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The Economist Intelligence Unit (EIU) has recently published the results of a survey of 502 senior executives of major companies (i.e., at least $250 million in revenue) from eight countries, who were asked about their attitude with respect to robotic process automation.

According to a vast majority of respondents, 83%, not only are they C-suite executives using RPA, but they are the ones who encourage and actually initiate automation initiatives for their companies.

“According to a vast majority of respondents, 83%, not only are they C-suite executives using RPA, but they are the ones who encourage and actually initiate automation initiatives for their companies.”

70% of these entrepreneurs believe that software automation, such as RPA, is a “high” or “essential” priority.

They explain how they expect digital technology to contribute to meeting their strategic business objectives in terms of ‘helping them to stay competitive’. One can conclude that the competitive advantage brought about by RPA deployment is what makes the executive class capitalize on it for accomplishing strategic goals.

In what follows, we’ll go deeper into investigating the reasons for this ‘automation friendliness’ from the part of C-suite executives.

How RPA helps C-suite executives stay competitive

To begin with, we will point out the business titles that are subsumed under the category of ‘C-suite executives’, and the ways in which automation is relevant for each.

  • Chief executive officers (CEO) are the ones in charge of making digital transformation part of the company culture, and enabling the coexistence and mutual assistance between human employees and robots.

  • Chief financial officers (CFO) are primarily responsible for thorough cost-benefit analyses of RPA deployment, and the ones who assess and mitigate the financial risks of automation. They have to be able to explain to laypeople the financial nuts and bolts of automated systems.

  • Chief operating officers (COO) need to ensure the coherence of the digitisation strategy, which is mandatory for the development of a functional hybrid human-robot labour force.

  • Chief human resources officers’ (CHRO) key role along the automation journey is to educate employees concerning the long-term benefits of automation, and to provide information that allows them to distance themselves from the mythology of ‘robots will steal our jobs’.

  • Chief marketing officers (CMO) can pass on data analytics to robots, and focus on strategic planning for what the company produces.

  • Chief information officers (CIO), chief technology officers (CTO), and chief digital officers (CDO) will enter the digital era by changing focus from cost management to revenue generation. Data management and analytics, or cybersecurity will be top priorities for the technology executives.

This being said, we can move on to look at how exactly C-suite executives are using robotic process automation, and why they do so. The list below is meant to be taken as a pragmatic argument in support of the claim that the overall role of RPA is to help your company stay competitive, and be better able to handle the fierce rivalry on the market. It is the executive leaders who lead the long and winding road of automation.

1. C-suite executives are eager to have better ROI on their investments

Back in 2017, McKinsey announced that RPA technology enables a ROI upgrade to 200% in the first year after implementation. According to Hadoop researchers, by 2025 RPA deployment is expected to allow companies to save up to $7 trillion.

Moreover, this can happen for companies across the industry spectrum, e.g., banking, transportation and logistics, insurance, healthcare, the public sector, etc., so the prospect of ROI enhancement and enhanced productivity is not limited to specific sectors.

Typical processes that contribute to a quick ROI are compliance, data processing, or invoice processing. Automating those can be just the beginning of a longer-term competitive advantage.

2. C-suite executives are keen on leveraging the potential of existing resources

Innovation is certainly the way to go in the 21st century, and RPA nicely illustrates this, but rational human beings do not view this as tantamount to giving up what has been previously shown to work. If things can be improved, there is no need to discard them altogether. RPA can do a great job of delaying necessary system modernization by filling in the gaps of legacy systems.

HR departments that automate workforce planning are a good example of this, as we argued in this article about real world use cases for RPA in HR. On a related note, Deloitte found that more than half the processes in a standard HR function have robotics applications.

3. C-suite executives are adepts of long-term, strategic thought

Automation is enticing – once the process is initiated, CEOs are by and large aware that moving forward in the direction of an enterprise-wide use is a must for maximum gain. Given that scalability is among the top benefits of RPA, it comes naturally that many executives consider adopting it at scale, in order to allow these benefits to add up over time.

This cumulative view of the advantages of RPA leads to a non-vicious circle (rather, a spiral), from the reduction of manual effort to higher productivity to more accomplishments without the need for supplemented resources to more satisfied employees and customers, and back to even higher productivity.

Going beyond financial gains (i.e., increased revenue and lower costs), the human-centered effects of RPA deployment, such as improved customer satisfaction or increased employee engagement, will be sensible for the company long into the future.

C-suite executives can actually test the hypothesis that the less manual repetitive tasks employees must perform, the more their job satisfaction will increase and the more engaged they will be. They can do so by using qualitative measures, such as surveys asking about the employees’ job satisfaction before and after automation.


Robotic process automation is currently widely used across the world, in a vast array of industries. Many businesses have started to implement it by automating routine, tedious tasks – the ‘low hanging fruits’ of automation. Some, however, can make a difference and take it one step further, towards the automation of forecasting, data collection or decision making.

At this point, the long-term planning and the corresponding vision that C-suite executives capitalise on, can be ‘blamed’ for the greatest gains, with influence on many years to come. We discuss the benefits of RPA here, take a look if you want to find out more about how robotic process automation can help your company.

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