Robotic Process Automation (RPA): 12 ways to learn more

Trying to learn more about robotic process automation? Check out our roundup of RPA resources, including books, articles, TED Talks, and courses
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Like most emerging or new-to-you technologies, robotic process automation (RPA) comes with a learning curve. What is RPA? What are some uses for it? Is RPA the same thing as AI? And so on.

Thankfully, there are readily accessible ways – from books to articles, courses, and more – to get good answers to those and a host of other RPA questions.

“Some of the best RPA/IA 101 sources are those that are unbiased and truly get to the heart of what it is, how it’s implemented, and the value it drives,” says Chris Huff, chief strategy officer at Kofax. (IA stands for intelligent automation, a term that some use to refer to the pairing of RPA with more cognitive AI disciplines, such as machine learning.)

[ See our related post, How to explain Robotic Process Automation (RPA) in plain English. ]

RPA resources

Use these to boost your RPA IQ and enhance your ability to discuss robotic process automation.

Huff shared with us a few resources he has found particularly helpful over the years, and we added some other good choices for your “RPA 101” syllabus. Use these to boost your RPA IQ for any number of purposes, including enhancing your ability to discuss automation in a practical manner that helps people get past their skepticism and fear. That’s a wholly common reaction when the word “automation”– along with RPA or any other technology that makes automation a reality – enters the conversation.

RPA books

Service Automation: Robots and the Future of Work –Dr. Leslie P. Willcocks and Dr. Mary C. Lacity

Robotic Process Automation and Risk Mitigation: The Definitive Guide –Dr. Leslie P. Willcocks and Dr. Mary C. Lacity

Robotic Process and Cognitive Automation: The Next Phase –Dr. Leslie P. Willcocks and Dr. Mary C. Lacity

Huff recommends this trilogy of books, the first of which was published in 2016. Willcocks and Lacity recently added a fourth title to their series: Becoming Strategic with Robotic Process Automation, published in October 2019. The authors’ website, Robotic & Cognitive Automation, notes that their work intends “to dispel myths and misinformation about risks and effective practices of Service Automation technologies through insightful, researched-based commentary that is independent, objective, rigorous, ahead of the learning curve, and highly practical.”

RPA articles and research reports

A Guide to Robotic Process Automation –Deloitte Consulting

Deloitte’s guide includes a 25-page primer in RPA topics (be sure to click the “Download PDF” link to get it), including example use cases and intelligent automation as an intersecting category.

7 Robotic Process Automation (RPA) must-reads –The Enterprisers Project

We’ve been writing about RPA quite a bit; it has been a considerable topic of interest in IT and business leadership circles of late. We collected seven of our most popular RPA articles in a single place, creating a shortlist of RPA articles to help IT and business leaders alike get up to speed.

Intelligent Automation: Reshaping the Future of Work with Robots –EY

This report, including a foreword by Milan Sheth, partner and national leader for EY’s robotics & cognitive practice, examines RPA as a foundation for a longer-term IA journey fueled by cognitive disciplines such as machine learning, particularly from the standpoint of back-office operations.

The RPA Bible: Your Practical & Technical Guide to RPA –HFS Research

This research report, one of Huff’s suggestions, comes with a price tag but promises a deeper dive (84 pages worth) into RPA implementations in the enterprise, including usability, security, exception handling, and the other necessary details of a significant rollout.

RPA online courses

Robotic Process Automation: RPA Fundamentals + Build a Robot –Udemy

This relatively low-cost online course from Udemy offers an introductory-level primer on RPA, including building a basic software bot. Several RPA vendors also offer courses geared to learning their particular platforms. We recently took a look at the online training landscape for RPA. It’s a segment that appears to have room for growth as interest in the technology expands.

[ Want more online course ideas? Read also: 8 Robotic Process Automation (RPA) training and certification courses. ]

RPA podcasts and presentations

Will Automation Take Away All Our Jobs? –David Autor

This 2017 TED Talk isn’t specifically about RPA, but rather the larger context of automation and work. And that’s a critical context for technology and business leaders when discussing RPA and other forms of automation in their organizations, because of the fear of job loss that tends to accompany automation in general. While it’s not an unfounded concern, Autor’s talk uses history to help illuminate why this anxiety can be overblown. “There’s always new work to do,” he says.

The AI Network Podcast –Seth Adler

Huff is a fan of this podcast series, which features a self-described series of “personal conversations with industry leaders” on a range of AI and automation topics, including RPA. Recent episodes include discussions with an exec from Santander about the initial phases of RPA implementation and an exec from Ericsson on the path to a Center of Excellence.

“Extra credit” RPA reading

Adobe CIO: How We Scaled RPA with a Center of Excellence –The Enterprisers Project

While we’re on the topic, Adobe CIO Cynthia Stoddard recently shared with us how a Center of Excellence helped her organization scale RPA more rapidly, especially given the natural anxiety that attends the very word “automation” in many companies. Stoddard shares the why and how of Adobe’s RPA COE, plus some compelling initial results from its RPA efforts.

[ How can automation free up more staff time for innovation? Get the free eBook: Managing IT with Automation. ] 

Kevin Casey writes about technology and business for a variety of publications. He won an Azbee Award, given by the American Society of Business Publication Editors, for his story, "Are You Too Old For IT?" He's a former community choice honoree in the Small Business Influencer Awards.