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15 essential resources for robotic process automation teams

Ericka Chickowski Freelance writer

The acceleration of digital transformation in the enterprise is pushing organizations to look for as many ways as possible to build automation into their workflows—from the back office to the factory floor. As they do so, robotic process automation (RPA) has become an alluring gateway.

RPA helps organizations automate routine, highly manual, and repetitive office tasks. RPA bots act as the automation glue between legacy systems, streamlining processes where workers need to continually perform well-defined and frequent tasks involving structured data.

Many organizations use both RPA and intelligent automation—which adds artificial intelligence to the mix for more quickly learning processes and applying automation—to maximize their human workforce.

Successful RPA initiatives require the help of numerous professional stakeholders. The following resources can help RPA pros from various walks of corporate life to understand the discipline and technology of RPA better, keep up with the latest RPA trends, network, and learn more about how their organization can get the most out of the discipline.

Industry groups

Institute for Robotic Process Automation and AI 

The longest-running independent professional organization dedicated to process automation, the Institute for Robotic Process Automation and AI (IRPA AI) operates as a forum for buyers, sellers, influencers, and analysts in the RPA market, as well as the adjacent fields of cognitive computing and artificial intelligence as they pertain to process management.

The group is on the lookout to adjust to the pandemic and is in the process of forming virtual chapters and scheduling more remote events. It produces a range of industry research and market intelligence about RPA as well.

Cost: Free

Association of RPA Implementers

Focused squarely on practitioners, this association operates a tight-knit networking email listserve for process management professionals to share knowledge, resources, job leads, and professional support. It boasts a membership of over 12,000 process management professionals responsible for rolling out and managing RPA at organizations, including RPA developers, architects, project managers, and business consultants.

Cost: Free

Association of Business Process Management Professionals 

Focused on the broader discipline of business process management, the Association of Business Process Management Professionals (ABPMP) nevertheless offers a lot of educational, networking, and professional growth opportunities for business leaders in the thick of RPA work.

Cost: $150

Classes and certifications

Automation Essentials

Run by the Automation Academy, this self-guided, two-hour course offers a solid but speedy beginner's guide on the basics of RPA and intelligent automation, how it works, and where it sits in the pantheon of automated processes. It also runs through the strategy basics of developing an RPA program and building an automation team, so it is squarely focused on business managers across various industries looking to get their head in the RPA game.

Date: Ongoing

Location: Online

Cost: Free

Robotic Process Automation and Beyond

The field of finance offers some of the ripest introductory opportunities for organizations to implement RPA successfully. This comprehensive certification program is keyed directly to the CFO, controller, accountant, and internal auditor stakeholders who will be involved in the rollout of RPA for the sake of finance transformation.

It walks learners through the process of identifying the best opportunities and use cases in their organization, governance and controls necessary for managing RPA risks, audit implications of RPA, and how to develop proof of concepts, among other topics.

Date: November 4, 2020 

Location: Online

Cost: $689

Certified Intelligent Automation Professional 

Run by SIG University, the educational arm of the Sourcing Industry Group (SIG), the Certified Intelligent Automation Professional (CIAP) offers one of the few vendor-neutral certifications covering the discipline of RPA.

CIAP offers in-depth learning for business managers on the capabilities of a full spate of software used to automate repetitive, rules-based, routine tasks. That includes RPA at the top of the list, but also covers cognitive technologies, workflow orchestration, and virtual agents. It's a six-week program for team leaders who are just starting out with RPA or trying to get past pilot stages.

Start dates: September 28, 2020; January 11, 2021; February 22, 2021; April 5, 2021; and May 17, 2021

Location: Online

Cost: $2,995 (non-SIG members), $1,995 (SIG members)

Robotic Process Automation for Administrators

Much of the RPA technical training and certification today is tied to specific RPA vendors. This is the beginner's series run by Micro Focus for its RPA specialist certification; it covers the essential concepts and usage of the firm's RPA platform, as well as tackling advanced features. (Micro Focus is TechBeacon's corporate parent.)

Date: Ongoing

Location: Online

Cost: $400

Upcoming events

Process Mining Summit

Run by the Process Excellence Network, this conference covers the ins and outs of process mining, which is the discipline of swiftly and efficiently identifying the use cases, tasks, and opportunities for effective automation through RPA and other automation technologies. It will feature leaders in process mining and business transformation from global organizations, including Siemens, AIG, and GSK.

Date: September14-16, 2020

Location: Online

Cost: Free

Intelligent Automation Exchange Online

Laser-targeted to executives from leading corporations, this event is invitation-only, but those that fit the required profile can request an invitation on the site. This peer-level networking event covers the strategic challenges of using RPA and intelligent automation, including scaling automation enterprise-wide, process mining, and governance. It's a two-day event run by the AI & Intelligent Automation Network.

Date: December 8-9, 2020

Location: Online

Cost: Free, by invitation only 

Intelligent Automation Week

Centering on the challenges and benefits of RPA and AI in the enterprise, this event is hoping to reconvene in February 2021 after skipping 2020 in the wake of COVID-19. The latest agenda is still forthcoming, but if it follows the mold of the 2019 event, it will feature leaders in automation, digital transformation, and process management from the enterprise world and major management consulting firms.

Date: February 22-24, 2021

Location: London, U.K.

Cost: £1,299 and up (early-bird discount and conference-only pricing available)

OPEX Week Business Transformation Summit 2021

Catering to a range of managers and executives involved in operations, process transformation, business agility, and digital transformation, this is not strictly an RPA conference. But it's likely to host RPA sessions and other discussions relevant to those seeking out ways to automate workflows.

This coming event is still scheduled to go live on-site, but event planners have indicated they're planning a hybrid online format.

Date: July 19-23, 2021

Location: Orlando, Florida, USA, and online

Cost: $1,499+

Books, research, reports, and standards

IEEE Guide for Taxonomy for Intelligent Process Automation Product Features and Functionality

Last year the IEEE delivered a fully fleshed-out standards guide for RPA and intelligent automation (IEEE 2755.1-2019). It's meant to offer a comprehensive delineation and taxonomy of 140 product features offered in this space.

The standard can provide process management professionals still getting their bearings in the automation world a handle on the definitions and the purpose for different kinds of offerings as they evaluate products.

Price: $79

Reinventing Jobs: A 4-Step Approach for Applying Automation to Work

This book was written by two experts—a Willis Towers Watson consultant and a professor and researcher for USC's Marshall School of Business and Center for Effective Organizations. It digs into the managerial aspects of balancing human workers with automated bots, defining workflows and systematically getting the most out of automation technologies such as RPA.

Price: $22.08

The Robotic Process Automation Handbook

A semi-technical primer for IT specialists and technology leaders, this handbook offers an overview of use cases, industry examples of implementations, and the core concepts around RPA technology. It offers analysis of different RPA systems on the market and advice on evaluating RPA systems for specific enterprises.

Price: $18.19

RPA Program Playbook

While it is written for those in the federal government space, this comprehensive, 70-page document (PDF) offers RPA professionals in any industry a meaningful framework with best practices, strategies, and lessons learned from other adopters on how to come up with a comprehensive RPA program and maturity model.

Price: Free

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