With limited programming skills, finding out if you can still get into RPA and learn enough to make it to an intermediate level of expertise is important. By looking at the leading RPA tools, UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere to see how much programming know-how was needed to get started.
So, does RPA need programming skills? RPA does not require any programming skills to get started, as the RPA software contains tools to record tasks as they are being worked on by a human and then replay these recorded tasks by mimicing the human interactions by using software robots known as ‘bots’.
RPA’s design goals have ensured:
- Normal people to use can use it
- Advanced automation can be done without coding
- Task automation can be done quickly
- Simple clickable business logic is used
- Tools used evolve differently
The term RPA may sound intimidating, but the trick to it, like to most things in life, is to know as much as you can about the process your undertaking and then jumping right in.
To get started in RPA doesn’t require any programming skills as the RPA tools have been designed to make them easy to use. For complex tasks in RPA, programming skills may be required.
To get up to a basic level of knowledge and skill in RPA won’t require any programming knowledge, and below are 5 reasons why programming skills are not needed to get started.
1. Normal people to use can use it
To get up to speed with the basics of RPA doesn’t require an expert level of programming knowledge, in fact, in most cases, it doesn’t require any programming skills at all.
This is because the RPA tools have been designed to be easy to use, which equates to programming skills not required for the basic RPA use.
The software manufacturers of the RPA tools made them easy to use, as the easier the RPA tool is to use the more they can sell of them. This makes perfect business sense as the ease of use means they have a bigger audience to sell their tools instead of having to sell to a closed market of a few expert users.
The investment the larger RPA software companies have made, in the research and development of their RPA tools, has made them more intuitive to use, making it a breeze to automate tasks.
As normal people will make up the larger part of the user base, where they will want to automate many of the manual tasks they do in their working lives, there would be little point in providing an RPA tool which needed to be programmed for basic level automation.
As the costs of hiring experts to come in and automate would offset any costs savings made from the automation. So why not get the people who do the work to automate what they already do, by giving them an easy to use RPA tool?
This is a great idea that’s helping companies automate more and make more savings from the efficiencies automation provides.
Reduce human error
Companies want to use automation to reduce the chances of human error, as something done manually by someone, can end up being done incorrectly when done over and over again, as mistakes can happen.
Companies don’t want to bring in tools to automate which require complicated programming knowledge as well as time to hire people to find out what needs to be automated and what the manual tasks that are in scope for automation are done.
So programmers can see what code they will need to write. Then the programmer’s code itself needs to have error checking built into it, adding more time and cost.
All of this just adds cost, why not let the people who already do the work, automate what they do, as they already know how to do it manually. Help them by giving them easy to use tools for automation, that they can use themselves, saving a fortune on the costs of automation as well as the cost savings from the time freed up from the automation.
2. Advanced automation can be done without coding
Some RPA tools are able to do quite advanced tasks without any programming skills and use this as a selling point, as it allows the users of the these RPA tools to save on the cost of hiring expensive programmers and developers.
Automation Anywhere’s RPA tool is one of these types of RPA tool with the ability to do more without necessarily needing to know any programming knowledge.
Other RPA tools don’t offer the same degree of automation without programming, as they require programming skills to far more complex automation, such as being able to pull information from websites, analyse it, transform the format and re-present it as a presentation.
Some of these tasks will probably require some programming skills, especially the data transfer part.
3. Task automation can be done quickly
By being able to automate quickly, the cost savings of automation can be realised faster and to do this the RPA tools need to be easy to use. This is exactly what the creators of many of the RPA tools available have done, by making them more and more intuitive, thereby making them easy to use.
With some RPA tools like Automation Anywhere requiring little or no programming at all to use effectively, opens the use of this tool to more and more people who don’t have to have any programming skills at all.
The more that can be automated quickly by normal users, the better the benefits from the cost savings of automating. There’s little point in spending an age trying to automate tasks using complicated procedures and difficult programming.
Whilst no programming skills are required to use an RPA tool at a basic level, the RPA tools have the capability to be programmed using scripts written in code.
These scripts allow for more complex automation to take place and expert RPA users can create complex automation in no time. Again this is due to the clever way these RPA tools have been designed.
4. Simple clickable business logic is used
Instead of writing complicated code to do the business logic, a lot of RPA tools use clickable business logic where simple if, then, else conditions can be selected. This reduces the requirements for building in complex error checking, as simple decisions can be made to tasks as part of the automation.
So if a company has a process for onboarding new starters to the organisation, there will undoubtedly be some business logic that makes the decision to do a particular task.
The new starters job title could be checked to see which workgroup the new starter needs to be added to. This is simple business logic, of deciding from the new starter’s role title to do this then do that, or else do this.
- Check the new starters job title, are they in Management? If they are not in Management go to Step 3
- Add the new starter to Management group, go to Step 7
- Is the new starter work in Sales or Finance? If sales, go to Step 4
- Add the new starter to Finance group and go to Step 7
- Add the new starter to Sales group and got to Step 7
- Show an error message stating ‘No suitable group found for the new starter!’, as the new starter is not in the Management, Sales or Finance, end the process.
- Update the new starter program with the correct group and exit
This type of logic is very simple to achieve using RPA tools and removes the need for programming complex routines to try to achieve the same outcome.
5. Tools used evolve differently
RPA tools evolved from a Microsoft Windows world where unlike UNIX and Linux type environments, more of a graphical user environment for users was the norm.
By using macro recorder software available in Microsoft Windows, users were able to record themselves completing a sequence of activities. The macro recorder would create a simple script from the recording and be able to replay the script over and over again, thereby being able to repeat the task repeatedly with minimal errors.
From creating simple macros to complex tasks, the automation tools evolved to make automation more mainstream to the Robotic Process Automation (RPA).
Advanced RPA is different
Whilst programming skills won’t be required for getting up to the basics of RPA and the RPA tools, some programming experience is required for more advanced tasks. Rest assured most RPA users won’t need to do be able to this and as I found out, I learnt a lot about using an RPA tool without any programming skills.
Artificial Intelligence (AI) is picking up in popularity with many organisations, the Machine Learning aspects of Artificial Intelligence are in high demand requiring suitably experienced users like Data Scientists to able to manipulate the huge amounts of data generated.
This is where RPA tools can make a difference in being able to automate many of the manual tasks the Data Scientists need to do with the data collected.
What programming language is used for RPA?
Yes, if you want to go down the route of attaining advanced skills in RPA then it makes sense to learn a programming language. The popular tools use the following languages:
- UI Path uses VB.Net and C# with support for Python scripts
- Blue Prism uses VB.net and C# with some basic Python script support
- Automation Anywhere uses C# with support for Python scripts
A word of warning, as stated earlier, as some of these tools originated in the Microsoft Windows environments, the programming languages they use are not universal.
That is a language like Python is quite common across many different environments including Microsoft Windows as well as Linux and Unix, so learning Python opens up a lot more possibilities and working with the limited Microsoft Windows languages.
To get to a basic level of understanding with RPA, programming skills are not needed. For expert use of RPA tools does however require some programming skills.