digital workforce

It's a Kinda Magic

Gartners' Magic Quadrant

Last week Gartner released their Magic Quadrant for RPA and those vendors happy with the findings went crazy to celebrate the recognition of their success. While others quietly shuffled it under the carpet, hoping no one would notice.

If you'd like to read the full report it can be downloaded from Blue Prism on this link. The Magic Quadrant is your typical four-box grid, the x-axis tracking 'completeness of vision' and the y-axis 'ability to execute.' It's the y-axis that really sorts the wheat from the chaff, capabilities are no good if they are difficult to deliver!

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The report pulls no punches and no one really escaped completely free of some criticism, but as you fall lower down the y-axis, there were some harsh words and a sincere reality-check delivered. Credit to the Authors Derek Miers, Marc Kerremans, Saikat Ray and Cathy Tornbohm for not watering down their output. Anyone wanting to learn more about the RPA market should find a quiet hour and digest this report now.

The leaders - UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere - will probably come as no surprise to anyone. I'm pleased to see EdgeVeve and NICE sitting in the Challengers quadrant, worthy recognition in both cases for organisations that are sometimes overlooked by the hype around the big-3, despite a strong pedigree in this market. Personally, I was surprised to not see Pegasystems in this quadrant, a solution that seemed to have more in common with the Challengers than the Visionaries.

Visionaries is perhaps the most oddly named quadrant. It doesn't quite conjure the right impression of the vendors in this section; a complete vision but lacking in the ability to execute is too much theory and not enough practice in my mind.

Finally, we have the Niche Players, and this is a real mixed bag of results. Congratulations to Kofax, Servicetrace and Softomotive; they're still in the game and need to keep pushing forward. For the others, the battle is on, and there will be winners and losers!

With some visionary thinking of our own, The RPA Academy is a training partner with all of the Gartner RPA Leaders! Starting this week we have a new curriculum of Blue Prism Live Online training beginning so now is a good time to jump in for just $349 and begin your RPA journey.

Best,

Rob King

The RPA Academy



Low Code or RPA? (again)

Regular readers of my weekly newsletter will recognise that this is a topic I've discussed before. On our first outing, I concluded that both RPA and Low Code had its own place in a complementary way: Low-Code: Collaborator or Challenger for the RPA Crown?

Last week, I was speaking at a UK Mendix Event (Mendix on Tour) on the topic of Delivering Results with the AI Ecosystem. I enjoy discussing both principles and practice, and on this occasion, I was fortunate enough to share the stage with Simon Black, Mendix Guru, Evangelist and a kid in a candy shop when it comes to the opportunities afforded by the AI ecosystem. While I explained the principles, Simon demonstrated the practice live for everyone to see for themselves.

We both realised that there is still a lot of confusion about the different roles RPA and Low Code have to play, questions at the end focused more on this than on the opportunity provided by AI! As I have concluded before, they are different but complementary, but today I have a helpful summary of those differences and when you might select one over the other:

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Coincidentally, analysts Horses for Sources recently cited research which identified that the most significant barrier to change is an insufficient understanding of disruptive changes (blog link here). As we saw during Mendix on Tour, Businesses are simply unaware of the art of the possible. It's difficult to advance when there is a lack of education on the opportunities that technology can provide.

On this theme, we are just one week away from our webinar with Richard Hill and Gina Gray from Celaton; an Intelligent Process Automation solution that provides a one-stop shop for combining RPA and machine learning capabilities. Sign Up for the Webinar on 16th July here.

For anyone looking to advance their Blue Prism Skills, our next online instructor-led training begins on 16th July, sign up here for just $349. For corporate arrangements, contact be@therpaacademy.com for details.


Thanks Everyone.

Rob

Automation Anywhere - Customer Feedback

We often get the question, "why do you sell RPA training when you can get it all for free?" Well, let me debunk of few of the myths behind that statement now!

For starters, you can't get it all for free. You can only get some knowledge for free though on-demand videos. We occasionally sell courses in this format ourselves, but it's not our preferred approach and it doesn't suit everyones training style. The rigid structure and forced learning paths are not the most effective use of time, the materials can age quickly and for many platforms there is a lot of poor quality material out there.

The combination of online training with a live instructor addresses many of the problems companies face when planning training. It provides always up-to-date knowledge, the answers to your specific questions when you need them, and training delivered at a convenient time in short bites that are easier to accommodate into a typical working pattern. It's the best of both worlds in terms of flexibility and formality.

Classroom training is still the best option for many, and we provide this too when needed. Most of our training is live online, and all sessions are recorded so if a refresh is needed then students can revisit a video of the course they attended. An option not generally available with classroom training.

Medium and Large Organisations value the practical knowledge provided by a live trainer with practical experience to accelerate their path to effectiveness; the trainer is a coach and mentor throughout their learning programme.

The structured virtual classroom of students - or cohort - often work together on exercises and practical homework assignments which are reviewed and discussed in groups in the following session. Believe it or not, some students ask for extra homework once they get started! This provides practical experience and reinforcement of knowledge that is impossible to achieve through one-way on-demand videos.

But, you don't have to just take my word for it, here's some incredible feedback from our latest Automation Anywhere online training course:


"We asked The RPA Academy for a lot and they delivered!

As RPA remains on the leading edge of automation technologies within firms worldwide, we had a need to have as many people as we could find to be trained to develop such tool.

The RPA Academy worked with us to accommodate an aggressive schedule of training classes for 60 trainees over a 6 week period. The trainers were RPA experts that were willing to take the time to work with the trainees on everything from explaining basic programming terms to pushing advanced programmers to think of new creative possibilities with such a powerful tool.

I recommend, and plan to use, The RPA Academy for future RPA training needs as they arise.”

Intelligent Process Automation Program Manager - Aetna

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The RPA Academy is an Accredited Automation Anywhere Training Partner, providing technical, iQBot and Analytics skills, in the classroom or online. We can also tailor our training to meet specific corporate needs as we did with Aetna, provide coaching and support, and accelerate the path to productive and efficient delivery. Contact our team to learn more.

Blue Prism acquires Thoughtonomy for $100M

The hot news this week is Blue Prism's purchase of Thoughtonomy for up to $100m. It follows SAP's purchase of Contextor at the end of last year, so you could wonder if RPA vendors are hot targets right now.

There are more similarities than differences in the two deals, SAP purchased Contextor to fill a clear gap in their product suite being filled by several of the RPA vendors. Similarly, Thoughtonomy fills a huge SaaS-based hole in the Blue Prism offering.

The annual Blue Prism conference earlier this year was a little worrying with all of Blue Prism's major competitors pulling ahead in the capabilities race. The roadmap offered was simply one of catching up with the competition and provided none of the market-defining innovation that gave RPA its name in the first place.

Thoughtonomy was there too. A most notable addition as it was their first appearance alongside Blue Prism in a formal setting despite licencing the Blue Prism technology for use within their own solution. The writing was on the wall, both companies were stronger together than apart, the question was when this deal would happen, not if.

Where Thoughtonomy lacked scale, Blue Prism lacked the SaaS capabilities, as a combined force Blue Prism could be back in the competition offering an enterprise-grade automation solution with a full range of automation, cloud and AI capabilities. Meanwhile, the competition isn't standing still either, and the race is on to move swiftly and create a clearly unified proposal.

The RPA Academy is an Authorised Blue Prism Training Partner, providing all levels of Blue Prism training, classroom or online. We can tailor our training to meet specific corporate needs, provide coaching and support, and accelerate the path to productive and efficient delivery. Our Blue Prism Unlimited Training is currently running allowing you to drop into live classes or watch previous lessons online for just $349/month and includes access to the Blue Prism software. Contact us for a free taster lesson.

Bridging a Gap or Leaping the Chasm?

Last week the London RPA and AI meetup gathered together representatives from Automation Anywhere, Accenture and IBM to discuss how to bridge the gap from RPA to AI.

The collective experience of the panel immediately challenged that back-office automation is simply going too slow, giving examples of industrial robots with automation capabilities being around for over 30 years, why is RPA moving so slowly?

Another view cited consumer AI, where products like Alexa have become commonplace and the use of AI in our shopping, smartphones, or TV viewing is prevalent. If AI has moved so quickly at how, why is it so difficult for businesses to move at a similar pace?

Answers and excuses came thick and fast...some thought it was ignorance of the opportunity provided by RPA and AI, the misguided belief that automation was only for large businesses and doesn't apply to SMB's. Other cited change fatigue and no energy to look at another wave of technology change. All agreed that getting started was easy, but scaling up and sustaining the program is difficult.

The panel all agreed that the technology is mature, affordable and capable, whatever your needs, but warned that the technology alone will not solve your problems. Without a doubt, the new wave of Intelligent Automation (RPA + AI) is providing digital transformation opportunities for businesses but the success of these programs relies on the people and processes, not the technology.  

Processes need to be reimagined, the nature of work changed and this requires forward thinking skills not just technological ones. The panel referenced a study that suggested that 80% of the value of RPA came from businesses being forced to review and optimize their legacy processes!  

For many, this is not a gap to be bridged, but an impossible chasm to leap, but if businesses wait too long to start they will now be left in the dust.

If you're wondering where to begin with RPA, then check out our RPA Unlimited offer which provides both business and technical skills.


Rob King
VP Product at The RPA Academy

What is wrong with your RPA project? See your answers here...and the advice for your projects.

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Every week we get the chance to ask one simple question. And then sit back and watch all week as the questions come in. In fact, what really happens is that every question we ask makes us want to ask another 100 questions. But you are busy and we are not a research business, so you are probably just glad that we keep it simple.


The one thing I want to emphasise from last week’s results is this. You can choose to sit back and feel that expectations are wrong. That’s fine. But you have arrived at an incredible time for your personal development and your career. RPA is still relatively new - and has many years of evolution and growth. You can complain about the project you are working on, or you can step up and lead, taking your knowledge and perspective, and using it to really make a difference. And that difference will make a huge difference to your career path, in and around RPA.

This week’s absolute headlines are:

  • RPA projects are trying to do too much! 75% of you say that it was a significant issue; a further 17% said it was a bit of an issue!

    • Knowing that most of you are still in the early days of your RPA project, this is a major, major issue. You can blame the marketing that RPA is cheap, easy, fast and anyone can do it. But that doesn’t help you.

    • What we can advise on is that you apply your professional judgement and ensure that your voice is heard. One of our clients was recently reflecting on their first 6 months, and said that, at the start the leadership had said “we’ll deliver by November”. The developers had said “it will likely be February”. And guess who ended up being 100% correct!!!

    • In the early days, it is all about getting a few internal “stories” up and running. Processes that are real to your organisation, that you can use to say “hey, this stuff really works”, using language and examples that your internal audience can relate to and, fundamentally, believe.

  • Next up is not enough resources. 86% of you said that this was some kind of an issue. 

    • This is maybe just part of the market - there are not that many of you with RPA experience. If your organisation is in its early days of RPA, then chances are you’re doing the pioneering, and are unlikely to have a team or peers who know much more than you do.

    • Obviously, we’re going to recommend leveraging somewhere like The RPA Academy, where you can get expert-led training AND support. If not us, make sure you can find help. This problem is not going to be solved by throwing resources at it - because those resources don’t exist.

    • On the flip side, this is a huge opportunity for you to embed yourself as the expert, and carve out a space for yourself that will grow and evolve with your RPA platform and the ecosystem around it.

    • Inexperienced leadership and limited expertise really aren’t a surprise - don’t let these factors become excuses for you. It will be the same in almost all organisations around the globe, so the grass is not going to be greener on that. As I said above, take advantage of it to build your own leadership role, based on your growing expertise and the answers you can drive.

  • Hidden at the bottom of the results table are two gems - Scope Creep and Targets Not Clear.

    • This is absolutely project management 101. Certainly it opens up warning signs to anyone, at any stage in their journey. You need to have the team 100% clear on the objectives. I like the idea of pioneering, but that doesn’t mean just wandering around until you’ve done “something”.

    • Clear objectives, clear targets, and realistic but flexible timelines (this stuff is new to you, remember) should be the bedrock of anything you are doing. To repeat what I said above, if they are not there, it is your job to ensure that they are there. Simple. Don’t pass the buck to anyone. This is what leadership is made of, and leadership is as much your responsibility, at any level of the organisation, so don’t rely on someone with a bigger title for this.

  • ROI too high? Fascinating!

    • I wonder how many people actually know the financial targets of the project they work on. Certainly, from my personal experience, this is something that is usually vague and often kept pretty private. Great if you know the target ROI and then don’t agree with it - that’s a step in the right direction. Now you just have to influence it a bit.

Your Business is paying too much for training!

Traditional training is broken.  

It's expensive. It's focused on theory and certification instead of practical knowledge. New on-demand models are not working too well either, the quality of content is variable, and where it is good it is still the theory and not the practice.

We have the solution. HERE

We've been talking to businesses for many years and have seen the problems that they face. The cost of training a single person is high and it can take a long time to become effective in the workplace. The technology landscape is constantly changing and keeping up to date with those changes can be difficult. And very few people move on to the more advanced topics because of the high cost. And then the staff leave because the market for contracting is so lucrative.
                           
For a single monthly fee, we have the solution to all these problems.

  • Students can choose the modules that are relevant to their specific needs

  • Live instructors lead the classes and are available to answer real-world questions when challenges are faced

  • All classes are recorded and can be revisited by the student

  • Advanced topics are all included for the same monthly cost

  • New materials are added regularly to keep students abreast of changes in the market

  • If a member of your team leaves you simply move the subscription to a new member of the team and get them started immediately

SUBSCRIBE TO RPA UNLIMITED 

If this wasn't enough to tempt you, look at the next two weeks ↓ ↓ ↓ 

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We also provide enterprise arrangements, contact be@therpaacademy.com to learn more.

The RPA Academy has always been innovative in its approach, this is going to disrupt the market! People talk about the skills gap without proposing solutions, this is the solution.

Rob King
VP Product at The RPA Academy

Incredible RPA Training Offer only available from The RPA Academy - Act Now!

Today the RPA Academy is launching it's Unlimited RPA Training Offer, for just $349 month you can join our classes in

  • Blue Prism Foundation

  • Automation Anywhere Basic and Advanced

  • UiPath Foundation and Advanced

  • RPA Knowledge for Analysts, Project Managers and Exec

SIGN UP NOW

This is an unbeatable launch offer so act now:

  • All classes are led by live instructors online, available to answer your questions

  • Choose your own learning paths to accelerate the speed to become effective 

  • Zero Risk with our 7-day money back guarantee

CLICK HERE TO SIGN UP NOW

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"The RPA Academy has a long history of innovative solutions.  We are now eliminating the greatest barriers to entry: Time and Cost, and providing a broad and deep curriculum.  Subscribers will be able to choose from over 200 hours of live classes every month for a single low monthly subscription."

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Edward Brooks | Founder of The RPA Academy

Digital Workforce for Hire

I've often described that your digital workforce has more similarities to your human workforce than it does to using a traditional piece of software. With computer software, you're typically all-in from the very beginning and little effort is needed to maintain after implementation. For your digital workforce, you have to consider whether using full-time, part-time or temporary digital workers is needed and ongoing maintenance and operations can be an unwelcome surprise.

There is a growing trend for businesses to look for 3rd parties for help when it comes to delivering and maintaining RPA. Some have managed to achieve a successful start but then struggle to scale up, others have simply struggled to get going when adopting a go-it-alone approach.

New terminology is appearing to describe the new business models: "Robots as a Service," "RPA as a Service," "Centre of excellence as a service." They are all describing roughly the same thing, an option to outsource the development and support of your robots to another company.

Robots as a Service (RaaS) provides a new option to consider; moving the responsibility for Design, Development and Support entirely to a third party.

The immediate advantage of this model is the reduced start-up costs, but more significant is the skills needed for ongoing maintenance and support, a crucial component that is often overlooked when preparing the business case and embarking on the initial pilot.

Another way to look at RaaS is as a fully managed RPA service. Pricing is flexible to meet client needs and can range from a price per minute, to a profit-sharing arrangement, or even a more traditional flat rate model.

Cloud computing and RPA have converged, providing new alternatives to deliver your RPA program.

Advances in operating models is just one topic on our Business Side of RPA online training running this month. May is a busy month for us with technical training, online and classroom, running for all three of main product areas: UiPathAutomation Anywhereand Blue PrismCheck out our home page for details.

-Rob King, The RPA Academy

Low-Code: Collaborator or Challenger for the RPA Crown?

Low-Code: Collaborator or Challenger for the RPA Crown?

Last week was the Largest ever low-code conference ever globally, hosted by Mendix in Rotterdam, it boasted around 5000 visitors across 2 days.  So what is low-code, what has it got to do with RPA, and should I care?

Low-code is an approach to development that uses visual modelling and configuration instead of traditional programming to create applications.  Many RPA tools are referred to as low-code, as are many of the ecosystem products such as Appian or TrustPortal because they follow this same principle.

Reinforcing the similarities even further, the target users for these products are often the business and not IT.  Mendix refers to this audience as Citizen Developers, and similarly to RPA benefit from business experience above a technical background.  

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The Low-Code and RPA markets are similarly buoyant with predictions that low-code alone will reach $21 Billion market size within the next 3 years.  It seems surprising that there hasn't been more recognition of these similarities sooner.

Low-code and RPA also provide high levels of integration between separate applications so you can understand at first why there may be an assumption that they do the same thing.  But, the devil is in the detail and it is at this point Low-Code Application Development Platforms (to use the full title) and Robotic Process Automation diverge and become powerful in their chosen areas of operation.

Low-Code delivers fully developed applications across a variety of platforms, include the ability to build entire databases, and have strong change management, version control and application deployment capabilities as a core component.  Building entirely new applications at 10-times the speed of traditional programming tools is the wheel-house of low-code development.

In contrast, RPA mimics human interactions to provide a digital-human layer (rather than application layer), is focused predominantly on windows and browser-based applications, uses the data only from underlying applications, and orchestrates the actions of your team of digital workers.

While the development approach and target audience have many similarities, there are many benefits from having both low-code and RPA at your disposal to deliver a comprehensive programme of digital transformation.  Utilizing each tool for its own strength will open up new opportunities to develop integrated solutions.

The RPA Academy is here to keep you informed in the rapidly developing ecosystem.  We are continuing to develop new insights and opportunities to further your knowledge.  Contact our team to learn more, check out our newly updated blogs and videos sections on the website or browse our catalogue of training options.

Rob 

A Change of Pace

The last three weeks newsletters have been packed to the brim with news from several conferences, large and small, with groundbreaking news on current and future developments in RPA, AI and the growing inter-connected ecosystem of solutions.

This week is a change of pace as I write this from an apartment balcony in Cyprus overlooking the blue Mediterranean Sea and reflect on this weeks newsletter.  It's a location that provides a welcome reminder that it is the customer interactions, the level of  service, the banter and the entertainment that will remain untouched by automation, even if it were possible to do so.

Looking back over the last few weeks it's been great to see the technology roadmaps of all vendors advancing, but on reflection this opens up two new challenges.  First, the business skills needed to develop and grow an automation program are still scarce; Second, the RPA ecosystem is growing at such a pace that it's difficult to keep up.

We've already started to develop the business skills: check out our Executive Briefing webinar and the new live-online Business Side of RPA course, which will help you to cut through the jargon and deliver the insight needed to start, scale an sustain a successful automation program.

Meanwhile the ecosystem is already huge, and all vendors are announcing an ever-growing list of technology partners.  Here at the RPA Academy we're seeking ways to help you all navigate these new opportunities, expand our technical training to include these topics and build a program of webinars to help raise awareness.  To whet your appetite, here are a few areas we'll be exploring in the coming months:

  1. Process Mining and Discovery

  2. Document Identification and Classification

  3. Natural Language Processing

  4. Dealing with Unstructured Data

  5. Computer Vision

  6. Orchestrating the Human and Digital Workforce


You'll be pleased to hear that normal service will be resumed next week as I'll be investigating whether RPA and low-code development platforms are competitors or collaborators!  For now though, I'm off to enjoy the sun and a bottle of local brew.  

Rob King

Don't even look at these jobs. RPA Job Ads That Will Kill Your Reputation

Some words of advice - for Developers, COE leads, and Recruiters.

Most companies don’t really have a grasp on the skills they need to implement RPA. 

As a result you’ll see recruiters with long wish-lists in their postings. 

This is only creating the RPA equivalent of the duck-billed-platypus.

You’ll see people post lists like this:

  • 3+ years of Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere, UiPath or Workfusion [Just a weird combination as a starting point]

  • 10+ years of .NET, VB, C++ or similar [Ok - not that bad]

  • Experience establishing a Center of Excellence [are they looking for a technical developer or a consultant]

  • Able to analyze and prioritize processes for automation [ok, now we’re looking for a business analyst]

  • Can work with the process owner to redesign processes for automation [Arg - now you’ve got to have Lean Six Sigma skills]

  • Experience of the PharmafinancialinsurancebankingdefenseBPOITOandtherest sector is a plus [Hmmm!]

  • Available to start immediately [Like I’ve got all of the above skills and am just waiting around until this job vacancy popped up]

  • $5 an hour [Great - finally I can afford to eat]

  • Corp to Corp or W-2 considered. GC holder or US citizen [Darn - I ticked all the boxes until this. I curse my parents for letting me be born in Scotland and not migrating before I was 18.]

Your options are:

  • Laugh and move to the next opportunity

  • Apply and try to educate the recruiter along the way that no one has this combination of skills

  • Recognize that the recruiter doesn’t have a clue, so has just parroted a fantasy list from their client [but it is their fault - recruiters should advise their clients]

  • Apply knowing that you are sub-superhero and tick 2 of the boxes

  • Apply, get the job (yay!), and then suffer as you’ve obviously bluffed about your superhero capabilities.

Let’s just help the market. 

That’s what we spend much of our time doing.

We are not HR folk, but we are always talking about the HR issues - change management, resource/skills planning, job descriptions, succession planning, reward structures etc. 

While much of our work is around technical training on Blue Prism, Automation Anywhere and UiPath - online and onsite around the globe - RPA success requires people with the right skills at the right time.

Without that, none of this is going to work.