Looking at RPA as a career choice seems good as there's always news about how companies are embracing RPA. So, researching if it would be a good idea to learn about RPA to see if it's a good career move makes sense.
Is RPA a good career choice? Robotic Process Automation, RPA for short, is a good career choice, as more and more companies are using RPA to reap the cost savings of automation and simply can't find enough people with good RPA skills to fill their jobs. This has led to RPA salaries increasing more than in other IT fields.
It's about supply and demand and when there's not enough availability of skills, the supply, and the demand for those skills is high, then it's great for those people who have those in-demand skills. RPA is a bit like that at the moment as more organisations are looking for people with RPA skills.
RPA can be used in two ways by either screen scraping or through API integration with many tools available providing screen scraping as their standard way of doing automation.
Screen scraping involves taking information from an application and using it. Common screen scraping tasks include:
Screen scraping is easy to do and doesn't require any deep programming knowledge but it ties the automation to how the screen from whatever application the scrape was done from, so if there is a change to the screen, the RPA bot fails to work because it is not intelligent enough to know what the changes made were and therefore the script has to be recreated using the RPA tool.
This can be a problem where software functionality is regularly changed, as the software is continually updated to keep up with changes in the market, regulation changes to improvements in making the software easier to use.
RPA skills required: The basics of RPA using screen scraping can be mastered by even those with basic technical skills. These involve using point & click to drag & drop functions in the RPA tools with any business logic, that is decision making is done using simple steps.
Programming skills are required for the advanced functions that RPA tools offer from API Integration to newer Artificial Intelligence (AI) capabilities.
The RPA tools with the ability to provide API integration, that programmatically controls the software don't suffer as much when changes are made to the software's user interface, as long as the API calls remain the same, that is, the software functions behind the scenes, such as adding, deleting, changing or updating information to a database.
RPA skills required: Whilst the basics of RPA using screen scraping doesn't require deep programming skills, the API integration is a more advanced use of the RPA tools and therefore requires some level of programming ability including how to use APIs.
Cognitive Robotic Process Automation (Cognitive RPA) is using Artificial Intelligence with RPA, by giving RPA cognitive abilities, like being able to listen, read and learn, then use these to make decisions in their automation.
The ability to listen, read and learn is possible by using Artificial Intelligence's Machine Learning (ML) capabilities. Where information from listening (voice data) is analysed using speech recognition as well as information from reading using natural language learning.
This information is then deciphered into a format the RPA tool can understand by the AI's Machine Learning.
RPA skills required: Cognitive RPA requires programming skills for the Machine Learning aspects and many programming languages especially Python are excellent choices to use.
RPA use is becoming more widespread with many organisations actively using RPA to reduce their costs and this, in turn, creates a lot of opportunities for people with RPA skills.
To understand why RPA has become popular and why the demand for RPA skills continues to increase, it's important to appreciate where RPA can be used by organisations.
Many of the applications used by organisations are older applications and known as ‘legacy' applications. These legacy applications may have been developed internally or brought in from external suppliers. Legacy applications tend to have very limited changes to their functionality and this makes them ideal candidates for RPA.
With many organisations reluctant to make wholesale changes to these legacy applications (as the costs become very expensive), the cost savings from automating how these applications are used makes a lot of financial sense.
Demand for RPA skills: High as organisations want to make cost savings from automating their legacy application processes and are concerned with losing people who have skills in using their legacy applications.
They know finding new people with skills in older applications is very difficult. So if they can automate the use of the legacy applications, they don't have to worry about the people part anymore.
The word processing software on my computer hasn't been developed solely for me, it's been developed for wide-scale use and it is available to use immediately without having to be modified in any way. This word processing software is a type of software classed as ‘Commercial off the Shelf' software, COTS for short.
Many organisations use COTS software from spreadsheets to Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software, with all of these good candidates for automating the manual tasks involved in using this software.
Many RPA professionals working for organisations that create automation scripts that can be brought by other organisations. This means any organisation wishing to use RPA doesn't necessarily need to hire a skilled RPA individual to create the automation, they just need to hire an RPA individual who can take the automation scripts and get them up and running.
This creates demand for people who have skills in being able to get pre-created automation scripts and set these up on the RPA tools to be used in automation of the COTS applications.
Demand for RPA skills: High demand for people with RPA development skills who can create automation scripts for COTS applications which can then be sold by their employers to companies that use the specific COTS products.
There is also a high demand for people with RPA administration skills that can take the COTS RPA scripts and manage them (install and keep an eye on) for their employers COTS products.
As the cloud becomes more and more popular, many organisations are turning to subscription-based software where instead of paying outright to buy the software, they instead pay a monthly (or annual) subscription fee to use the software.
This is known as Software as a Service (SaaS) with the likes of Microsoft and their Office 365 being the most widely used SaaS application, where a monthly subscription is paid and their Word, Excel, Powerpoint, SharePoint and other software is available to use without having to worry about license costs as these are already included in the subscription charge.
As long as the subscription is maintained the Office 365 applications can be used.
SaaS applications don't just include Office type applications but cover a wide spectrum of software types from CRM, Enterprise Resource Planning (ERP) to Accounting software, all of which have the ability to be automated.
Demand for RPA skills: High demand for the development of automation scripts programmatically using SaaS APIs from the SaaS vendors so they can offer these at a cost to their customers and also from the SaaS customers to develop their own RPA API integrated scripts.
SaaS solutions without APIs are difficult to automate and using screen scraping RPA technologies isn't recommended, as any SaaS application changes to the User Interface needs to changes to the RPA scripts.
Bespoke applications are applications created specifically for organisations with the functionality they want or in some cases, standard available applications which have been customised with the functionality required.
These bespoke applications can be automated using RPA tools as there are cost savings from doing so.
Demand for RPA skills: High demand for creating RPA scripts using screen scraping as these bespoke applications are likely to have fewer changes and more than likely, not have any API integration capabilities.
RPA does have a bright future as it's popularity is down to the cost-saving organisations can make and whilst this is the case, RPA use will continue to grow.
RPA allows organisations to save costs by using their staff more efficiently. So if an employee needs to run reports every week that involves two days worth of effort each week just to set up, RPA could automate most of the manual tasks involved in compiling the report, freeing up valuable time for the employee to work on other tasks that can't be automated.
RPA can also make cost saving for organisations by reducing the number of people required, putting them out of work, as what they do can be automated. So there are cost savings from not having to pay wages, pensions, sickness or holiday payments.
Its inevitable RPA will keep on increasing its adoption in the corporate world and for those with RPA skills, this could mean there are plenty of opportunities available.
Yes, in conclusion, I found RPA is a good career choice as more and more organisations are using RPA and as a result, need to hire more people with RPA skills.
Even those with basic technical skills can quickly grasp the basics of RPA and increase their career prospects, as most of the RPA tools provide easy ways of automating applications.
The areas of RPA where there is the highest demand is with the programming side, it's here the programming code is developed to do the complex tasks, that can't be done using the functions provided by the RPA tool such as recording and scraping.
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