When I looked at learning Robotic Process Automation (RPA), I looked at how difficult it would be for someone to learn RPA, who didn’t necessarily have the technical skills. As the more difficulty in learning required could put me off learning about it.
So, is RPA difficult to learn? RPA is not difficult to learn as it doesn’t require any programming knowledge to get started. Common RPA tools from UIPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere can be used by recording tasks without any coding and only advanced tasks will require some programming skills.
RPA is probably one of the easiest technologies to get a basic grasp of in next to no time as I managed to build up my skills with RPA quickly. I now use it regularly to automate many of the computer tasks I’ve previously had to do manually. This saves me a lot of time, all because I managed to learn RPA.
Below are my 12 reasons why RPA is not difficult to learn.
1. Don’t need to be a programmer to learn RPA
To start learning about RPA you don’t need to have programming skills or development knowledge. A lot of people who work with RPA software are not programmers as they use RPA to automate a lot of tasks they do manually to save time.
Where programming would come into play is with complex tasks, that would require some programming knowledge. But for someone entering the RPA field, this would not necessarily be the case.
Creating complex tasks such as trying to get data from an automated task in a specific way, analysing the data, changing the data and then doing something with the new data would be for expert users.
I wouldn’t overly concern yourself too much about the programming skills required to become an expert level, as these are not important to get to grips with RPA and the RPA software used.
Are you new to RPA, find out What is RPA? I have created this article with essential information you need to know.
2. RPA is easier to learn than other technologies
RPA has a lower learning curve to understand the RPA principles and become proficient in some of the RPA software to a level where you can actually use it in real life to automate tasks that you would otherwise do manually yourself.
I love the way most RPA software are used as they are designed for normal people to use as well as advanced users, with intuitive ways of use allowing the RPA software to be quickly learnt.
I became quickly proficient in the basics in about two weeks of use and most of this was around an hour or so use per day, with a couple of hours of use over the weekends.
I spent a lot of time using the RPA software recording activities to capture the tasks I was trying to automate. This was easy to do and gave me immense confidence I moving to other ways of using the RPA software.
I started off with learning to automate the way I use word processing software to create a blank document with:
- a particular size of margin;
- specific page orientation;
- a table (3 columns with 5 rows, the first column is in the bold text using the Arial font);
- a watermark in the background; and
- my details in the footer (including page number and copyright information).
I did this once whilst the RPA software was set to record in the background and then once I had finished recording, the RPA software automatically created a script.
I didn’t need to know any coding to get this script developed, the RPA software did everything. I then tested the automation script created by running it a few times to see if it worked correctly every time I ran it.
Then I set up a trigger, which was easy enough, I told the RPA software to run the automation script created earlier when I pressed a particular key combination on my keyboard. I chose to press the CTRL key along with the G by holding them at the same time, to get the RPA software to start the automation script.
When I pressed the CTRL and G key together, this would tell the RPA software to start the automation script by creating a new blank document in the word processing software and then start to set the margins, page orientation, table, fonts, watermark and footer details exactly as they’d been recorded earlier in the RPA software.
That’s it, to simple automation that if you were doing this in a job, the amount of time the RPA software could save in setting up the document exactly as you would want it, over and over again, would soon add up.
RPA software uses a lot of drag and drop functionality, that allows you to create tasks by dragging activities into sequences with the RPA software than creating an automated script of the completed task.
This makes it easier to quickly turn a manual task into an automated one without needing to write any code to do so.
Overall I found getting to a basic level of proficiency took very little time, all because the learning curve required wasn’t as steep as for other technologies.
3. RPA basics are easy to grasp
How quickly the fundamentals are picked up, generally determines how easily the overall learning process will be and with the RPA software I used. I grasped the fundamentals very easily indeed. This allowed me to progress very quickly in using the software to automate a lot of software I was using on a day to day basis.
I quickly learnt about the fundamental difference in an activity, a sequence and about triggers. With activity being a simple instruction such as clicking the left button the mouse to pressing a key on the keyboard.
With a sequence being a set of activities that in combination do something, like the word processing document example I mentioned earlier being a sequence of activities.
A trigger being something that starts the automation scripts, like the CTRL and ‘G’ key, pressed together, I mentioned previously to get my automation script started.
4. RPA has quality learning materials
There are a lot of learning materials available for learning about RPA and a lot of these are reasonably priced. The quality of these low-cost resources tends to be very good and I learnt a lot from one of these low priced courses.
You won’t have to spend thousands on special instructor-led classes or specialised online courses, the low-cost options are there and they can give you the knowledge and skills needed for RPA.
Easy to understand courses
What I really liked about the course was the way the course instructor introduced RPA in a simple easy to understand way. I didn’t need to do any additional information finding on the internet to understand what was said in the course.
I’ve used courses to learn other technologies that kept me pausing the course and then doing a search on the internet, just to understand what the course’s basics was actually about. This to-ing and fro-ing isn’t the best way to learn a new skill, as it just piles on the time to learn and ultimately leads to frustration.
The course highlighted the steps to take to use the RPA software to different things, allowing me to see exactly what I needed to do to automate a task. Not only that, but the course also took the principles of RPA and expanded on these to show how an RPA software would carry out these principles.
The course was put together by people who not only were good at RPA but also knew how to present it in a manner that made it easy to learn for even those with limited technical skills.
Low priced courses are available
As I said earlier you don’t need to spend thousands to learn about RPA in instructor-led classes. There are plenty of courses available at a low cost to get you started and you can study in your own time, at your own pace, at your own home. I use my local coffee shop as my study place and try to get an hours worth of study in most days.
RPA learning aids
I also spend time on the many different forums associated with the RPA software I was learning. The forum has experienced users who are more than happy to answer any questions I had about learning how to use the particular RPA software.
I also use YouTube videos from time to time, as some of these can help but I find some of these videos have been developed by people who are already quite technical and are not so eloquent enough in preaching the information about RPA in a way lesser technical people would understand.
5. Free versions of RPA software speeds up learning
The easiest way to learn about RPA is to by using RPA software and running it through its capabilities. Reading about RPA doesn’t give you the hands-on skills and rapid understanding of how the RPA software works compared to using it first hand.
Learn by doing
I like most people find it easier to learn by doing that is, learning how to use the RPA software in the course I took, made it very easy to learn. It’s a bit like learning to drive, you can read about how to drive a car but this won’t make you a proficient driver instead you would need to go through the motions of actually driving, to be able to learn how to do drive a car for real.
Likewise, once you have a grasp of the RPA fundamentals, you’ll need to learn how to do it for real by actually using the RPA software.
I learnt a lot in a short space of time using the leading RPA software, UI Path. There’s no need to spend any money, as UI Path have trial versions but more importantly, they have a community edition and it’s a free version.
I would recommend you download the community edition once you have got to grips with the RPA principles.
The other two most popular RPA software doesn’t have a community edition, with one software having a trial version but this is very limited in how long you can use it for.
I would stick with UI Path and it’s community edition as UI Path is the market leader in RPA at the moment, so there’s plenty of opportunities out there with UI Path RPA skills.
6. RPA is quicker to learn using familiar tasks
What makes learning the basics of RPA doddle is that you can apply to the things you are already familiar with. This familiarity not only means you only have to learn how RPA will automate what you do but also you know what the outcomes are.
So from the example above using the word processing software, I know how to create a new blank document in the word processing software and how to set the margins, page orientation, create tables, change fonts, add a watermark and update footer details.
I don’t have to spend time learning this, I only have to spend time learning how to automate how this is done using RPA software.
Compare this with programming where I not only need had to learn how to write code but also how to do basic database administration to push and pull data from a database, how to administer services where the code would be deployed to and so on.
It took me months to get a good grasp of the ancillary things I needed above beyond just the programming aspects.
7. RPA has little in learning pre-requisites
There’s very few (maybe even none) prerequisites required to learn RPA, as the only real prerequisites would be to know how to use whatever is going to be automated. This would be understanding how to manually do a task that you plan to automate.
As a starting point for learning RPA, I would recommend these manual tasks need to be something you are already comfortable in doing and so wouldn’t have to sort of ‘reinvent the wheel’ to learn from scratch. As this would just mean you end up trying to learn two things and that includes RPA.
By using tasks you are familiar with, makes it easier to concentrate on learning the automation aspects of RPA instead of also becoming bogged down in learning something else.
I always suggest to anyone thinking about learning about RPA to start by automating tasks they can already do, like creating a word processing document, creating spreadsheets, creating a presentation, to building a playlist of online videos.
Ideally, something that is familiar and easy to do, as this will make it easier to see the progress being made as you will know what to expect.
8. RPA has less overhead
RPA basics don’t have the overhead of learning a programming language like Python. Where learning to write the code to achieve the outcome is the easy part, however, the additional overhead for including error checking, spending time building validation rules to writing the different outcomes, all require additional learning time.
This overhead adds to the learning curve and I remember learning a programming language where the art of getting the language to do what I wanted didn’t take long to learn.
The part of making sure my code was secure, took an age to get right and I spent a lot of time on forums trying to get help on some of the errors I was experiencing.
RPA Troubleshooting is easier
Troubleshooting a beginners RPA automation scripts is a lot easier than trying to find coding errors in programming language developed programs.
This reduces the challenges to learning and allowed me to spend more time with my RPA software automating tasks instead of trying to make the automation scripts bulletproof.
9. RPA business logic is easier to understand
With the basics of RPA, the business logic is quite straightforward to grasp and it’s just a few steps to implement in a project. Whilst when logic is applied in programming, the logic can be quite complicated, as many outcomes could be included.
We need some logic to make decisions, from simple tasks like opening a door, the logic would be to try the door if it’s locked, use a key to open the door.
Take earlier example business logic would be to check if word processing software is running, if not, start it
10. RPA skills are easy to retain
I find due to the basics of RPA not requiring an encyclopaedic worth of knowledge to be learnt, the levels of retaining what’s been learnt are much longer.
Learning too much, too quickly leads to lower retention over a longer period, so you end up wasting the valuable time spent learning and need to find more time to refresh your knowledge.
This knowledge cram can be easily avoided with some RPA software as there’s not so much to learn, making it easier to learn at your own pace, with the skills picked up, retained longer.
When I’ve learned programming in the past, I had to learn so much over such a short space of time, that it was inevitable I would forget what I had learned within in a few weeks. In the end, I had to use an online notebook where I would write my notes to refresh my mind of the basics of all the things I’d learnt.
I have not had to do this with what I have learnt about RPA and using the RPA software. It’s a bit like learning to ride a bicycle, once it’s been learnt, it’s never really forgotten.
11. Regular RPA use makes advancement easier
I use RPA software regularly to automate a lot of the mundane tasks that take an age to do manually, always adding new automation scripts into the mix. The more I use the RPA software, the more additional functionality I learn just by being curious about how to do something else.
I’m also actively looking at the websites and forums for RPA software to find out how the new aspects of the software can be used.
12. Easy motivation speeds up RPA learning
I’ve been guilty of starting to learn new technology and because it’s been so difficult to get to grips with, even the basics I found to be too complicated, I’ve just lost the motivation to carry on learning.
Likewise making it difficult for people to stay motivated and carry on learning about technology in question, will lead to them becoming despondent and disillusioned quite quickly and they will end up giving up learning about the technology.
This has not been the case with RPA as the basics of RPA are easy to grasp compared to other technologies, I’ve managed to stay motivated and carry on learning more and more about RPA.
Many other people who I’ve spoken to about learning RPA have also spoken about how easy it was to stay motivated and carry on learning.
In conclusion, I find the whole area of RPA an excellent opportunity for those with little technical knowledge to learn something as exciting as RPA without much difficulty.
Once the basics have been learned, it’s easier then to look at becoming an advanced user by considering learning a programming language. This is exactly what I’ve done, by embracing the Python programming language and building up my coding skills to use with RPA.
How do I start learning RPA? I found the easiest way to start learning about RPA was to find a course on the basics of RPA. Once the basics are understood, the next stage is to download a trial version of the RPA software.
Who can learn RPA? Virtually anyone can learn RPA as a large part of using RPA software doesn’t require having prior knowledge of programming. Once these basics have been attained progressing may require some programming knowledge for some RPA software, whilst others try to stay away from as much programming requirement as possible.
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