My first introduction to Robotic Process Automation was way back in June 2016. I was interviewing for a position that had opened up at IBM. I was referred by my childhood best friend, who had joined there three months earlier! It would be such a dream-come-true story if I could land the job! The first round was a telephonic interview with someone in Europe.
As I listened to the guy on the other side – who would one day be my boss – explain the technology he was hiring me to work on, I wasn’t sure I was the right man for the job! He talked about robots that went from one system to another and fetch customer details, create and update service tickets and much else!
I had no idea what made him think I was qualified enough for building robots at IBM… until he explained they were robotic software programs! After the initial mini-panic attack, I managed to have a great conversation about my career path and RPA as a technology. I was on my way to starting an incredible life with robots!
Fast-forward a few years later, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has evolved so much. The robotic processes have taken new forms and new names; such as RPA robots, digital workers, and even digital twins (more on that later). My personal favourite is digital dummies! 😁
Whatever name we choose to call them, let’s start off with an important distinction:
Robotic Process Automation is not a branch of Robotics.
Robotics is a highly technical research area that involves computer science and engineering with the highest technical degree. The idea has been around for several centuries, with the last century being the most groundbreaking so far.
Numerous scientists have poured a lifetime’s worth of work to get us where we are today. It’s mind-boggling and complicated and awesome! Honestly, I wouldn’t touch it with a 20-foot pole.
(Also, why risk handing a mechanical robot a 20-foot pole!)
Robotic Process Automation, on the other hand, is a relatively new(born) technology. It has picked up speed in the last few years and there are sophisticated tools available now that allow us to write RPA programs, which we call Software Robots.
These robots can emulate human actions. But, I know what you’re thinking. Isn’t that just fancy talk for pretending to be human? It’s not like that robot is gonna walk over to the water cooler with you and run you through the latest goss!
Bots are dumb!
Yes, there’s a reason I call them digital dummies. If you’ve read the website’s About page, you know that these are nothing but grunt workers who are extremely good at doing what they are told. This makes them an ideal candidate for doing all your mundane, repetitive tasks which otherwise take up a bite out of your time every day.
A Quick Thought Experiment
Think of a computer-related task that you need to do at work every day. Pick something simple; like sending a spreadsheet report to a few people or downloading the latest bank statements for the company’s transaction account.
Your team lead or teammate taught you how to do that when you joined the team and had to supervise once or twice until you got it right.
You have probably been doing it every day ever since. It adds nothing to your skills but takes a few minutes each time you have to do it. Now think of all such tasks that you do daily or weekly. These few minutes per instance can really add up.
You might find out that you spend 10 out of 40 hours each week doing something that teaches you nothing.
If your job is customer-facing, you could be helping a few more customers each week. If it involves advising customers on the latest and greatest offers from your company, you could be spending that time reading up and staying up-to-date.
At the very least, you could take a nice and quiet lunch break, followed by a short walk instead of worrying about 6 different spreadsheet reports you need to send out!
But may I suggest something better?
If you were thinking of a task or two for the exercise in the previous section, then most likely your job is either already being automated or scheduled to be, soon. We all have some tasks in our typical workday that we push to the last hour of the day or the last day of the week. (I’m looking at you, timesheets!) It’s good that some of that boring stuff is now the robot’s problem, not yours!
With the introduction of Robotic Process Automation into your life, you can make time to learn new skills that not only help you be better at your current job but also could prove helpful in landing your next one!
What you choose to learn in your free time is totally your decision.
Dust the old guitar and start plucking some tunes, or get your hands dirty with some paint on the canvas!
Or, since you’re learning to work with robots anyway, why not try learning how to build the very robots that made this free time possible? Learning how to build software robots is a great way to get the most out of them.
You will learn not just what your robots can do for you, but it might also just enhance your resume! Who wouldn’t want a good Robo-wrangler on their team!
RPA For Everyone‘s mission is to help everyone learn a little bit of RPA so that when robots really do attempt a coup, we all will have a whip to make them fall in line!
Let’s keep the momentum going! Next, we discuss why you must learn to think like robots before you can build one! Does that seem too much? Well, we’re just getting started!
*laughs in binary*
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Now that we’ve had a quick introduction to Robotic Process Automation; whenever you’re ready to understand a robot’s mind, proceed to RPA 102!