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Is IT a Catalyst or Adversary of Your RPA Initiative?

by Keri Smith, Aparna Gajanan
IT-Catalyst-RPA-Initiative

IT Often Responsible for RPA Buying Decisions

ISG Research conducted a survey of 549 European business leaders to assess their adoption of robotic process automation (RPA) technology and services. Here we explore the role IT is playing in RPA decision-making. Future posts will cover other notable findings.

The results of the ISG RPA survey in EMEA show that the CIO is responsible or accountable for the RPA buying decision 81 percent of the time (Figure 1).

Figure 1:   RPA Buying Decisions: Who’s Responsible?

RPA Buying Decisions Who’s Responsible

Source: ISG Research 2018 Q1 EMEA RPA Study, n = 549. Remaining percentages – not selected.

As a standalone finding, this may seem to corroborate an already known fact. But let’s look at it in conjunction with another finding from the survey – 57 percent of organizations cite “Lack of IT support” and “Governance/compliance” as organizational challenges that pose a significant long-term barrier to RPA adoption (Figure 2).

Figure 2:   Long-Term Barriers to RPA Adoption

Long-Term Barriers to RPA Adoption

Source: ISG Research 2018 Q1 EMEA RPA Study, n = 549

This apparent contradiction of CIO and CFO buying responsibility but organizational challenges as barriers to RPA adoption are important because, if you consider automation a team sport, both the business side and the IT organization must play together to advance the ball.

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Skepticism in the Business or IT Will Only Impede Growth

While CIOs often are held accountable for buying decisions related to RPA, they do not always have the final say when it comes to implementing RPA projects. In many cases, CFOs, CoE Heads and Shared Services Leaders own their automation programs without IT’s participation.

Enterprises often consider RPA tools intuitive technology that can enable business users to automate processes without significant IT involvement. But this doesn’t take into account the fact that RPA is not a plug-and-play capability; it requires people with technical and business skills to plan, develop, deploy and manage it.

While RPA can enable process automation in a nondisruptive manner and avoid IT involvement, deploying RPA without informing IT can lead to unexpected challenges related to security and resilience/recovery. For instance, according to the ISG Survey, respondents across EMEA claim IT security as the most significant barrier to RPA growth in an organization (Figure 2).

Effective RPA Governance Depends on Collaboration of Business and IT Teams

The IT team needs to play the role of a strategic partner that enables organizations to exploit the transformative power of RPA. Successful implementation requires a balanced approach that encourages consistent communication and collaboration between IT and the business. IT can add value by addressing potential integration issues of RPA with existing programs.

The CIO-led IT team needs to take a long-term, strategic approach to RPA success. It also needs to widen its lens so that it architects holistic solutions to change the way an organization operates. CIOs can create agile teams of digital experts to support RPA implementations that scale across the enterprise. Doing so will help IT move from merely influencing RPA buying decisions to ensuring positive outcomes from the automation projects themselves.

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About the authors

Keri Smith leads ISG’s Automation and RPA Practice in EMEA. He has accountability for the design and delivery of all RPA and Cognitive automation projects as well as constantly improving working practices and capabilities to best meet client needs. Keri is an active speaker at client and public events on both RPA and cognitive automation, sharing his experience of both ISG client engagements and from previously leading a RPA COE for a large Swiss multinational business.

Aparna Gajanan is a Manager on ISG's Research team.

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