How-To get Senior leaders bought in to Automation program

As soon as a business gets involved in automation many teams immediately run out to hire a developer and start building their automated processes. But without getting senior stakeholders and their teams bought in to this revolutionary new technology, most teams hit brick walls, momentum and progress slows down and sometimes delivery holts. 

There are many things an automation team must do before they start automating but the Number One thing that will make your automation program succeed or fail is to get senior buy-in.  Without this, it will inevitable cause your team a lot of frustration and pain.


I’d like to walk you through my 10-stage step-by-step approach for getting key stakeholders excited about what Intelligent Automation can do and how it can benefit them

Senior stakeholders will accelerate your progress and supercharge your delivery. Many challenges and pitfalls that I’ve seen new teams make time and time again stem from not getting Top-down buy-in.



Do’s and don’ts

Did you know that over 50 percent of businesses have less than 10 bots and less than 5% have over 200 bots?

If most businesses, no matter what size they are, have hundreds of automation suitable processes, why are so many businesses struggling to scale?



One reason is that many newbie automation teams will try to do a bottom-up approach where they get the buy-in from the teams to start automating and then try to work their way up get senior stakeholders brought in. The issue with this approach is that process experts though generally happy to work with he automation team and excited about  technology, they have their day job and before long may become unavailable or have limited time.

This is why getting senior management support your program early is key. They can carve out sufficient time for their process owners and subject matter expert to give your projects the attention and commitment it needs to deliver solutions.  For example just mapping out the current state of a process may require a few iterations and revisions to get it right and designing the solution take a bit of coordinating to get the right experts in a workshop and designing the solution take a bit of coordinating to get the right experts in a workshop. Your teams also need access to applications and test data to build a robust solution, all this requires commitment from the team and management.



Not having commitment and sufficient time with the team, can tempt new automation teams to cut corners, leaving out the process experts and end-users from critical milestones. It isn’t advisable to just design it  and develop the automation yourself without being sure it’s what the business team wants or assuming your analysts know enough about the process.

Professional automation teams know the importance of co-designing solutions with the business team. In fact this is paramount. The business teams know the process, its issues and are aware of any pending changes. They know why exceptions happen from time-to-time, they know where the application glitches. They are best  placed to know (with your tech knowledge and guidance) how the process can be improved and design a solution which is fit-for-purpose.

Even if an analyst in your team used to do the process and can re-design it themselves without the teams help, it’s not good practice to impose changes on staff teams. By getting staff involved the solution becomes their solution and there’s a greater chance it will actually be used. Remember it’s people first, then it’s process and technology



RPA is a powerful tool but it’s not a silver bullet. Automation teams need to make it very clear to the business that this is not a quick fix, and it can’t fix everything. Yes, it can be implemented in a little as four to six weeks for certain simple processes, or maybe a few months, but it still requires significant time spent with the business users to get it right. Automation shouldn’t be rushed. Cutting corners just leads to technical debt,  basically where you pay for it  later on in support costs for fixes, change requests and re-builds.



Getting senior buy-in is challenging. Here are 10 steps I use to get TOP-DOWN buy-in to accelerate Automation programs:


Step1 – Senior leadership awareness

Gaining and keeping senior stakeholders excited and bought-in is challenging. Automation Programs work best when the Automation sponsor is from the C-suite or has their backing.

The senior leadership team are directors and heads of departments and their subordinates.  They are very busy and their time is scarce. Furthermore, they most likely aren’t fully aware of what intelligent automation is or what is can do so they require some education on how it can benefit their division and help them meet their corporate objective.

You may only have one opportunity with them, so the first thing to include in your presentation is a high-level view of how your technologies work, and highlight key benefits that Intelligent automation can bring their teams and the central role it plays in Digital Transformation.


Step2 – Use case studies

This is the second thing you should include in your presentation.  Case studies shows that while they are not automating, their competitors already are succeeding and benefiting from this technology. Industry-based use cases can also identify the hidden potential in the business that is ready to be unlocked by your Automation team


Step3 – Build-a-bot sessions

If you have time, this can make a last impress for hesitant stakeholders who aren’t sold on the technology. It’s also something fun and interactive. A Build-a-bot session is where you have senior stakeholders build a very basic robot in a workshop. The purpose of this is to show them how simple and fast-to-implement automation really is, and unlike other technologies can add immediate value.

Have attendees chose a simple but useful process to automation, like sorting their emails or automating their expenses. They will see what goes into building a bot, how they (with minimal training) were able to easily build something useful, and they can actually then and there, see immediate value and real time-savings from the 30-60minute session

If you don’t have the time for them to build the robots themselves then run a demo (preferably recorded) of you building one yourself.


Step4 – Create a Proof of Concept (POC)

A proof of concept is a simple, low-cost method for showing the business that RPA and Intelligent Automation works well on the business’s infrastructure and applications. This is better than a generic demo, this proves that not only can this technology stack work in their working environment, but also that your Automation team is capable of delivering robust automated solutions quickly.


Step5 – Staff Automation 101 Roadshow

This is where you’re team is visiting the different areas of the business (or department) and answering the question “What’s in it for me?”. By now your senior stakeholders are bought in, they’ve seen the proof of concept but you still need to take the rest of the business along the digital transformation journey with you, if this is going to be a smooth ride.

Roadshows get staff teams (the process experts who will be working closely with your automation team, interacting with and working alongside these digital workers) excited about the potential benefits automation can bring them. This requires answering sensitive questions, squashing myths and misconceptions. Intelligent Automation has a wider range of capabilities that can benefit the team and the individual.

Show team managers and staff real examples they can relate to, have them trigger an email sorting process, or a tedious copy-and-pasting process, and empathise the benefits on user experience, customer experience and work-life balance, as this is a technology which should be celebrated, not hidden from the masses.


Step6 – Nominate automation champions

An Automation Champions is someone in each team or business department who can be an advocate for your program and keep the excitement and enthusiasm going.

They should be in an influential position, so someone who’s fairly senior. By giving them extra training on Automation, they can be your eyes and ears within teams to look for opportunities, gain feedback on staff’s true opinions and apprehension and they can sell the benefits. 


Step7 – Create an Opportunities map


Creating an Opportunities map is a high-level view of all the opportunities that exist throughout your business, in each department. By gathering high level information on different teams and their activities, heads of department and team managers can see where the potential savings lies across their entire business area.

This is a great visual to show the senior leadership team all the opportunities so that they can align on how you’re Automation team should prioritise projects and roll this out company wide. With alignment and excitement on the size of the opportunities, the next step is to put your best foot forward by carefully choosing the target team to start


Step8 – Find the target team

 The targeted pilot team should be a team which is rich in opportunities which are easy and fast to implement, and will deliver significant benefit.

These opportunities should be small enough so they can be delivered fast (because as a pilot the pressure will be on to deliver something, and something too big could kill momentum and stall your program!), but big enough so that the benefits can be felt by the team (if it’s a small seemingly “pointless” project, stakeholders will lose faith in the technologies ability to impact the bottom line).

Also, the target team should be readiness technically (so no pending changes to major applications), and business ready (teams have sufficient cover to allow for process experts can dedicate sufficient time on automation projects).


Step9 – Generate your shortlist

With your target team carefully chosen, your team can work with the business to build a short list of the best opportunities to start with. These are the BEST opportunities, in the BEST team, out of all the teams/departments that your team have reviewed.

It’s important to not let the business dictate what should be on your shortlist without considering your data-backed recommendations. The business understandably will want to start with the biggest most painful project in their team, but as mentioned early, if you don’t start small and go too big too early, this could kill all the hard work you have done in the last 8 steps!


Step10 – Create a Proof of Value (POV)

So, to recap on your achievements:

Teams and the SLT are excited, you’ve scanned the business for loads of automation opportunities (to be added to your backlog), key stakeholders are aligned on how to roll out this technology out, and the priority in which to do this.

Finally, it’s time to run a Proof of value. More than a proof of concept, you’re building a real solution, running a full automation project, that will deliver real value to the business. This will be the proof in the pudding, where all stakeholders will see how your team can quickly implement a solution which can deliver tangible savings and other benefits in-year. Yes, a project that makes net savings in a matter of months.

This also is a test of your implementation process and governance model (right first-time can’t always be expected so you will refine this as you go along). Having a repetitive process for churning out automation solutions on demand will be crucial for maintaining a stead “drumbeat” for your program. Now that you’ve delivered the proof of value, and have a shortlist of “Quick Wins” in your target pilot team (as well as a long list of opportunities in your backlog), perfecting your repeatable governance model will be a vital tool in achieving Digital Transformation. Let’s call that …step 11.   



Which of these10 steps you need to take depends on how mature and far along your automation journey your team is right now. Once you’ve achieved all 10 steps mentioned above, it becomes a no-brainer for senior stakeholders to be fully bought-in and heavily invest in supporting your Intelligent Automation program. You’ve shown in real time how this technology can alleviate their pains and deliver on many of their objectives faster than any alternative solution.



Subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.



7 steps to FINDING ROOT CAUSES to your business problems: How-To run a Root Cause workshop

7 steps to FINDING ROOT CAUSES to your business problems:

How-To run a Root Cause workshop


If your business isn’t running efficiently, you’ll see some tell-tale signs: Long customer queues, long hold times, high amounts of human errors, slow turnaround times when dealing with clients or suppliers. Perhaps there’s high attrition and low staff morale.


Why a root cause workshop?

The underlying cause of these issues can be difficult to spot and may require some investigative work and a root cause workshop if the best approach. Many new Automation teams unaware of lean thinking (and lean automation) may go out and fix the problem that they see in front of them, however by uncovering and then solving the root cause may “kill multiple birds with one stone”, as root causes typically result in an array of issues. Lean Intelligent Automation, using lean thinking techniques to get the most out of automation technologies.


Here are seven steps your team can use to air out team issues, get full participation in workshops and uncover key root causes to the major blockers and hurdles impacting their team.



Before we start, a central tool to use in your Root Cause Workshops is the fishbone diagram. This has six areas for your attendees to focus on when thinking about what may be causing these headaches.  

Most root causes typically exist upstream from where the issues are being experienced. It’s also interesting to understand what happens as a result of the target team experiencing these blockers. Perhaps this issue is causing the target team to generate a lot more work, which is putting immense pressure on teams down the chain.


Invite the right people

For this to work well, it’s vital that you’ve inviting the right people to that workshop from your target team (where the pain is being experienced) as well as representatives from the teams who are upstream from the target team (who feed them information), and downstream (those who receive information once your target team has completed whatever they do). It would be better to postpone your workshop, than to just invite people just because they were available.


Have the information available

Another thing to do before the workshop is to ensure that the attendees have done their research on the problems being discussed, so that they bring keep information like KPIs and other metrics to the meeting. You don’t want people to say “oh I’ll get back to you on that” or “we don’t have that information right now” as this will defeat the purpose of the workshop.


Senior backing

Finally, for a successful workshop you should have senior person or decision-maker in the room, or at least has clearly supported the workshop. This will minimise the amount of last minute dropouts and emails five minutes before the meeting asking to reschedule or postpone.



Step 1: Set up your Fishbone diagram

Get your fishbone diagram set up on a whiteboard so that when people walk in (physically or virtually, they have some to prepare their thoughts.

Explain the rules of the workshop, these steps and explain the 6 areas. This visual aid helps attendees focus their ideas and have something to put their ideas on. You can use a physical whiteboard or there are lots of different virtual whiteboards you can use like Miro or Mural. Great for remote working.



Step 2: Discuss problems (using the 6 areas)


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With your attendees warmed up and understanding the six different areas (measurements, materials, methods, mother nature, manpower and machines), use silent post-its to walk through each area, getting attendees to add their ideas of problems and pains for each.

Silent post-its is more comfortable as ideas can be added to the board without fear of being shot down. This also allows you to get FULL participation, calling out anyone who hasn’t put their ideas down for each of the 6 areas.

Only after the board has post-its from everyone you can start to discuss the ideas and start tease out more pains and problems around those six areas.


Step 3: Group problems into themes (and determine what’s in/out of scope)

Moving away from the Fishbone diagram now, as you discuss the problems on the board you may find that you can group them together into about three to five different themes. Hopefully there should be similarities between the different problems so that you can discuss details of the key themes that encapsulate all these post-its. Perhaps a lot of problems stem from a new upgrade to a third party system, or the webchat that customers always use incorrectly, or a new website that keeps breaking down.

Once you’ve collected them into themes you want to which are in and out of scope of your Automation team’s remit. Perhaps the issues with the third party’s system is something that is out of your hands, to handle potentially it’s one of the pain themes are to do with it equipment being upgraded or partners or suppliers maybe some for the teams that deal with partnerships and suppliers to handle


Step 4: Add information, metrics, and KPIs

Getting information, KPIs and other metrics around these pain points helps you to determine whether these problems are significant, or if they feel worse than they really are. Perhaps the finance system is cumbersome and preparing spreadsheets takes almost an hour to do, but it’s only used once every 3 months.

Whether its the percentage of human error, number of monthly customer complaints or trending rate of losing clients, understanding the situation with numbers (or knowing who or where to get them) will help you know where is best to focus to have the greatest impact.


Step 5: Highlight Blockers

With a clear view on what the key issues are, you want to get some understanding on potential blockers and restrictions that could stop you from making improvements. This could be a legal or cultural restrictions which could stop or hinder you.

Understand how they tried to solve this before and why it failed the last time.


Step 6: Prioritise problems/themes

With a short list of themed problems, minimal blockers and metrics which evidence that these are big worthwhile problems, these are potentially very go automation projects for your team to look at.

Work with the business team(s) to prioritize which problems are most business critical, and when solved would make the biggest improvement to corporate objectives. There must be logical rationale behind their prioritizations aside from the perceived pain it causes. A new automation team may stop here and start designing solutions for these problems, but we want to go one step further so that we can solve the root cause.


Step 7: 5-Whys

As the name suggestions, the 5-Whys method is where you ask the team about the problem five why’s in order to peal back the layers of the problem. This lean thinking technique asks the cause of a problem, then asks the cause of that cause and so on. This can lead to you to uncover a simpler issue when you finally get down to the root cause.

As a real life example the problem was that the team needed to manually copy data from one system to the next. This was creating a lot of work, putting immense pressure on the team. Furthermore, the work load was forecast to increase next year.  

1WHY: Why do you need to copy data from one system to the next?

Because the two systems don’t sync properly

2WHY: why is that?

Because the two systems data hardly ever matches

3WHY: okay so why is that?

Because the customer data in system A is hardly ever accurate

4WHY: okay and why is that?

Because the data from the outdoor workmen are not entering the customer details correctly

5WHY: (to the workmen representatives) okay and why are workmen not entering details correctly?

In this scenario the outdoor workers had their handheld devices while on the road, and they had to enter the customers details sometimes at night, in the rain and using their finger to enter details manually. All too frequently this causes them to key in customer details accurately.


By stopping at the problem, an automation team would be tempted to automate the alignment of data between system A and system B. But by identifying the root cause your team could provide a far simpler, such as providing the outdoor workman with touchscreen pens for the handheld device and dropdown menus to accurately select the correct customer details to avoid spelling mistakes, rather that typing customer details manually.

With extra upfront work of finding that root cause this maximised the returns from automation, because multiple teams use the data that the workmen were entering into that system so solving the root cause can solve multiple processes.


If you want to learn more about lean Intelligent Automation in your office, subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created weekly, to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.






Intelligent Automation that is making big changes in the office

You’ve probably heard a lot of mention recently about Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and Artificial Intelligence (AI) in your business, or amongst your professional network online. Perhaps you have a few questions about how this is going to impact you and your work life, and you feel it could threaten your job. On the other hand you may be keen to get involved to futureproof your career, but feel it could be a bit too technical for you.

To put your mind at ease, firstly this definitely is a tool that you can leverage in your career. Also, it is a lot easier than you think to get involved with RPA and AI. A lot of it is not the complex and scientific development of mathematical matrices and neural networks that you’ve read about online or seen on TV. To use these technologies, you and your team can start getting involved in right now.



The reality is Automation and AI is the future and it’s here to stay so let’s help you swim with the tide!



Let’s look at the hottest, fastest growing technology in the digital transformation space and that is RPA, robotic process automation.  Where did it come from? Why is it gained so much traction?  Where are these trends heading? How is this going to impact your work in your job and how you can use it to enhance your work life?


Digital transformation is essentially how businesses adopt a handful of different technologies to modernize how their business runs to modernise their old processes, applications and approaches that they use to service their customers. Many in this space see RPA as the backbone of Digital Transformation which can be used to accelerate these trends that we’ve been seeing working in the background for the last decade or so.

This new era is what they call the “fourth industrial revolution”, so once you get a handle on what automation is and how this can be used in your company, then you can start getting involved in automation activities and projects to future proof your business and career.



what is RPA?



Simply put RPA is low code software that can be programmed to follow a simple process and then repeat that process over and over again. If you’ve ever created or used a macro in Excel, you record a few steps, you can add logic for “IF THEN” decisions, press play and then you can see that process run in a loop until it’s completed the list of work that you’ve set it.

If you’re an Excel VBA macro whiz you can actually go into the underlying code and build complex processes from scratch, pulling data from websites and different applications. RPA is a similar concept, and not just tied to Excel or Microsoft office applications, you literally can program RPA to get data from or enter data into any combination of desktop applications, web applications, website pages, web forms, APIs etc.

Think of RPA as an automated person that rather than a piece of software, as it actually uses the user interface just like you and I would to clicks on buttons and links, or type into forms, as if it’s using the keyboard! An analogy I’ve heard about what RPA potentially can do for you, would be to imagine if you had to a new apprentice (with no experience of your industry) that you could train to do a specific task over and over again. You could just hand them all your simple tasks over to them all the tedious repetitive tasks and they will just get on with it. Such things like copying and pasting data from one system to the next, entering data into an application from a spreadsheet or a web form, or even taking information from say an invoice and update your financial spreadsheet.

They don’t have to know anything about your industry and can just get on with the work straight away.  Then you can just spend your time focusing on more complex intuitive tasks, the more interesting parts of your job you enjoy.

This is just a glimpse of the power of robotic process automation, as RPA can do much more. If you can map out each step of a process and logically define each decision point (i.e. it’s a logical decision that doesn’t require human judgment), then it could pretty much automated.



Where did process automation actually come from?


RPA was created by Blue Prism a software company back in 2003, and they launched their first product called “Automate”.  The underlining functionalities of RPA are like macros, screen scraping and recording – which have been around since the 90s – was finally packaged into a user-friendly platform. There were two reasons that drove the need for this software; firstly businesses that had been outsourcing, especially overseas, to keep their costs down were looking new ways to save costs due to the rise in labour costs. Secondly, companies themselves were becoming overly data hungry – demanding more from IT in line with the rising demand of the customers wanting faster services, more ways to purchase things, and better customer service and experience. There’s only so much that IT departments can in this new fast paced world.

RPA became a much faster solution to solve technical issues, as technical roadblocks, integrations and data fluidity could be solved in a matter of months or weeks, rather than the years it can take to implement IT overhauls and upgrades. And with it’s comparatively lower costs, RPA arguably became the backbone of digital transformation to modernize businesses who had slow clunky ancient applications and processes.

Very quickly business processes could become faster and smoother to reduce queues, reduce errors and save time on mind-numbing manually-intensive tasks, so that staff could spend more quality time on customer service, human to human interaction and creative activities.


Though RPA has come a long way, there’s still much more to go. The growth of RPA and AI is exponential. In the graph you can see that $1.1 billion was the RPA market back in 2020, and is predicted to be worth 2.4 billion in 2022. AI is even more massive at 1.2 trillion in 2020. Obviously the US is leading the race and followed by the UK, Japan and Germany but countries change all the time and clearly China is really making waves in the AI space.



The top RPA players

The top players right now are UiPath, Blue Prism and Automation Anywhere. They pretty much have similar underlying code. From my experience UiPath is my favourite followed by Blue Prism. A lot happened in 2020, UiPath had its IPO in the states and US investors look to bid for Blue Prism.

As an RPA developer UiPath was always been my favourite so I was absolutely thrilled when Guy Kirkwood, the then-chief evangelist of UiPath gave my book a five star rating and said it was “highly recommended for anyone in the in the automation space”, and he even went on to write the foreword to the published version.



Three trends

1 Citizen Development

Automation software companies are making it really simple to develop your own automation robots so that basically anyone can intuitively develop one, similar to how we can all use Excel



2 Intelligent Automation (RPA + AI)

The second is that Artificial Intelligence is becoming closely integrated with RPA platforms. Either AI is being built into the RPA platforms or RPA vendors are creating ecosystems in order to seamlessly ‘Plug and Play’ a plethora of AI Capabilities into an automated process. E.g. If your automation needs to ingest a scanned image and pass the data from the image to the RPA ‘Bot’, you can literally drag and drop optical counter recognition functionally into the workflow.

Vendors that build ecosystems can scale much faster than having to build AI capabilities into their platforms. They can focus on RPA and leave the AI to the AI companies and experts.

It is said that RPA can only automate about 20% processes in a business because RPA doesn’t think, so AI in process automation is of growing importance, so that you can scan a pdf document or categorise emails in a mailbox, engage with clients (and staff) with a chatbot.



3 AI in Applications

The third trend is that automated workflows and AI capabilities are now being built into applications like enterprise resource planning (ERP) applications and customer relationship management (CRM) software. In fact most enterprise software that you’re using now will see newer versions with Intelligent Automation built in.


 How will RPA and Intelligent Automation affect our day-to-day work-life?

Soon you will be able to leverage these technologies to look like a superstar by smashing your targets, delivering better customer experience, and experience better user experience so that you can work more efficiently.


There is a big myth that Robots will take over all our jobs. Job loss is by far the biggest fear when introducing any new technology and intelligent automation is no different. No one wants to feel like their job is at risk, I felt this first-hand when multiple articles said how analyst roles (which are highly logical, and data driven) would be the most at risk of being automated.


Obviously that didn’t happen but in some organizations it’s been hidden and developed in dark corners, which just elevates staff suspicions. This technology should be celebrated due to how much pain and frustration and the laborious effort this will alleviate from so many people’s work lives, freeing them to do more interesting, creative, problem-solving, and human-to-human interaction activities.


Looking past the scaremongering, we’ve seen time and time again how new technologies actually created new jobs. Look at the personal computer, the internet, mobile phones. All of them created whole new industries, new jobs and new ways of working. I’m not niave to the fact that some jobs will be replaced or parts of jobs, but smart companies are investing in their staff, upskilling them on how to use automation to do their jobs better. Automation typically opens new avenues to meet customer needs, ambitious professionals are upskilling in technologies which are making waves so that they keep relevant and future-proof their careers. We’ve taught thousands of professionals in over 100 countries to upskill to get involved in automation or to advance their automation careers.


A good phrase to leave you with is that “Automation should take the ‘robot’ out of the human” so that we can spend more time on the actual job. Our brains work best doing creative, interactive, problem-solving tasks, not repetitive mind-numbing tasks – which are prone to human error.


A side note, I’ve written many articles about how real value of a business is its staff. The worst thing I’ve seen is when a business removed staff only to hire new staff some months later. This was a massive brain-drain, as they lost process and domain knowledge, they lost staff who had relationship with teams and clients, and had to re-trained new staff that had less expertise.


The key message here is to keep discovering the power of new AI technologies and how you can use them in your role, in your team and at your business.  Soon we will be in a world where there are very few menial tasks as we will be equipped with “virtual assistance” that can compile information from multiple application, fill in forms, read/scan long documents for you, to get you the information we need. We will no longer need to do repetitive copy-and-pasting, form fill.


Covid in 2020 did accelerate a lot of the trends, and in my book “Business @ the Speed of Bots” I wrote in 2019 that “Business was going to change more in the next 5 years than it did in the last 20” …I didn’t at the time realise how right I was!



Like and subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.




The common pitfalls awaits your Automation team …and how to avoid them

Whether you’re looking to train up your automation team from internal staff or whether you’re looking to hire some external experts I want to make you aware of 14 common pitfalls that I and my network have noticed new automation teams making time and time again. These issues can manifest at project level when you start to get going at automating


  1. Lack of senior business leader buy-in

The number one thing every automation team should make sure they have is senior stakeholder backing. If your senior stakeholders believe in the technology and believe in the benefits of your program and projects, you can move forward at pace without getting too stuck and any blockers can be quickly removed.


  • Lack of IT ownership and understanding

It’s vital for IT to be bought in as well. They will need to take ownership on the part they will need to play if you want to roll out automation company-wide, giving you support on infrastructure and the IT side of things, so that you can focus on automating business processes. IT will need to understand what RPA is and that robotic process automation is very different to IT software development.  RPA is more akin to digital workers rather than software development


  • Missing or unavailable data

You’re inevitably going to come up against a lot of missing data and unavailable data when you try to analyse your businesses processes, and when analysing your teams and the business as a whole. You need good data to show you where the best automation projects are and to estimate how much value you can deliver back to the business.

You may need to do a little leg work to measure the current state of processes and activities, and if you’re lucky you may be able to extract data from applications and databases to find the data that you need in order to determine which projects are worthwhile. Sometimes (well more often than not) data just isn’t available, but you at least need a consistent measuring approach so that one project/opportunity can be compared to another.


  • Staff’s resistance to change

Staff buy-in (the end users of the automation, or those who will work alongside automation) is vital.  If staff are engaged in the various automation activities and understand the benefits that you are going to bring to them, their team, their business this will accelerate progress and roll out. Otherwise you’re going to have them feeling a bit resistant to any changes you’re trying to implement on them, that they haven’t been a part of.

 Digital transformation should be co-creation between the tech experts and the business experts. When staff are involved, and it’s their change they will gain the understand that you’re there to deliver solutions to help them achieve their goals and their targets faster and exceed them. Together you can solve the problems and inefficiencies causing them to have to work late nights, be overloaded with work, and together your solutions will be fit for purpose, actually benefit them and they will be happy to use!


  • Loss of traction


Loss of traction is a big pitfall when you’re running an automation program and is a sign you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Perhaps you’ve start too big, it took too long to develop and now you’ve hit a brick wall.

A better approach, especially when you’re team is new, is to build up momentum slowly and progressively starting with smaller simpler automation projects which gets people excited, get business teams brought in and then you can keep scaling up by building bigger, more complex and exciting projects. Starting small and building fast also gets you automation team to get your deliver processes perfected.

Practice the steps slowly then you’ll be tapdancing to work in no time


  • Unclear roles and responsibilities

If no one knows what anyone else in the delivery process is doing then you’re just going nowhere fast. Throughout the deliver process everyone involved needs to know what their role is. Everyone in the implementation process needs to understand what’s expected of them and what to expect of other people so written down roles and responsibilities and have everyone agree, leaves nothing up for interpretation later down the line.

You can use what’s called a RACI chart to help clarify what people need to do. For each action or activity define:

R = who is responsible for the action. I.e. who actually does the work

A = who should be accountable if the work isn’t done, is subpar or is delayed

C = who can the person doing the work consult to get expertise on a subject

I = who should someone Inform when the activity is done …or has issues


Each of the 4 architypes above can have multiple people apart from Responsible. There needs to only be one person who take responsibility for issues



  • No clear governance model

A governance model are the steps that determine when something is done, what good looks like and what to do when things go wrong. Without clear governance process (coupled with clear roles and responsibilities), you and your team will find themselves wasting a LOT of time chasing people, going around in circles and being batted from left to right trying to work out what to do and who to go to.

To avoid these headaches, make sure you have all your key stakeholders agreed on the governance model and if something slips you know how to escalate that to get it fixed 

  • Who to speak to (Who deals with servers? Who are the application owners? Who deals with username/password creation?)
  • How is it done (what is the process? Multiple people/activities involved?)
  • What is the criteria (? What requirements for this request? What does ‘good’ look like?)
  • When will they deliver it by (Is there a timeframe? How long some a testing environment take to set up?)


  • Lack of process clarity

You effectively become a process expert yourself when you analyse a process thoroughly. If not, how will you be able to translate the business problem into a technical solution, in enough detail for the developer to build?

In automation, a Process definition document (PDD) is used to define clearly and unambiguously what the process, from your discussion with the subject matter expert(s) or process owner(s). When you understand exactly what the process looks like and what the improved solution looks like, then the developer should have everything in the PDD that they need.


  • Process documentation differ from what workers do in reality

It’s not advisable to rely on just the work instructions of a process or training manual because that’s probably been sitting there for years collecting dust and it’s not up to date. Most likely the team has found better ways of doing it, or they’ve need to change the process due to the systems being updated or the applications have been upgraded.

Process documentation is a great starting point but make sure you’re speaking with the team on what they do now, how it can be better and then co-design the solution.


  • Automation behaves differently in live environment to how it worked during testing

OK so your developer tested the automation, you thoroughly tested it again during user acceptance testing (UAT) and it worked perfectly ..but then when you launched it, your automation broke down, generated lots of exceptions or didn’t work as expected.

This it’s uncommon as development and testing environments can be slightly different to the real thing, even the data you used in testing might be slightly different, or the version of the application might be a newer version in the live environment.

As you can’t be 100% sure what will happen when you’ve launched your automation it’s important to have a “hypercare” phase, sometimes it’s called “warranty period” or “post go live support”. This allows your team to babysit your newly launched robot until you and the business are happy to let it go on it’s own


  • Lack of time and commitment from process owners and users

When you agreed upfront with team managers how much time and commitment you will likely need your process owners to dedicate to working with you on a project, it can ensure your project isn’t delayed by unavailable subject matter experts (SMEs), or your tempted to continue on a process which isn’t fully defined.

Automation delivery requires full understanding of the process that you’re automating in detail, and you can document that clearly and unambiguously. This is why the number one pitfall (and number one solution for success) is senior buy-in. Senior stakeholders can unlock the doors and make time for that person to commit time with you. Automation design and delivery is not a one-and-done thing, it’s a process which needs several sessions for defining, designing, and testing the solution. With a committed process expert, you have a better chance of getting it right first time.  


  • Poor stakeholder awareness and understanding of technologies

With automation, your stakeholders are the business, they’re IT, they’re HR and Change management. All these teams will need to get to understand what this technology is, where they fit in and how it can benefit them. And from an informed position, they will have feedback on how this technology should be used.

Automation can’t be built in the dark corner of the business and be successfully rolled out, because once it’s launched, it just might not get used, or your program could be blocked and never see the light of day.

To get alignment and buy-in company-wide, run some awareness sessions, some one-to-ones, or/and host ‘lunch and learns’ to educate teams on what this technology is and how powerful it can be to help them in their day-to-day jobs, and progress the business as a whole.



  • Unrealistic expectation

Sometimes automation and technologies in general can be a little oversold, or at least misunderstood, so people may have the wrong understanding of what it can do and how fast it can do it. Automation is a powerful tool, it can take just a matter of few weeks to get set up and it is typically a lot lower cost option to software development in many cases, but it’s not a silver bullet.

Automating business processes does take sufficient upfront investment of time and commitment from staff to get solutions implemented, so it’s good practice to be clear on how long it’s most likely to take (E.g., up to 2hours a week spread over 6-8 weeks, or 3x 2hour workshops) and use a cost-benefits calculator to estimate the potential value the solution can deliver.  


  • Choosing the wrong process

I wanted to leave this to last, as this is probably the number one pitfall that your team needs to stay away from. Choosing the wrong process is one of the most common reasons for automation failings and why projects stall. When a team works on a process that isn’t suitable for the technologies that they have, it’s too big, or if it’s too complex, it can stall the entire program as stakeholders loose faith.

Many experienced automation teams use complexity calculators to estimate how difficult a process would be to automate, and they use suitability checklists to filter out processes that aren’t suitable for different type of RPA and AI solutions.


Like and subscribe to my YouTube channel Tony IA (Intelligent Automation, Simplified) for videos created to simplify intelligent automation for business leaders and professionals who are new to automation to level-up your knowledge. Become empowered on how you optimise your business and discover new technologies, in a lean and accelerate way. You can also learn more from my book, Business @ the Speed of Bots: The AEIO YOU method HOW TO IMPLEMENT ROBOTIC PROCESS AUTOMATION THAT SCALES. Get ready for the new digital transformation age for more information. The foreword is written by Guy Kirkwood, who is the Chief Evangelist at UiPath, and a very well-known advocate of RPA with over 20 years of experience in outsourcing.