools have made it easier to use their tools by providing an easy to use interface, with many functions that can be selected by clicking and dragging and dropping them into sequences.
RPA evolved from screen scraping tools, where screen display information is taken from one application (screen scraping) and then using it, generally in another application.
So a web page containing information about flight arrivals at an airport can have the flight arrival information captured by the RPA tool and then automatically added to another application, like a spreadsheet.
It’s quite easy to do the screen scraping using RPA tools, without the need for any programming skills (if information needs to analysed or transformed, programming skills are required) and this makes RPA tools easy to use for people with modest technical ability.
6. Learning RPA is quicker than other tech
Getting up to speed with RPA is a lot easier than other technologies, because RPA is easier to learn, thereby making it quicker to learn than other technologies. Progress can be made quickly to get to a decent level of proficiency which could be good enough for a career move into RPA.
RPA has limited prerequisites
Many other technologies carry the baggage of knowing a few prerequisites first, technologies like being able to administer cloud environments, generally also require Microsoft Windows and Linux knowledge. So learning both of these prerequisites adds to the overall learning time but with RPA, the basics don’t require many, if any prerequisites other than basic technical skills as mentioned earlier.
7. FREE RPA resources help to learn
Market-leading RPA tools are available in FREE editions, allowing people to quickly get their ‘hands dirty’ on actually doing automation tasks with RPA tools. I’ve tried other technologies where just trying to get the right tools to learn has been expensive and this has been off-putting in progressing with the technology learning further.
Some of the RPA tool companies provide trial versions which are limited by time and sometimes by functionality. The leading RPA tool provider has a FREE edition with no time limitations but with slightly stripped-down functionality. They provide this edition, known as the Community Edition as a FREE download from their website.
I would suggest before looking at getting your ‘hands dirty’ to learn the basics of RPA first and use a good course to get a good grounding, otherwise you could end up wasting time with the RPA tool, without knowing the basics.
8. RPA decision making is easy
With programming languages, decision making is part and parcel of how to develop code and this can become quite convoluted. The actual writing code to do something is the easy part, the decision making based on possible outcomes becomes challenging.
In RPA, the decision making doesn’t necessarily require complexity associated with programming especially if the screen scraping aspects of RPA are being used. The decision making is quite simple in determining business logic.
Consider the following example, where a calendar application is checking on appointments scheduled for the following week and writing a letter to remind the person to attend the appointment.
- IF the calendar is open then PROCEED to Step 2
- IF the calendar is not available, see if the calendar has been started
- IF the calendar has not been started, start the calendar
- IF the contact list is open then PROCEED to Step 3
- IF the contact list is not available, see if the contact list has been started
- IF the contact list has not been started, start the contact list
- IF the word processor is open then PROCEED to Step 4
- IF the word processor is not available, see if the word processor has been started
- IF the word processor has not been started, start the word processor
- Go to calendar, find the first day of the following week and select the first appointment
- Select the name of the first appointment, right-click and select copy
- Go to the contact list, select ‘Find’ and paste in contact name
- Copy contact address details
- Go to the word processor, paste in name and address, type a reminder letter
The business logic here is simple if/then/else type decisions and these make learning RPA a lot less painful than other more complicated solutions.
RPA is worth learning as it’s a niche skill that is in demand, with a low learning curve, allowing it to be learnt to a basic level in no time at all.