Career opportunities and business innovation powered by RPA: Webinar Q&A
Q&A Blog: RPA career opportunities and business innovation
During a time of rapid workplace transformation and uncertainty, we want to help people and organisations upskill their digital capabilities. One of our recent actions in this area, was a webinar titled ‘Why should you upskill in RPA right now?’. In this webinar, our Regional Director of UK & I, James Ewing, and the Co-Founder of Edge Tech Headhunters, Harrison Goode, discussed the new opportunities for professional growth and business innovation powered by RPA.
The key takeaways from the webinar included:
– In what ways is COVID-19 impacting the adoption of automation technologies?
– What can automation technologies, such as Robotic Process Automation, do for your organisation?
– Why are you likely to find new professional opportunities through automation technologies?
– How can you attain these powerful skills and stay eligible for furloughed worker support?
– How far can you advance your skills online?
– Introduction to a free RPA training: Elements of RPA online crash course!
Listen to the webinar here.
We received a ton of great questions during the webinar! And since we couldn’t get to all of them during the session, we decided to make a Q&A post covering the questions raised by the audience.
Check out below James and Harrison’s answers to questions about the RPA market, talent gaps, RPA career opportunities, and online training!
Organisations and RPA market maturity:
Which countries are the leaders in implementing RPA?
From our experience, the demand we see is from countries that have invested in a cloud-first approach. The UK seems to be leading the way (It could be slightly biased as we are UK based company) however we do operate globally. So we also see a lot of activity from countries such as Germany, Finland, and the USA.
Which sectors are the leaders in RPA implementation?
Maybe not surprisingly, banking and large insurance organisations adopted automation early and have now hit scale. Some of the smaller insurers, specifically Lloyds Market and boutique finance are now looking to adopt automation. This is in part driven by the timing of outsourcing contracts coming to renewal after 3-5yrs (the window that has seen RPA grow in market presence). Leading finance organisations are now actually looking at the ‘next wave’ in that they are now bringing in Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning technologies, coupled with RPA to understand more and more unstructured data sources and drive further automation across high volume tasks. A good example of this is using Natural Language Understanding to read, direct, and action e-mails where typically someone has to read the e-mail to understand the requests. This often turns out to be something simple, like a termination, a mid-term adjustment, or a request for a paper version of a statement or summary.
Across Europe, heavy manufacturing has begun to aggressively embrace automation, probably expanding on their experience from adopting physical robotics in the factory environment. Telecoms, Utilities, and Energy providers are quite polarised with some transforming back-office and customer services operations to reduce average handling times and cost to serve. Also in this space, we have seen new entrant challenger companies launching with an ‘automation first’ strategy (www.goto.energy is a good example).
Healthcare and Public Sector have also ‘woken up’ to automation and using it to enhance people’s roles and release staff from mundane tasks to focus on more purposeful value-based work.
Which industries are likely to get impacted by RPA next?
Outsourcing and off-shore services businesses are likely to be impacted heavily over the next 24months. Again, looking at the timing of when RPA and Automation became mainstream and ‘accepted’ technology means that 3 or 5-year contracts are now close to renewal. Unless these businesses rapidly transform their own offerings to be more automated or drastically change their cost models, organisations may look to ‘Robo-Shore their services and effectively bring these services to a more in-house model.
Any industry that has a ‘high touch’ customer service activity will look to transform processes to be more automated. RPA can ‘bridge’ a lot of integration issues with back end systems or where multiple systems need to be updated. One good example of this is a large utility company, the process of a customer changing maiden name to married name on their client record. Customers would typically call the service centre, however, customer service representatives only have access to 9 systems to effect that change. Across the organisation that change needs updating on a total of 19 different systems. Using automation, service representatives can collect a few pieces of key data, validate the customer is who they say they are and automation can update all the systems in one go.
What process areas are most common in implementing RPA?
Finance Operations is a good early target for RPA with Accounts Payable, Accounts Receivable, Purchase Order Reconciliation, Timesheet Reconciliation and month-end reporting tasks all good targets for RPA. HR processes are very common with staff on-boarding and off-boarding processes being popular. IT Service Operations has seen a lot of automation with Password Reset, Account Creation, new laptop/PC request, and other ‘top 10’ type IT requests.
Can you please elaborate a bit more about success factors for the implementation of RPA?
There are a number of factors to ensuring success in an RPA initiative:
- Executive buy-in – Often overlooked but it is essential that a ‘whole business’ understanding of how and why automation will deliver value is needed. It is also important as many early good targets for RPA span departments to deliver value, so getting cross-department stakeholder engagement is important.
- Avoid silo deployment – This is for two reasons. Deployment in silos means your automation implementation may not scale and deliver exponential value to the business. It can just cause a different bottleneck – If Finance Operations automate a bunch of tasks and processes in isolation and are now hugely more efficient. Potentially now, Operations or Customer Services could now be overwhelmed. Metaphorically, you’ve just shifted the bottleneck, not solved it.
- Build a pipeline of many, many automation targets – Building a ‘long list’ is important from a couple of perspectives. It gives the program a lifespan beyond a few months, you can, with surprising ease build a list of over 100 potential targets. When you do this, you may find as you look to prioritize and validate this long list the top targets. The first targets you thought of actually don’t deliver the biggest impact.
Additionally, once you build out the most impactful automation first, automations further down the list are incremental and can start to add value without the initial start-up costs of the project.
- Consider things other than cost reduction or headcount saving – Whilst the most common business cases for RPA projects are raw cost savings or the reduction of employees on a given task or process. More nuanced business cases should be worked through as part of RPA justification – Considering elements such as improvement in accuracy, increased throughput or capacity, employee role & customer satisfaction and time given back to employees. Calculating the value of these cases can be more of a challenge and often a factor in some intangible benefits, but can also help reduce any perceived ‘fear’ of automation within the business.
- Removal of Human Glue – It’s an unfortunate truth that core systems have not been able to transform as fast as the business landscape companies have had to compete in. Some core ERP systems are now 20+ years old. When implemented, websites were in their infancy, e-commerce was mainly just a bunch of ideas and mobile apps were the stuff of Science Fiction.
The reality is as the business processes have evolved to handle these new services and systems have not, we have used people to ‘glue’ disparate or legacy systems and processes together to ensure that new services can be delivered. Inputting the same data into multiple systems, downloading data and manipulating it in spreadsheets, word document or other repositories only to upload it into another system or report so it can be used are all examples of ‘human glue’ – These processes are great targets for RPA and when you review your processes and tasks, I guarantee you will be surprised just how many of them fall into this category!
RPA has been around for a while. Do you think it is still an upcoming technology… or something which has already taken off?
We still see it as an upcoming technology, it has been around for a few years clearly, however, there are still loads of organisations out there who don’t know what it is or what it does!
How strong is the business case for automating a process? Could it be compelling for outsourced processes?
Very much so, if you consider that if the process that is outsourced currently is fairly well structured, repetitive and high volume, it’s a prime target. When you consider that an RPA bot will work at a minimum of 3x times more than a human (based on 3 x 8hr shifts in 24hours) but in reality concludes tasks at a rate somewhere in the region of 20-30times faster than a human without any error and costs a fraction of a full-time employee’s costs – even on a comparable basis to any low-cost location – It’s a pretty much a no-brainer.
One client I know downsized their outsource by 250FTE’s with the use of just 10x RPA bots.
How does RPA fit into Digital Transformation program of a company? Is it a part of it?
RPA and Intelligent automation should absolutely be part of Digital Transformation. Some have considered RPA as a ‘sticking plaster’ outside of Digital Transformation. However, if you consider it as a tool to be used within the context of delivering value quickly to the overall Digital Transformation Program it can show results very quickly (RPA projects can begin to deliver value in weeks, not months or years). Many Digital Transformation projects take 24-36months to deliver results, so even as the program starts to deliver change, RPA bots can be redeployed to other tasks or bridge integration gaps where the cost of integration or replacement outweigh benefits or simply just technologically will not work.
Do organisations use RPA as an emergency fix in functions that are over-loaded due to COVID and what skills should I attain to be helpful in this kind of quick fix?
We have seen may organisations address huge spikes in processes as a result of COVID. We have a Nordics Government Department that had to rapidly deploy a Small Business Loans/Grant Process. Considering this was a process that did not exist even a month or two ago, it was always going to be a challenge. The Department had to rapidly map out a process to get the loan/grant to companies, identify what existing systems and applications would support the process and then marshal a team of 200 people to deliver the new process.
Within 24hrs of launching the scheme, they received more than 15,000 applications that totally swamped the team. Digital Workforce were able to build a ‘Pre-qualification Bot’ that would check several basic and more detailed pieces of information for the application (company details like address, Directors names, VAT and Tax numbers etc.) and pre-populate systems before handing them to the team to finalise applications. This went live in just under two weeks and within 10days of operation had concluded 40,000 applications on behalf of the team.
Spikes in processes like cancelations, payment holidays, appointment cancelation & resetting and refunding have also occurred since the COVID outbreak. And it’s also worth noting that RPA can be used to effectively deal with any ‘backlogs’ that will no doubt occur due to stay at home orders prior to organisations stabilizing in a remote working model.
In terms of skills, Process Analysis and mapping are important, RPA Development skills in popular key technologies are in high demand and also Program Management of RPA initiatives. Skills in AI, Machine Learning, and Analytics also remain in high demand, however, are more problematic to acquire in the short term.
How quickly could a solution be built from scratch?
This a little bit of a ‘how long is a piece of string’ question. But as a very general rule of thumb. Simple automations like moving data from system to system or replicating data to multiple systems after a single input – Could be as quick as 3-5days or 5-10days if it has a larger number of steps. Add to that some hours or a day or so of re-work and testing, and you could have a functioning and production automation within a week.
The pre-requisite to this is almost definitely a cloud-delivered RPA infrastructure such as Robot as a Service that can be deployed in a few hours. What often takes the most time in automation is the implementation of the infrastructure if it needs to be on-premise and the networking requirements to allow cloud bots access to the client’s applications and environment.
Clearly the more complex or the more systems and data points a process needs means it will take longer to develop and deploy. Again, as a really rough finger in the air. Simple, 5-10days. Medium complexity, 10-30days. Complex or Cognitive, 30-100days (Cognitive means, giving the bot or RPA process the ability to understand and interpret unstructured inputs i.e. free text input/e-mail, images, sensor data or sound & voice. Or, having elements of ‘decisioning’ involved as part of the process where a bot or RPA process can decide how to resolve a task based on an algorithm or choose the ‘next best’ action or accept/reject based on multiple criteria).
RPA career opportunities and job market:
What are the most wanted RPA roles and what kind of skills do they require?
The most wanted roles currently in the RPA space are 1. An RPA Developer and 2. RPA Project Lead / Head of RPA / RPA Programme Manager.
For the developer they require you to have experience in developing solutions in an RPA tool e.g. Blue Prism, UiPath, Automation Anywhere, etc. A background in software development also helps.
For the Programme Manager / Head of RPA role, it requires you to have skills in delivery and project management. Our clients typically look for experience doing this in RPA but as RPA is still quite new they will also expect a background in software project delivery, leading development and BA teams, and the knowledge of the full end to end transformation process.
How many years of experience are employers looking for?
Because RPA is still quite new employers are only usually looking for 1-2 years of RPA specific experience – there are occasions where they ask for more e.g for a senior RPA developer who might need to have at least three years experience. But we don’t have clients asking for 10-15 years experience in RPA as it doesn’t exist yet
What are the roles to fill in order to run a strategic automation program?
There is no one set way to successfully run an automation programme but the ones which we have been instrumental in helping grow have proven that they aren’t one dimensional. It’s a blended approach of technical, business-focused, strategic and executive professionals to make it work, a typical set up looks like RPA Developers, RPA Business Analysts/Process Specialists, RPA Solution Architect, RPA Programme Lead / Head of RPA. There are many different types of RPA career opportunities included in this list and they all play an important role in making a successful automation programme.
What are the most important skills I should attain to launch a career in RPA – starting from scratch?
The most important skills differ depending on what role you are looking to persue. If you are looking to go down the development route then a background in software development is best, this gives you a good basis to understanding how software works – it isn’t essential as some RPA tools are no code / low code but it does help when working with other IT systems along with RPA. This also opens up a wider range of career opportunities in RPA as you are more capable of handling all the different aspects of developing automations.
From a business perspective, skills in process improvement, change, business analysis, and project management are all very useful skills to have and a great foundation for a strong RPA expert.
Have you already seen the impact of COVID-19 in organisations hiring more RPA specialists?
Yes, we have, some orgainsations have wanted to accelerate their programmes and hire more skills into the business to support the current situation but also the huge demand which will no doubt come off the back of COVID.
How have organisations been affected by the RPA talent gap trying to grow their RPA teams?
Businesses have felt the pain of the lack of talent in the RPA space. Clearly, when there is a new technology there aren’t going to be lots of people out there with the skills to do what you need. By not being able to easily attract the best individuals with these skills their programmes have been delayed or even failed.
It’s obviously a shameless plug for Edge Tech at this point but this is why we do what we do. To find organisations the best people either on a contract or permanent basis in the RPA space (among other technologies too).
Which RPA system do you suggest training with?
We suggest UiPath or Blue Prism as these are the tools that we see the most demand for, and so provide the most RPA career opportunities.
What are your thoughts on Microsoft Power Automate?
This is an exciting development that we are currently looking into. Power Automate, delivered through Azure, can open up new opportunities for automation, especially because of the cost-effectiveness of the solution. As a Microsoft Partner, we keep a close eye on the technology and our offerings around it.
What certifications are employers looking for?
The main certifications employers are looking for are usually from the big three RPA vendors: UiPath, Blue Prism, and Automation Anywhere.
Is a certificate with a UiPath partner good enough?
Yes. We have helped over 150 global organisations to level up their Robotic Process Automation skills with our trainings, including UiPath training. We are also recognised as a Diamond level partner to UiPath – the highest level – which testifies to our in-depth expertise in the technology. Our training modules offer personal support which enables the participants to quickly build new skills. Additionally, we are the only training provider offering the full spectrum of courses for all main RPA and automation roles: Head of Automation, RPA Business Analyst, RPA Developer, RPA Controller and Technical RPA Architect.
If you have previous experience from working as an RPA Infrastructure Engineer is it mandatory to be trained in RPA Development in order to work as an RPA developer?
Career opportunities in RPA development are more available after receiving training in this area. We also don’t recommend that you begin working as an RPA developer with a background solely in infrastructure engineering – although these skills are beneficial in the role. There are many aspects to RPA development that differ from other programming. You also need to have a good understanding of best practices and technology features before being able to work effectively as an RPA developer.
What are the RPA roles I can get trained in online?
Digital Workforce Academy is the only training provider to offer role-based RPA training. On our platform, you can get technology-specific RPA training on different levels to become a developer using Blue Prism, UiPath, or Automation Anywhere. We also offer training modules for RPA Analyst and Program Manager roles. All our training modules can be completed online and they provide a great starting point to pursue a whole range of RPA career opportunities.
Could my employer sponsor my training? Will they be eligible for the -50% discount discussed in the webinar?
Yes, they can and it makes sense to them too! As discussed in the webinar, employers in the UK are currently supporting companies affected by COVID-19 by offering a grant covering a significant part of the salary of furloughed workers. To be eligible for the grant, however, the furloughed employees cannot undertake work for, or on behalf, of the organisation. This provides a great opportunity for the organisation to upskill in areas vital to their long-term success.
And even if the question of furlough isn’t relevant to you RPA is here to stay. The use of the automation technology is quickly spreading through all sectors across the globe, meaning that organisations that don’t upskill will be left behind in competition with those that use automation to execute their core business more effectively. I would strongly urge companies to support their staff getting trained in RPA and other automation technologies to keep their competitive edge in the long-term.
Taking the Elements of RPA course means that you are eligible to have -50% discount off any subsequent training by Digital Workforce Academy. This applies also if your employer is paying for your training.
Can I become certified in specific technologies just by attending online training?
In short, yes.
How quickly can I get certified?
Learn more about RPA career opportunities and training by visiting Digital Workforce Academy and get started with the free online Elements of RPA – crash course.
You can also contact us directly:
+44 (0) 79 0065 8400