Bots here, there, everywhere. All around the world, RPA bots are actively automating busywork. The hot RPA market is growing at a compound annual growth rate of 65%. In 2018, over 60% of large organizations with more than 10,000 employees already used RPA bots. Since automation trends won’t be slowing – even in a recession, it is time to get to know your invisible bot co-workers.
To be completely open with you, I’ve been meaning to write this article for over five months. It is long overdue. I think RPA is a no-brainer, practical technology that enhances productivity and quality of work. As I played with it earlier this year, I imagined creating bots for tackling all the spammy SEO firm guest blog inquiries that I get, collecting research information for me, automating my husband’s repetitive weekly spreadsheet updating tasks, and improving countless other busywork projects.
Don’t fear bots taking your job. Get proactive. Learn how to build bots.
If you are not sure what to do next in your career, check out RPA. RPA is a rapidly-growing profession that has an ultra-bright future.
What is RPA?
RPA is software for building bots that emulate the actions of humans navigating app interfaces to capture data and perform actions. It is often used in high-volume, business-rules-driven, repeatable processes. I’ve shared a short video below that walks through an example use case.
Modern RPA bots can log into applications, move files and folders, copy and paste data, fill in forms, extract structured and semi-structured data from documents, scrape browsers, and so much more. If you have ever written a VBA macro in Excel or screen scraping solution, you can think of an RPA bot as a similar concept but far more powerful.
RPA projects involve process re-engineering or digital transformation.
A typical RPA bot automation project takes four to six weeks to complete. You’ll begin by developing a diagram of the current/AS-IS processes. Then you’ll define future/TO BE processes with RPA bots included. Just like most other tech projects, you’ll also create RPA bot detailed solution designs, test scripts, and change management plans.
How To Build RPA Bots
Enterprise RPA solutions today such as UiPath, Automation Anywhere, and Blue Prism are delightful and simple to learn. I decided to give free UiPath Studio Community Edition a try. UiPath Studio features a wonderfully designed UX with a rich collection of templates, recorders, and pre-built activities. Within four hours, I was able to install UiPath, walk-through basic RPA concepts, and create my first intelligent RPA bot with a DataRobot AI custom activity.
Uniting RPA and AI expands the potential for optimizing business outcomes.
UiPath Studio allows you to visually develop RPA bots from templates using Visio-like process mapping and action recording. No coding is required. UiPath Studio’s macro screen scraping works with Java, .NET, Flash, Excel, PDF, Browsers, Legacy, Citrix, SAP, Siebel, and other apps. RPA bots can capture, transform, and export data to various destinations. There is so much UiPath can do, I can’t possibly cover it all in one article.
Out of the box, UiPath Studio offers several types of RPA bot project templates.
- Transactional Process: Template based on a Flowchart, optimized for basic automation processes. It includes Data Input Sequences and Flow Decisions.
- Agent Process Improvement: Template based on a Sequence to monitor triggers such as a mouse or keyboard event for screen scraping and data entry.
- Robotic Enterprise Framework: Template based on State Machines packages best practices for logging, exception handling, application initialization, and others.
- Custom: Empty template for creating user-defined processes or libraries.
After I selected a project template, I began reviewing the plethora of available RPA bot activities including but not limited to the following:
- App Integration: CSV, Excel, Mail, and DataRobot functions
- Programming: Collections, Data Tables, and so on
- System: Application, Clipboard, Dialog, Environment functions, etc.
- File: File, Path, Excel workbook functions, Power Shell, etc.
- UI Automation: Web Browser, Element, Image, OCR, Text, and Window functions
- User Events: Click, KeyPress, etc.
- Workflow: Checkpoints, Control Flows, and Error Handling
- Orchestrator: Alerts, API, Assets, Jobs, Process, and Queues functions
I also imported several custom activities from UiPath’s vibrant community. Notably, UiPath workflow activities saved in xaml files are reusable automation components that can be easily shared. You can simply copy and paste sequences, flows, and activities from different workflows to fast-track bot development.
After an RPA bot workflow has been developed and configured with variable settings, you can test it by clicking Run. Bot debugging options allow you to step through your project one activity at a time or set debugging breakpoints. Programmers and ETL developers should find UiPath’s workflow authoring experience friendly and intuitive.
When your RPA bot is ready for prime time, you can publish it to UiPath Orchestrator along with release notes and optional certificates. UiPath Orchestrator is a web application that enables you to schedule and monitor RPA bots. Interactive dashboards allow you to investigate bot status, activity progress, performance metrics, audit logs, and other related data.
How You Can Get Started
In conclusion, if you’d like to learn how to develop RPA bots, visit UiPath.com and check out the awesome, free role-based training at UiPath Academy. Personally, I found UiPath’s online documentation helpful enough to create my first bot in a couple of hours. Easy, fun, free to learn, excellent career outlook…it doesn’t get much better than that. Enjoy!
RPA bot resources: