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What is the relationship between robotic process automation and the more general concept of digital transformation?

According to the findings of a survey of 502 executives conducted in May 2019 and published in The Economist, a vast majority of 93% of business executives believe that automation is the first step in the direction of digital transformation.


“A survey of 502 executives conducted in May 2019 and published in The Economist, a vast majority of 93% of business executives believe that automation is the first step in the direction of digital transformation.”


This is consistent with the idea that an ‘automation first’ mindset is the primary factor for making digital transformation real. However, acknowledging the potential of automation in a proactive manner by making a commitment to scale RPA, does not automatically translate into leveraging RPA to digitally transform businesses entirely.

There is a need for sustained effort to strengthen people’s knowledge about automation, emphasizing its benefits, and thereby building and maintaining enthusiasm. The transformative growth of digital processes within your entire organisation is supported by a humanist perspective, according to which automation is valuable in the first place because it allows the workforce to perform more valuable jobs and, consequently, feel more satisfied with their jobs.

How does RPA transform your organisation?

Let’s start with a recap of why automation makes such a significant contribution to the progress of your company and is thus to be seen as a disruptive technology in the most positive sense of the word ‘disruptive’. The following outcomes of robotic process automation provide a rationale for the discussion about its transformative power.

  • Financial benefits, e.g., reduction of operational costs, improved return of ROI;

  • Streamlining the workflow, by rendering complex processes simpler and more flexible;

  • Reduction of security risks;

  • Cycle time and accuracy improvements;

  • Enhanced operational and business control, e.g., regulatory compliance;

  • Improved business analytics and insights;

  • Making people (both the employees and the customers) really matter by empowering them and making them feel more satisfied.

Last but certainly not least, RPA implementation can be viewed as an entry-level strategy towards digital transformation. The pilot stage is the step that starts the journey, while scaling RPA makes headway by standardising the company’s approach to automation. In the transformation phase, the employees themselves are responsible for identifying suitable processes for automation, while the Centre of Excellence has the oversight of RPA deployment.

What are the best practices for successful ways to scale robotic process automation and to meet the inherent challenges of scaling? In line with the current topic of discussion, we will define ‘successful’ in terms of leading the way towards digital transformation by redesigning the approach to automation.

1. Start with the end in mind

The decision to scale RPA is made by the business unit, but it’s the IT department that has to deal with the ‘nitty-gritty’ details, such as managing configurations and software distributions, providing technical resources, ensuring security, tracking and addressing incidents, etc.

The take-home message is that backward reasoning from the RPA-related objectives that you aim for towards the appropriate actions of the IT staff, i.e., a clear-cut, long-term strategy for attaining these goals, maximises the success of these technical operations.

2. Be prepared with an emergency plan

‘Emergency’ stands for troublesome occasions when systems go down, and the software robots must be restarted. Yes, let’s face it, it can happen! And it’s better to be prepared and know how to deal with it when it does. The use of mirrored environments is one possible approach, which allows companies to turn to them in case they are faced with widespread system failures.

3. Make use of the Cloud

It is very easy to implement RPA on Cloud systems. In fact, scalability is the central benefit of RPA for cloud applications, and the Cloud fosters the advance of extensive RPA operations. Consider, for example, the case of unexpected crest points in the volume of transactions. The Cloud makes it possible to handle these peaks with a single click that supplies more software robots.

4. Do not leave the bots outside your company’s corporate security policies

You might be tempted to believe that corporate security policies are not meant to protect the software robots. “How could they, since conformity with these policies require some form of identification (e.g., an ID badge), a birthdate, an address, an office space, etc, and bots normally do not have any of these?”.

In this case, you should update the policies until they become applicable to the new digital context, whereby bots ought to access corporate systems themselves, despite the fact that they lack human credentials.

5. Establish a consistent governance model

The involvement of RPA service providers can change the dynamics of functional and technical changes, respectively, within your business. The solution we suggest lies in the establishment of some form of executive oversight, such as an RPA Centre of Excellence (CoE), which offers a coherent, holistic perspective of the whole automation journey.

In fact, governance bottlenecks are among the pitfalls that may halt the progress of automation early, i.e., in the development or test phase, and prevent RPA scaling. The CoE is responsible for the selection of the robotic process automation tool, vendor, and policies.

As you move forward along the automation path, you will also need a CoE to ensure the balance between bots that are already in production and new ones; ‘balance’ stands for ‘consistently high quality on both sides’. Additionally, the role of the CoE also includes training employees with respect to effective ways of cooperative interaction with the bots at all stages of RPA deployment.


When you decide to scale robotic process automation and start to act upon it, you are moving forward towards transforming your organisation along the lines of the digital revolution. Of course, as always, things can go wrong, and it’s best to take this possibility seriously and not allow yourself to get carried away by the hype.

The first error that you may want to avoid is expecting quick and high ROI from RPA scaling, just like in the case of automating the ‘low hanging fruit’ processes. Such expectations are not very likely to turn out true, simply because successful scaling is meant to go beyond automating low complexity processes. If you want to be aware of other potential automation pitfalls in order to play it safe and avoid them, we recommend that you check out this article about the most frequent RPA mistakes companies make.

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