Often, we hear that one doesn’t need to be a programmer or have prior experience with programming to become an RPA developer. This is because, almost all the leading RPA tools like UiPath, BluePrism, Automation Anywhere and others are majorly based on drag and drop functionality. That’s why the process of automation is sometimes called as Process Configuration instead of Process Development.
Of course, these tools involve basic programming paradigms like variables, conditions, loops, etc. and for any logical person, it is not hard to understand and implement these things. Similarly, for most of the RPA tools, a lot of help is available online in the form of documentation, forums, video tutorials and blog posts which one can refer to as and when required.
So, where’s the problem!
RPA although is about automating user actions, doesn’t mean it’s always as simple as simulating keystrokes and mouse clicks. There’s much more to it. Being a programmer, you are already exposed to lots of such things which really helps in delivering RPA solutions better and faster, not just in terms of time to deliver but also time to execute the process. Let us see some of these things below.
In programming, generally, there is more than one logical way to implement something. Sometimes, writing extra lines of code gives you more control which in turn helps in faster execution of the program. Same inapplicable in RPA as well. One needs to understand the implications of using an activity/method/action in RPA even though it offers an easier way of achieving a task.
For ex., using hotkeys instead of mouse actions is considered faster and this is very well documented in various RPA tools. But nowhere you will find that “Save Workbook” activity in UiPath if used inside a loop will eventually slow down the whole process and what’s the better way of handling it.
This is another area where experience plays an important role. No documentation will ever be able to tell you what can fail when.
For ex., if you are implementing an API integration, an experienced developer will know what kind of error codes will be returned by the API in various situations and how to handle those in the code. A rookie developer will have to rely on a trial and error method to get a perfect solution.
This is the next level of automation where you generally connect to various third-party services for consuming the data or sending the data for further processing. Every service has its own way of creating APIs and the documentation are generally huge and complex. Even though most of the RPA tools today provide support for connecting to various APIs with a standard set of properties, when something goes wrong, it becomes difficult for inexperienced developers to even understand the error messages and fix them further.
There’s more to RPA than process development
Developing a process is just one part of the overall process automation life-cycle. There are much more functions which RPA tools provide like Queues, dispatcher/performer workflows, frameworks, etc. which help in providing solutions to a complex process. And having exposure to programming helps immensely with these concepts.
These are just a few areas that I have touch-based to show how expertise in any programming language can be helpful in RPA.
But I can grasp all this while learning RPA
True. You can. But using RPA for learning the basics of programming is an overkill. RPA tools are not meant for teaching you how to use variables, loops, try/catch and so on. These tools serve a different purpose altogether. Each of the activities listed above involves a learning curve and there’s no better place than programming languages like Java, Dot Net, PHP, etc. to acquire these skills. These and other languages have much better integration and debugging capabilities which lets you manoeuvre this learning curve better.
Non-programmers can become RPA developers but there will be limitations to what they automate, and a huge learning curve awaits them to acquire a higher skill set.
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