Top 5 Robotic Process Automation skills to learn to secure the best contractor day rates

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) skills are in demand; no question.

The improvements that modernising operations can deliver through the introduction of RPA can save organisations time and money, improve quality, and reduce risk.

But a question absolutely worth asking, writes Ged McNamara, director of client technology and automation at recruiter Randstad UK, especially as RPA candidates become hot property, is; ‘What are the top 5 Robotic Process Automation skills you need to secure the best contractor day rates in RPA?’

1. Proficiency in RPA Development Environments

First and foremost, contractors need to be proficient within the development environments and technology platforms on which they are going to work. 

The development studios are fundamentally where RPA developers are going to spend most of their day and contractors need to know what they are doing.

Sound like a low bar?  Actually, there are unfortunately plenty of people who claim to be trained in Blue Prism, having only done the 10-minute introduction course! That just isn't gonna’ cut it when you’re being asked to develop automation at a senior level.

But the 10-minute course attendee is onto something! The three market-leading automation platforms for contractors who want to earn serious cash are UI path; Automation Anywhere and, Blue Prism.

2. Process Analysis and Design Skills

Aspiring RPA contractors need to have a solid foundation in process analysis and design.

If you are going to use a tool to automate a process, you need to understand and articulate the process, then be able to put together a process diagram and spot opportunities to optimise that process. 

That’s where you add real value on your contract. Someone who is brought in to automate a process and only does that, is not a Top Gun. The real talent will spot inefficiency in that process and remove it as part of the automation. Indeed, while automating brings efficiencies, the fundamental principle of ‘garbage in, garbage out’ remains! 

The best way to build this solid, multi-layered foundation is within Business Analysis. Contractors with BA experience understand processes optimising and how to make things more efficient.

If you don’t have business analysis in your background, at least take some of the fundamental business analysis courses, such as the British Computer Society one. In short, grab any chance you can get to live and breathe process modelling!

3. Complementary Programming Language Fluency

The best and the highest paid contractors in the RPA space will invariably have programming skills

RPA tools are now user-friendly, drag-and-drop interfaces. But the real magic happens when you understand a complimentary programming language. 

With UI Path, for example, that’s C# or 

With Automation Anywhere, it’s Python or Java

Appropriate programming knowledge means that, when the tool reaches its limitation with dragging and dropping, you can augment its functionality by using code.  

Granted, you aren’t a developer! But I’m yet to come across a project where the value delivered would not have been significantly less without complimentary programming skills.

4. Critical-Thinking and Problem-Solving

RPA projects are often complex. 

An RPA developer must possess strong critical-thinking and problem-solving skills to navigate these complexities effectively, especially when challenges emerge from the detail. The ability to break down problems into manageable parts and find innovative solutions is essential for success in the RPA field.

5. Soft Skills and Effective Communication

Finally, ‘soft skills’ are vital if you’re going to be a top RPA contractor, with an emphasis -- if you can – on communicating clearly.

The reason effective communication is a standout skillset in RPA is due to it usually not being easy to articulate to end-users, who typically don’t understand the ones and zeros, about what we do! 

Add ‘teamwork’ and ‘stakeholder management,’ and your soft-skills for RPA roles will be primed.

That said, junior, inexperienced, RPA developers don’t need to possess great stakeholder management skills. Yet the more successful and senior you are, the more important it becomes. Big-hitters (on big rates to match) need to be able to get in front of stakeholders and manage expectations.

2024 outlook for the RPA contractor market

The demand for RPA skills is still high, making contract and freelance professionals with a well-rounded skillset very popular with a range of organisations.

To really thrive in the RPA landscape, you’ll need both technical expertise -- with a deep understanding of the tool, processes, and programming sides -- and the right critical-thinking, problem-solving and communication skills. As organisations embrace automation, contractors who possess not either-or but both will not only drive the success of the projects they are involved with; they’ll also secure the very best day rates.

Tuesday 10th Oct 2023
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Written by Ged McNamara

Ged McNamara is the director of client technology and automation at Randstad UK. With more than a decade's experience in business analysis, he began to specialise in Robotic Process Automation in 2019, when he became Randstad's RPA domain leader. Ged began his career in technology with American pharmaceutical corporation Eli Lilly & Company. He joined Randstad, the world’s largest recruitment company, in 2010.

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