New job roles emerge in business all the time, especially as technology evolves. Individuals who are in tune with these changes and developments can take advantage of fresh opportunities, finding ways to create value for their employers while honing exciting new skills. That's what is happening right now with the growth in demand for professionals who can develop and program tools for robotic process automation (RPA).
Even if you did so as a customer rather than as a professional, there is a good chance you've interacted with a system run by an RPA robot behind the scenes. From marketing emails to automatic shipping notifications, many tasks aren't manual—rather, they’re handled in software. Someone must tell that software how to do its job. That’s where an RPA developer becomes essential for a business.
What do you need to know about this job role? How could you pursue this career path—and, most importantly, is it a path worth pursuing?
In this article, we'll explore RPA development and how individuals with certain skills can fit into an organization's approach to broader, more comprehensive automation solutions. Topics that we will cover include:
- All About the Job: What RPA Developers Do
- Is RPA Hard to Learn? The Skills You'll Need
- What Training Do You Need to Be an RPA Developer?
All About the Job: What RPA Developers Do
When you're interested in how to become an RPA developer, doing your homework on what the role entails is the first step. A closer examination of what it involves may reveal whether it is the right career path for you. Before we can consider the importance of RPA developer roles and responsibilities, we should examine the technology behind the job.
What Is RPA?
Robotic process automation is the use of software to build intangible "robots" that can replicate some of the basic tasks that human users perform. While traditional automation involves back-end APIs, RPA avoids this complexity. Instead, it uses software to interact directly with a graphical user interface as a human would. The tasks that are most often automated with RPA are:
- Rule-based tasks
- Workflows that don't require human intuition or decision-making
- Tasks that involve moving information between systems
With RPA, a business can achieve benefits such as 100% accuracy in low-level tasks, faster results on queries for critical business data and much faster cycle times across workflows.
A Basic RPA Developer Job Description
What is an RPA developer? When it is your role, your job is determining how to set up a software robot so that it can deliver benefits and make a human employee's daily experiences less frustrating. You'll need to understand the challenges surrounding automation, liaise closely with the knowledge workers who require automation and develop the RPA bots that they need.
Your job description includes tasks such as overseeing RPA deployment, maintaining and updating bots and even providing support to individual users. It's easy to wear many hats in this role, but all these efforts tie back into your work with RPA software.
Which Responsibilities Does an RPA Developer Have?
When you work as an RPA developer, your responsibilities are a diverse set of tasks that don't all strictly involve using your software tools. Your goal is to produce robots to handle the work that takes humans too much time and effort.
To do that, you'll need to spend time on fact-finding missions with your colleagues before you can begin to create a robot. The RPA developer has job responsibilities that include understanding the business's automation needs. Other responsibilities are using the software platform for building RPA tools and keeping a close watch over the performance of bots to see if they perform as expected.
Which Tasks Does a Developer Pursue?
Over the course of any project, an RPA developer has many tasks to manage. Consider a basic sample of RPA projects for creating a new robot:
- The business, or one department or team in the business, identifies processes that could benefit from automation. Working in tandem with the team, process developers in RPA create an initial roadmap for how to automate each process.
- The planning phase proceeds when the developer identifies whether to implement unattended or attended RPA. You may create an initial process flowchart to better assess these steps.
- With this information, you begin development on your RPA platform.
- Once you are finished, you set up the robots to run in their intended environments and see how they perform.
- Conduct bug-testing and error correction as you move toward finalizing the bots for regular use.
- You remain available to provide support and guidance when the bots encounter problems or when upgrades and adjustments become necessary.
How Does an RPA Developer Fit into a Company's Big Picture for Automation?
Over the long term, RPA is a fundamental part of business automation, but it is only one piece of the puzzle. Enterprise automation, especially of broader business processes and multi-departmental workflows, requires technologies beyond the RPA skillset. However, RPA can play an essential role in linking systems and opening the door to more advanced automation. As a result, you can occupy a position that will allow you to support technological transformations over time.
Not all platforms for RPA are the same. Some permit "citizen developers," or regular employees who can participate in the automation process by taking greater control over their own workflows. With no-code platforms that are easy for employees to learn, tools such as Kofax RPA™ can provide rapid opportunities for low-level automation across a business.
Learn more about this solution and how it connects to the complete Kofax TotalAgility® intelligent automation platform.
Is RPA Hard to Learn? The Skills You'll Need
With an understanding of what these developers do, the next questions on your mind may concern the specific skills required to learn RPA. Is this a kind of job that that many different professionals could pursue? Do you need to dedicate a substantial amount of time and effort to acquiring the necessary understanding?
We'll look at the associated technical skills, which level of programming experience will be beneficial and why RPA developers require other intangible skills. Planning, analysis and even patience are all key elements of RPA development.
Strategic Planning Capabilities Are Key
By now, it should be clear that planning is a critical element of being successful at the implementation of RPA. Because bots must precisely replicate a human's actions while handling somewhat complex tasks, selecting the right commands and writing the appropriate rules are essential steps.
To solidify a process so that a robot can produce 100% accurate results requires precision in planning combined with setting clear goals.
A Strong Analytical Sense Is a Must-Have
RPA isn't just about taking a process and recreating it with a robot in a one-to-one manner. Automation is also an opportunity for process improvements and that area is where your skills will be the most vital. With your outside perspective, you can analyze business processes deeply to look for ways to improve them.
Could your bot accomplish the same task in fewer steps? Where are human bottlenecks causing issues that software could avoid? You'll need to be able to analyze these questions and determine appropriate solutions. Likewise, you'll need the ability to analyze and troubleshoot your improved processes if your robots don't function exactly as you intended.
What About Coding? Understanding Programming Languages Helps
You may wonder whether you need to understand programming to develop RPA tools. It is true that there are many platforms today, including Kofax RPA, that feature "no code" or "low code" opportunities. These solutions streamline bot creation by putting simpler and more intuitive tools into the hands of citizen developers. However, not every employee has the planning and analytical skills necessary to produce results.
For that reason, you should practice and develop some skill with popular programming languages. Some of the most-used solutions in an automation environment are Ruby, Java, Python and different flavors of the C programming language. While you do not need to be proficient in any or all these languages, familiarity with the abstract thinking that programming requires is a significant asset.
What Training Do You Need to Be an RPA Developer?
Is RPA a skill that you can teach yourself, or do you need to pursue accredited higher learning courses to be a developer? Are there certifications that an employer will want to see when they are hiring employees and automating more of the business? As is the case with the RPA industry as a whole, the educational and training solutions surrounding RPA are currently undergoing change and growth. Let's consider which courses you could pursue right now.
RPA Educational Options
Although there are many options for those who wish to re-skill their way into working with RPA, there are a few fundamental pathways for students. A background in computer science and information technology would be very useful—so would degrees in business management or software engineering. However, these are still only the first steps for a student to take.
Online courses in RPA are abundant and often sponsored in partnership with leading providers of the technology. When you choose to pursue an RPA certification, you directly acquire the skills to begin putting bots into practice for a business. What you learn for one RPA platform you can also apply to other tools. Once you understand the techniques, training on new services will become much easier.
Becoming a Certified RPA Developer
Which steps should you take to earn your certification in RPA for developers? While everyone takes a slightly different path, we can break down the steps to clarify what it takes to set yourself up for a career in automation:
- Research automation platforms, their capabilities and whether they offer a certification program.
- Assess which certification course aligns with your goals by looking at factors such as length, cost and contents.
- Enroll in the course of your choice, study the materials and pass the exam.
- Receive your certification and begin the process of putting your new skills into practice.
Kofax offers a wide range of certification programs, including for the intelligent automation solution TotalAgility, which provide a straightforward path for improving your skills.
As an RPA developer, you could create many opportunities for companies to realize better productivity and improved value. You can also secure a job that retains an innate human element despite involving the creation of software robots. Ultimately, your work could help individual employees to avoid the most boring and tedious tasks of the workday. The tools that you help implement could lead to fundamental improvements for a business.
RPA as an industry reflects a strong growth trajectory, with estimates placing its value in the billions of dollars by the mid-2020s. With many more companies across major verticals exploring and embracing RPA, you could develop a solid career path in this arena.
While being a robotic process automation developer is a strong career choice today, it could also be a stepping stone to something bigger tomorrow.
RPA is just one element of automation for business and it has limitations that organizations must address with other tools, strategies and techniques. These include OCR, BPM, artificial intelligence and machine learning. Unifying these technologies into one strategy for intelligent automation will represent a major challenge for companies. With the skills that you begin developing in RPA, you could become a vital element of the intelligent automation cycle, providing key insights and support from start to finish—and RPA development is one way to get a foot in the door.
Get in on the ground floor while you prepare yourself to engage with the new and developing business automation environment and you will nurture skills that will remain valuable for a long time to come.