Swipe right – 8 steps to hiring an exceptional IA | RPA developer.

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Swipe right - 8 steps to hiring an exceptional IA | RPA developer.

Swipe right – 8 steps to hiring an exceptional IA | RPA developer.

Whilst the hype surrounding intelligent automation continues to grow, the market for exceptional IA | RPA developers is very small. But that does not mean your can’t have your pick of best. Great developers are not like apples you can easily pick off a tree. They need nurtured, developed, mentored and coached to grow. In this article we look at eight different ways to hire an exceptional developer.

1. Hire an experienced developer. Why go to the expense of developing a talent from ground zero when you can take one from another company or competitor? Simple, right?

In many instances this is the simplest root to hire a developer. No firm likes to spend money developing talent only to lose it. But if you are not creating a culture that excites, delights, develops and rewards existing talent with opportunities to grow, then you need to ask questions of your own organisation.

“If an organisation does not create development opportunities for its existing workforce to get involved in initiatives such as RPA, then this may send a message to your existing staff that they are not well thought of. Be seen as an employer that creates opportunities for existing staff to grow into new roles and promote and celebrate their success”

Mike Swetman, MD, Training & Talent Solutions, Morpheus Group

2. Advertise online. Simply go online, place an advert on LinkedIn or a job site such as Monster.com (other sites are available), pay a bit of cash and wait for lots of CVs to flood in. LinkedIn is a massively undervalued resource. There are many, many millions of people on this site and a simple job advert can pay for itself many times over.

“A good network used well, with colleagues liking and sharing can give your advert tremendous reach”

Mike Swetman, MD, Training & Talent Solutions, Morpheus Group

3. Go to a specialist IA | RPA recruitment company. In many instances recruitment companies are being dis-intermediate in the same manner as travel agents. An excellent recruitment company, that truly understands the IA | RPA marketplace, is worth its weight in gold. A great recruiter will take time to understand your business goals, your people and your culture. They will then go and find someone who will not only fit in but will add a raft of new skills that will enable you to compete in the digital age.

“At edge tech headhunters we know first hand how important it is to use a specialist recruiter when looking for specialist skills. We understand most companies will have a ‘preferred supplier list’ of recruiters who can help with the company’s ‘standard’ day to day recruitment. When it comes to RPA and other specialised niche tech, you need to work with someone who truly knows that specialist market and has the network”.

Harrison Goode, Executive Headhunter

A great deal of digital newsreel is spent disguising why automation programs fail. Most point to a lack of governance or process selection but few point to one of the true reasons why projects fail, and that is people. A great team can make Intelligent Automation gold from hay. A poor team will make hay from Intelligent Automation gold.

“People are the backbone of your IA|RPA journey. You can have the best governance, best process and best infrastructure but if you don’t have a team made up of the best people you are destined to fail. Take your time to hire a best in class team and ensure they fit your culture as well as having a true interest in IA|RPA.”

Matthew Coffey, RPA Delivery Lead at Pearson

There are few true, true innovative, multi-seasoned and visibly scarred experts in the IA | RPA space and it may well take an expert consultancy to help you find her or him. Candidates have grown wise to algorithmic matching and can game recruitment systems. Paying £10k or £20k or £30k to find the right lead is a small change compared to the £ms you can generate in savings from digital.

4. Build a RPA| IA | Digital Academy. Hiring one IA | RPA developer is easy but building a pipeline of Intelligent Automation talent is a lot harder to do. Digital skills are needed to compete in the digital economy. Organisations who did not recognise this fact find themselves ‘competing in a war for talent’ of their own making.

An academy does not have to be complex or costly to setup and run. There are many local colleges or government agencies who are willing to help organisations hire, run and fund IA | AI | RPA | Digital Academies. Many RPA companies offer free training too.

An academy does not only have to be setup for new hires. Organisations should have internal academies up and running to make sure that their great asset (i.e. people) are continuing to get the investment in skills they need to help you succeed.

“One of our customers has run 3 training camps and trained up 30 of their team without buying in any RPA developers from the market. Some of their biggest successes have been drawn from trainees seconded in from positions within their contact centre and admin teams. These people know the business’s customers and processes the best. Now they’re getting to deliver the automations they’ve always wanted to, in a way that enhances both their customer and colleagues experience.”

Mike Swetman, MD, Training & Talent Solutions, Morpheus Group

Developing an academy program does not have to be onerous or expensive. Many resources are online and free (e.g. online RPA universities; YouTube, LinkedIn Learning, etc.).

Your learning and development team, with a little bit of consulting expertise, can develop an exciting program you will be proud of including competency frameworks that help the very best developers excel.

Figure 1: Sample RPA Only Skills Checklist | Development Planner. Source: K.Gilmurray

Word of caution: Do ensure you carefully select who gets onto your program; don’t simply hire anyone who applies to fill spaces. That said, an organisation’s program should not feel ‘elitist’. Your program must be open to all to encourage participation but there must be an entry level standard applied and qualifying criteria.

‘Organisations should always try to hire an A-team, even if it means taking staff from their competitors (this strengthens you and weakens them). Organisations then need to build and invest in an A-plan and only then can they play their A-game. Anything less than best will lead to average results and no one should want average. For example, who wants to go to an average movie theatre, eat average popcorn, watch average actors in an average movie? If firms hire average talent to save cash; then invest average sums of money in their IA programs then they will get average results at best.’

Kieran Gilmurray, Global Head of Intelligent Automation

5. Convert your people into citizen developers. Let’s be brutally honest, not everyone can become a great developer just like not everyone can become a great musician. That said, not everyone needs to be an Excel VBA guru to make their work more efficient and less dull either. It is amazing to watch how efficient anyone can become with a little excel training (e.g. pivots; basic macros and VBA, etc.) and bot coding is no different.

“Open your eyes for whizz-kids who are there in your company but outside IT. You’ll be surprised how many people love to optimize Excel with e.g. VBA. These could be your future star developer. Open the opportunity to explore IA / RPA.” 

Pieter Joosten, Brainwaiver, Finance, RPA and Lean Expert

Everyone can be trained to use intelligent automation technology that helps them do their job more efficiently. If intelligent automation is to scale then, just like Microsoft Excel, Intelligent Automation tools and skills need to be ubiquitous.

Figure 2: A bottom up approach reaches the long tail of work. Source: UiPath

If everyone was taught to develop simple repeatable tasks this could lead to dramatic increases in productivity and efficiency across organisations (i.e. bottom-up development).

“The only thing worse than training your employees and having them leave is not training them and having them stay.”

Henry Ford

Were citizen developers taught to contribute to; and download automation components from a curated company innovation portal, medium complexity structured and unstructured processes could be automated delivering even more value.

Figure 3: Citizen Developer and IT Development Lead Outcomes – Source PWC

Organisational level, cross department processes might then be left to highly trained IT coders who can be left to deliver end to end process automation (top-down automation).

“Whilst not everyone will turn out to be a brilliant developer, some will shine, but everyone could become more efficient. If you employ 100 or 1000 people and everyone becomes 10% more efficient then that’s like hiring another 10 or 100 people for free. Now what could your organisation do with 10 or 100 more people?”

Kieran Gilmurray, Global Head of Intelligent Automation

Those who pick up automation brilliantly could join an IA COE for a year. They could then be placed within their original units and mentored as intelligent automation champions to drive curated automations further and deeper within a business unit.

“Organisations need to democratise intelligent automation tools and develop agile ways of working that turn these tools on like tap water. That way everyone can do great things. Ideas and innovation are the most precious currency in the digital economy. Those businesses that harness their team’s creativity and ingenuity to systematically innovate will win in the digital economy”

Kieran Gilmurray, Global Head of Intelligent Automation

6. Outsource to a third party such as a near shore consultancy or IS or offshore. There are many organisations who can afford to, or prefer to, let a consultancy take care of their IA needs. This includes hiring all the staff that are required to deliver such a transformation program. Many firms now choose to enter into a risk reward model that shares pain and gain from an Intelligent Automation program. Whatever model an organisation uses to transform, it needs to ensure it is building knowledge and digital muscle within its permanent employees. These are the key talent who will be needed to take the program forward. No organisation should write a blank cheque to anyone outside of their company.

A word of caution. Choose your systems integrator (SI) carefully. Treat them as a fully integrated extension of your workforce. On-board and tightly integrate the SI team as a key and valued part of your workforce. Make sure these is a technical, goal and cultural fit between both organisations. Don’t engage a 3rd party, only to hold them at a distance and then blame them for every that goes wrong. Both you and the SI need to work hand in glove to deliver and own the results.

7. Convert an existing coder. There are many existing coders in your organisation; some you know about and some you probably don’t know about (they’re not working in IT but code in their own time or unit). Simply advertise internally to find them, and/or create the opportunity to expand their range of skills using RPA and IA tools / skills. Town halls are another great way to find new talent – trust me you’ll find them in the most unexpected places! Invest and grow your talent who will in turn invest in and grow your business.

“We started with training our own developers. For starting up that is ok but once the enthusiasm kicks in experienced developers make a difference. They helped us process the automation demand AND provided us a steep learning curve for our own developers.”

Pieter Joosten, Brainwaiver, Finance, RPA and Lean Expert

8. Do nothing and let developers come to you (do have an obvious email address or similar that they can send applications to). Not every developer is after the next pay cheque. Great developers, like great artists, want to develop the next, most exciting and innovative thing. They are driven by the challenge of solving the very best puzzle an organisation may present. They are driven to become part of a great team that is known to deliver exceptional results. If an organisation has a great reputation for innovation, team work, results, investing in learning and development and the production of exciting purposeful outcomes, then this honey pot should be enough to attract great developers to you. Let developers know you are open for applications and make it simple for folks to apply.

“If you want to hire great developers, the ingredients for success are simple, make it crystal clear that you will need to: involve them; challenge them; empower them; trust them; appreciate them; help them grow and pay them well. For keeping them, you also need to get the recipe right, and deliver on all of the above, which can be a little trickier…. but if you do you’ll have no problem retaining the talent.”

Paul Arnold, Head of Product and Development at Cortex Intelligent Automation

How does your organisation create, hire or develop great developers?

Useful links: 

  1. 30 ways to build a pipeline of processes suitable for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (IA)
  2. I’ve met 100+ RPA developers but these are the 15 signs of an ‘exceptional’ RPA developer!
  3. 8 questions to ask to ensure you select the ‘right’ processes to automate using RPA | IA.
  4. RPA Process Identification and Prioritisation
  5. The A-Z of Robotic Process Automation, Intelligent Automation and Digital Transformation
  6. 8 Key Roles in Your RPA Centre of Expertise
  7. 14 rules for Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Intelligent Automation (AI) success
  8. If you are not willing to go all in, then don’t put on your RPA swimsuit.
  9. The biggest lie told to RPA customers – 50 robots equals success
  10. 40 essential selection criteria to choose an RPA platform

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Free to reuse: We are a community of RPA and Intelligent Automation experts with years of real world experience. We have stories to tell and the scars to show for it. We share our collective wisdom for free to simply provide as much value as we can to you. Therefore, if you want to post this article on your LinkedIn page then please feel free to do so. The more information we share within the RPA community the more likely businesses are to succeed with this excellent technology.

Further Help: If I can help you in any way please do reach out.

Note: The views expressed above are my views and not those of my employer or the employers of the contributors.

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