What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is many technologies brought together under one toolkit to be deployed when required for automating varied manual processes. It integrates software-driven "bots" with defined mundane processes to drive automation. Automating these mundane, repetitive processes solves some acute business problems, such as lack of efficiency, high labor costs, inability to scale, and rising quality issues from manual mistakes.

“It’s a safe assumption that robotic process automation will soon become part of shared services’ modus operandi” - Barbara Hodge, Editor, SSON
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The RPA technology automates digital tasks that otherwise consume significant time if done manually. Collection, transfer, and entry of information, file management, scanning, and storage of data and documents are the most common and popular uses of RPA. The nullification of human time, effort, and mistakes help employees shift their focus to more strategic tasks instead of the technological systems. RPA creates a virtual workforce that never gets tired and follows all the rules set by humans, and humans then make judgmental calls, handle exceptions, and provide oversight.

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The example listed below will denote the difference between manual Vs. RPA implemented process for your understanding.

The rise of RPA

Previously, robotic automation was accessible only to large-scale enterprises that wanted to address repetitive functions and cut costs. Such enterprises would have the resources to bring in global systems integrators to help with virtual robots' programming and implementation.
Now, the adoption of Robotic Process Automation from Small-Medium Businesses (SMBs) to multinational enterprises is rising at lightning speed. Their primary focus is to drive efficiency and performance in the workplace. Over time, enterprises have realized that RPA's benefits are industry agnostic, spanning from finance to the utility industry.

RPA's market revenues are forecasted to cross USD 2.9 billion worldwide in 2020, with a projected CAGR of 40.6% from 2020 to 2027. These figures denote how the demand for automation in business is rising as business leaders become more aware of the vast benefits RPA technology offers.

Additionally, COVID-19 has raised businesses' expectations to be everywhere - across all devices and technologies. This will be a significant driving factor in extending RPA applications and their capacity in the years to come.

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Where can you apply RPA?

Apart from BFSI, a very prominent user of RPA, other industries such as Healthcare, IT & ITES, Call Centers, Manufacturing, Transport & Logistics, Utilities, Procurement, Accounting, and Human Resources are reaping handsome benefits from RPA adoption.

Some applications we can state here as an example are,

  1. Invoice processing - By combining Optical Character Recognition (OCR) software with RPA technology, one can extract all the fields and values from a scanned invoice. The software robot will then start a session to the business application, input all previously read values, and save it for further processing. Exceptions, like VAT mismatch, can automatically be redirected to a supervisor.
  2. Performing data entry, compliance regulations, statement processing, balance sheets, etc.
  3. Managing claims processing and policy quotes through to updates to underwriting and payouts.
  4. Handling large volumes of patients' sensitive data while providing more detailed insights into patients' histories and digitizing patient data.
  5. Streamlining order management, optimizing order distribution cycles, and linking external supply chain applications to internal tools.
  6. Managing customer service and standard administrative processes such as debt recovery, data integration, and security.
  7. Registering orders in business applications and notifying the relevant parties.
  8. Creating support tickets based on customer emails by extracting information from the emails.
  9. Providing automatic answers to questions regarding purchase orders, returns or exchanges, etc.
  10. Entering customers and contacts in the CRM software.
  11. Verifying induction prerequisites for new employees. When an exception occurs, the process will notify the hiring manager.

Any industry using computers for any small or large aspect of operations will benefit tremendously from the speed, accuracy, efficiency, and overall dependability of RPA.

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The RPA job market

The growing adoption of RPA in all industries opens plenty of RPA job opportunities for multiple job roles in RPA. At the same time, RPA opportunities aren't limited to technologists. Business analysts and others with the ability to analyze business processes and recognize how they can be automated can learn to make bots or write up the requirements for an RPA developer.

The RPA job market has several roles; Solutions Architect, Project Manager, Business Analyst, Process SME, RPA Developer, RPA Tester, and Bot Orchestrator, to name just a few. Many companies prefer all-rounders with delivery and hands-on experience with one or more RPA tools and a few years of experience. They assess if the candidates have a relevant aptitude and are trained to evaluate, analyze, and optimize each business process that needs automation. However, RPA is a relatively new field, and an RPA expert will often have less than five years of experience. This increases the chance for new entrants with related skill sets to grab RPA job opportunities with the necessary RPA certifications.

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UK-based Information Services Group (ISG) recently stated that they would soon create thousands of new RPA jobs and Robotics jobs. The positions available will include Automation Analyst, Automation Consultant, RPA Lead, RPA Analyst, and Head of Automation.

Moreover, to concur with the current trend, the findings from the "State of RPA Developer Report 2020," released by UiPath, are good news for RPA aspirants. The survey, based on a group of 1,500 RPA professionals around the world, stated that "70% of RPA professionals say their organization will hire more developers in 2021, and 84% agree that their job as an RPA developer will have a positive impact on their next career move."

Which prominent RPA tools should you know about?

According to both Forrester Research and Gartner, the list of vendors that compete in the RPA software market is quite long. However, the leaders are Automation Anywhere, UiPath, and Blue Prism, followed by Pegasystems and WorkFusion, as strong performers in the RPA market.

The RPA tools developed by these companies are the software through which one can configure tasks that need to be automated. Depending on the company's requirement, they can choose one from the below list that meets their objectives of RPA:

  • Blue prism - It is user-friendly, scalable, easy to set up, and offers a high-security level. It supports several languages besides English and integrates easily with third-party tools.
  • Automation Anywhere - It is ahead of other RPA vendors in providing a bot store for partners. It has been named a leader in the "2018 Forrester Wave: Robotic Process Automation Q2 2018" report by Forrester.
  • UiPath - UiPath offers enterprise-grade security and auditing, and role-based access control with encryptions. It has hundreds of built-in, customizable, and shareable activities and deep integrations with ERP, BPM, and AI technologies.
  • AutomationEdge - It is an integrated automation platform to provide RPA, IT Process Automation with Artificial Intelligence, iPaaS, Machine Learning, Chatbot, and ETL capabilities. It saves significant development time by providing drag-and-drop workflow development UI and enabling plug-n-play automation by developing and offering 400+ ready bots.
  • WorkFusion - It is a complete automation solution for global operations, combining business process management (BPM), robotic process automation (RPA), workforce orchestration, and machine learning-powered cognitive automation into one platform. It is the new way to fill data gaps, manage seasonal spikes, and source "long tail" announcements securely, accurately, and at 50% of the cost of any in-house or outsourcing solution.
  • Pegasystems - It is a fast, low-risk starting point for automating processes that rely on outdated legacy systems. It adds the ability to automate tasks using the user interface of existing applications. It can help speed up manual tasks by automating user actions.
  • Redwood Software - It offers unparalleled flexibility with a network of services, making it easier to build extensive robotic processes in the fastest time, with hardly any development costs.
  • OpenSpan - It provides the most innovative ways of obtaining process analytics and optimization and its associated automation solutions. Being a part of Pegasystems, OpenSpan is an automation tool that works on creation, application integration, and automating projects.

These are the most widely used RPA tools available in the market today. They are worth learning for RPA career aspirants based on the job roles they are looking to excel.

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How to hire RPA professionals

The RPA job market is relatively new and lacks the formalization of recruitment processes. Nevertheless, there is more than one way of looking for RPA talent and vetting them for RPA requirements:

  1. Traditional job portals: At times, the natural choice of tech recruiters is opting for accepted and renowned worldwide job portals such as Indeed, Monster, Gigajob, CareerBuilder, or CareerJet. Tech recruiters are well-versed with these portals and can enlist the job profiles they seek to attract applications.
  2. Freelance hiring portals: Upwork, Freelancer.com, and Peopleperhour.com, are the leading names in this category, among many others. Hiring a freelancer for a short-term or long-term project is entirely based on the company's requirements. However, to oversee the RPA automation and its performance, there will always be a need for an in-house RPA resource.
  3. LinkedIn Jobs: Tech recruiters depend most on LinkedIn as all account holders provide detailed work experience. Members often enlist the certifications, projects, and workshops they have attended in their profile, making it easier for tech recruiters to verify if a candidate fits the job description.
  4. Campus hiring: Advanced technologies are quick to reach students who are currently in universities. As no mainstream education is available for being an RPA professional, many RPA aspirants go through RPA certifications provided by leading players in the industry. Tech recruiters always prefer fresh talent with new approaches and tie up with certification providers to select up-and-coming RPA talent.
  5. On-demand software development companies: Companies such as Toptal, Gun.io, XB Software, and DevTeam.Space are prevalent in this category. They can provide RPA teams based on the company's requirements for specified projects. While this will not fulfill in-house requirements, it will help tech recruiters find the right talent for the need.

RPA interview questions to ask while hiring professionals

Tech recruiters must understand that while RPA is a software category, excellent programming skills aren't necessary. It is natural for candidates from other roles, such as business analysts or project managers, to apply for RPA jobs. But technical know-how is still a good-to-have item on the list. Critical thinking and relationship management skills are equally important in an RPA professional's journey; hence it is essential to analyze the candidates.

Some of the RPA interview questions tech recruiters can ask aspiring candidates are -

  • For a given business challenge, is the best solution desktop/attended RPA or unattended RPA?
  • What is the relationship between RPA and AI?
  • How do you think RPA will impact company resources (operationally/ employee/monetarily)?
  • Describe your understanding of and experience with process management.
  • Can you provide examples of where RPA was used for scalability?

The RPA interview questions should combine technology, governance, and change management. As RPA intersects with multiple business processes across the organization, it will make sense not to treat the interview just as a technical interview.