In short, RPA vendors provide no code (optional low code) design platforms that are often marketed to business users but are better matched with someone in the organization who has past experience developing software. Yes, someone with an IT background is an ideal candidate despite the features and “ease of use” marketing points that are constantly hitting your inboxes and social media feeds. I chose to dig into this one first as it is high on my hit list as I continue to see more and more propaganda from different vendors raising the hype bar on this business user point of view (POV) story in hopes of differentiating themselves and convincing you to buy their “easiest of use” Robotic Process Automation software.
Every day I see updates on LinkedIn of people promoting themselves with RPA certificates of completion and “liked” by the respective vendor employees further supporting the claim that, anyone can do it by becoming certified in an RPA two week course. The most recent and highly agonizing marketing gimmick supporting this narrative (final inspiration of this piece) hit my inbox the other day. It was a video where the RPA vendor shows people building RPA bots while suspended from cranes, riding shotgun in a daredevil plane or racecar selling this misleading story about how EASY it is to build bots in their software.
Can Business Users Build RPA Bots?
This marketing narrative of “anyone can do it” message is doing nothing more than continuing to fill the RPA education buying process with false hope of “simple and easy” leaving buyers struggling through their initial phases of implementation and taking them down their own RPA hype cycle. Look, I get it, “ease of use” is a great story for any technology and we should all strive to make our software easier to use, more adaptable, flexible, etc.. These goals should be and are often the #1 focus for any software company BUT no matter how “easy”, you have to ask the question… is this something business users can and should develop, deliver and be responsible for maintaining?
Over the last 8 years I have pretty much reviewed, downloaded, built automations (or tried to), worked for, and/or worked with all of the top 10 RPA vendor drag and drop solutions. With every new trial version, and with key learning after every customer implementation (good and bad), my conviction grows even stronger… RPA is not a business user tool, unless of course you don’t care about scale?.
Am I saying that business users can’t build RPA bots? Not at all. With a bit of training (two weeks) and access to the software, any of us could build a simple RPA bot but simple doesn’t accurately describe your business environment, your business processes or your user desktop. A user desktop that typically requires a user to navigate through 20-30 apps to complete their work in any given week. An environment that spans across multiple technology types such as Web (Firefox, Chrome, IE), Windows / Thick Client (java, PowerBuilder), and the infamous green screens of the world (emulators – BlueZone, Attachmate, PCOMM). On top of that, how simple is it to ask business users leverage web services in their automations, call APIs, access opensource OCR tools, tie into BPM applications and connect to NLP services? All common vernacular of your typical business user, right? It’s no wonder we are seeing these RPA scaling challenges for companies who took this business user development approach.
A similar comparison can be made with website platforms. I liken this RPA for business argument to the vendors selling website building visual design / ease of use platforms. Companies like Weebly, WIX, Squarespace and the likes. Companies focused on making web design easier for the everyday business owner or entrepreneur in a format that is easy to use, easy to learn and cost effective. One that doesn’t require you to learn a coding language like HTML, HTML 5, World press, etc. Great software, great purpose, great value proposition and very effective for the right buyer.
That said, would you ever take one of those platforms, give it to one of your business users who is savvy in say WIX and tell them to manage your company website with it. ABSOLUTELY NOT!! Who do you hire? Web developers, people familiar with how website code and design is written, people familiar with the structure of a website and all the ways in which you can leverage embedded technology, 3rd party controls, and a million other tools and techniques way beyond my scope of knowledge.
About the author Scott Merritt is a passionate advocate of “Responsible RPA” having spent the last 15 years embedded in the process optimization and RPA space performing over 100 process automation assessments and supporting over 50 RPA implementations. As Global Head of Automation for Jacada, Scott leads the go-to-market strategy for their automation portfolio and works as a trusted advisor for customers and prospects actively pursuing a digital transformation strategy. Scott has 20+ years’ experience in enterprise technology, serving in consulting, sales and sales leadership roles and carries with him a Lean Six Sigma Black Belt which he acquired earlier in his career during his tenure at Cardinal Health.