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Become an automation champion of the future

Kavitha Chennupati, Senior Director of Product Management, SS&C Blue Prism

Market research shows that a decade ago, the market for robotic process automation (RPA) was worth around $250 million. With the introduction of location-based services, bots and intelligent automation, the value of this market has grown significantly, to now being worth over $5.63 billion. Automation has become an integral part of business development and the C-suite, helping to drive faster customer journeys, improve customer experiences, and save costs. 

As a result, the role of intelligent automation (IA) developers is undergoing a paradigm shift, with a greater emphasis on business-orientated skills rather than technical ones. Automation is now seen as a gateway to understanding business and tangible tech, as it helps to unify repetitive processes and streamline workflows across enterprises. 

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

Are you well suited to become an RPA developer? 

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 customisation 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 analyse documents and optimise 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.

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Essential skills and how you can develop them
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 centre of excellence (CoE) team, I look for SDLC knowledge and basic scripting capabilities. When working on customisations 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.

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.

Team member to rock star status
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.

Desirable characteristics
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’.

The future of academia alongside RPA training

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 in LLMs (Large Language Models) and LAMs (Large Action Models). In future, I think we’ll see a move to developing automations like for example by speech, rather than with drag and drop on screen tools, making flow creation easier.

The field of automation is constantly evolving, with new tools and technologies emerging all the time. However, the importance of the automation developer will remain, albeit with a new definition. With the convergence of technologies such as RPA, BPM, AI, process intelligence, integration, and data layer amalgamation, we can expect intelligent automation developers to take on a bigger role, where they would be responsible for end-to-end automated customer journeys.

Universities and colleges are recognising the importance of this shift and this is mirrored in their focus towards processes and transformation in their curriculums. Business process management has now transcended into technology, and educational institutions have adapted their learning paths and skill sets to match the real-world industry.  

Intelligent automation developers of the future will be adept at identifying problems and choosing the right technology to optimise processes and tools. While core elements of business will always require code, the current focus is on intelligent automation developers making more use of their soft skills. They will evolve into automation business tech roles where streamlining internal processes is key, or work as business consultants with a passion for technology. 

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