Want to be an Automation Champion of Tomorrow

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A little under a decade ago, the global market for robotic process automation (RPA) was worth around $250 million. Thanks to location-based services, bots and its evolution to intelligent automation, in 2023, the market is worth $5.63 billion. Automation is firmly seated in business development and C-suite, driving faster end-to-end customer journeys, improving customer experiences and making cost savings.

The role of intelligent automation (IA) developers is undergoing a paradigm shift, becoming less technical and more business orientated. Now a gateway to understanding business and tangible tech improving customer offerings, automation unifies cross-enterprise repetitive processes, and makes life easier by streamlining workflows.

With the industry in need of more developers, Kavitha Chennupati, senior director of product management for SS&C Blue Prism, shares what it takes to break into the world of automation development.

Who are good candidates for becoming RPA developers?

All IA frameworks or tools are heading towards being no code platforms, but intelligent automation developers need a basic proficiency in technology, but not necessarily coding.

That being said, while coding is required only when customization is needed if a feature is not available in the basic framework, they do need to understand software development life cycles, release fundamentals and have a strong understanding of business processes. Being able to analyze documents and optimize processes to design effective solutions is a must.

We typically look for people with a natural ability to think with an eye towards process in a step-by-step manner. We look for people who are engaging and quizzical but with a good understanding of business areas.

What skills, both soft and hard, are essential for success, and how can they be developed?

The primary skill we look for is the ability to have an eye for process and systematic thinking. A certification on one of the IA products is very desirable and a differentiator. Some automation products are more technical, while others are no code. So if I’m recruiting into a center of excellence (CoE) team, I look for SDLC knowledge and basic scripting capabilities. When working on customizations or integrations, you need to have technical knowledge – the ability to understand APIs and work with APIs. Database skills and knowledge, SQL, and data manipulation are important because automation often involves interacting with databases.

Additionally, understanding web technologies like HTML, CSS, JavaScript, and web scraping techniques can be valuable for automating tasks that involve web applications. Because automation is quite often not a one-person journey in terms of the softer aspects, it needs team players.

However, as soon as you put the word developer into the job title, everyone thinks you’re a software engineer, but in some areas it’s the complete opposite. Quite often when we recruit people for intelligent automation development, we want them to identify automation opportunities that may be part of a business case, can easily relate to the automation concept, and help us understand it. This is where people with experience in specific business areas can really benefit automation teams.

What does progression from team member to rock star status look like?

In 10 years, developer roles will look very different due to the advancement of business orientated tasks that will require larger automated flows. This will see automation developers evolve into automation architects.

There are one of three ways of doing this, either from the technical side or progressing to automation business lead. Alternatively, some developers advance from domain positions into product experts. Most developers I’ve met have made the step into system architect jobs or progressed to senior automation roles in business units. For some, they’ve moved horizontally as development goes deeper into intelligent automation’s suite of technologies, which include generative AI, machine learning, business process management, and more.

What are the characteristics of a good RPA developer?

I’ve seen people I thought didn’t have the right background, but they persisted and became very successful developers. So, where you come from doesn’t necessarily determine where you’ll go to in regard to an automation career. In my experience there are four characteristics that a good automation developer should have: Persistence and not giving up; great communication skills; being business-minded; and having ‘tech-savviness’.

How do you think academia will support RPA training five or 10 years in the future?

I was recently asked if the automation developer role is going to be redundant. My thought is that the automation developer role is going to change vastly with the advancements that are coming into the market now. In future, I think we’ll see a move to developing automations by speech, rather than with drag and drop on screen tools, making flow creation easier.

While the tools we use to deliver automation are going to change, and we might see automatically configured screens or flow diagrams, the automation developer role will remain, redefined though. We’re currently seeing a rapid pace of RPA, BPM, AI, process intelligence, integration and data layer amalgamation, so I see a potential where future intelligent automation developers will grow into a bigger role where you are looking end-to-end at entire automated customer journeys. As a result, we have seen a shift in focus to processes and transformation in university and college curriculums, from learning about processes as part of business management theory.

Apart from ERP that has its roots in management theory, business process management has transcended into technology. Colleges and universities have caught up on real world industry and are establishing those learning paths and the skill sets required. In future, intelligent automation developers will be more forensic in what they do, identifying problems and bringing in the right piece of technology to improve efficiencies. They will blend industry and business knowledge with optimized processes and tools through low code, no code.

We’ll always need code for core elements of business, but right now, it’s more about intelligent automation developers making more use of soft skills as they evolve into automation business tech roles, where streamlining of internal processes are key or as business consultants with a liking for tech.