Scaling Beyond RPA to Hyperautomation

Scaling Beyond RPA to Hyperautomation

Published By : Brian French September 30, 2020


The economic and operational malaise caused by the COVID-19 pandemic has forced many companies to focus on quick automation wins. It appears a majority of those quick wins have been RPA (task automation) implementations without a focus on the bigger picture and business processes the task automations are a part of. This blog, which is part two in a series, will discuss the approach and tools needed to scale beyond Hyperautomation. 

Note this blog is available as a video as well, and that is the primary intended format. The video format is recommended over the blog format since some of the images/slides are builds and can’t be properly represented in a blog.

Previously, in Part 1 of this series, we covered the disciplined, iterative, infinite loop that describes Business-Driven Hyperautomation. Let’s quickly review before moving into scaling beyond RPA. Business-Driven Hyperautomation starts with defining your business objectives, or your Digital Ambition. Where do you want to go? You then explore and figure out what the vision is to get you to your Digital Ambition. Once you have your vision to get there, you can hone in on the processes you’ll need to change, and do the necessary process analysis.

Hyperautomation Infinite Loop

Since automation should be applied wherever it makes sense, you’ll want to use an Automation Alignment framework to determine the best fit of automation with the various types of work being done. The DigitalOps Toolbox has a lot of different tools you’ll need to leverage to scale to Hyperautomation. Automation Alignment is a critical step to fit the right tools with the right work.

Then you get into prototyping and delivering production solutions to satisfy your Digital Ambition. Beyond this, you need to monitor and measure your solutions to determine if you are meeting your Digital Ambition. Without this step, you have no idea if you are successful. Now that you have some initial success, you can begin to scale via rigorous methodologies, which should be a part of your COE efforts. Note you will need multiple COEs as there are a lot of disciplines involved in Hyperautomation. We’ll cover this in a later presentation. As you move forward, you’ll continue to iterate and optimize your overall Hyperautomation program so you can stay ahead of, or catch, your competition.

To scale beyond RPA, or siloed automation solutions, you’ll need to grow beyond the common approach to automation, which is focused mostly on delivery, and scale to the disciplined iterative portions of Hyperautomation, which are much less commonly practiced. For a deeper dive into the iterative loop that is Business-Driven Hyperautomation, see our previous presentation on this subject.

The Ugly Truth About RPA

Now that we have a foundation for Hyperautomation, let’s discuss the Ugly Truth About RPA. Below is a quote from Elena Christopher, Senior Vice President of HFS Research. By the way, if you don’t follow HFS Research, you really should. They are outstanding. You can find their blog at

“In 2012, HFS launched the concept of RPA… In the seven years since, the ugly truth is that we’ve simply succeeded in using RPA to move data around enterprises faster with less manual intervention rather than to rewire our business processes and create new thresholds of value. We are largely missing the opportunity to transform business operations.
Elena Christopher, SVP of HFS Research

The critical thing in this quote is the last sentence. While there is a lot of hype around RPA, we’re still not achieving real business transformation with it. However, this should be expected. RPA is task automation, not process automation.

Gartner’s DigitalOps Toolbox

Most companies doing RPA are just doing stand-alone RPA. What the RPA vendors have started to put together since mid to late 2019 is a vision and toolset to do Complemented RPA, but they are still not offering enough to do Hyperautomation. It is interesting to hear RPA vendors discuss Hyperautomation, and how to them, it still always leads back to RPA being the center of the universe. This is unfortunate, as there is no logical way RPA can be the center of the Hyperautomation universe given it is strictly Task Automation. We discuss where we believe RPA sits later in this blog. However, if you are an RPA vendor, of course, that is the story you’re going to tell.

Let’s look at the DigitalOps technology toolbox Gartner defines, which we have slightly modified. At the top, we have Process Intelligence, a term I first saw used by HFS Research, a combination of Data Mining, Process Discovery, and Process Analysis. Document Ingestion covers all those physical and digital documents that are still involved in many business processes and have to be ingested and digitally processed to accommodate automation. User and Customer Experience are more critical than ever, and need to be combined with your automation efforts to make sure you aren’t doing things faster but somehow creating worse experiences for your customers.

Analytics and Machine Learning will be ubiquitous and applied across all of these tools. An Intelligent Business Process Management Suite, or iBPMS, is your overall process execution and orchestration platform. With more sophisticated processes, we just don’t see how you can avoid using some sort of process execution engine. And as businesses move faster and faster, modeling and automating decisions to make sure you are making the right decisions at the speed of digital will become more and more relevant. With all of this, you’ll need to be integrating across heterogeneous systems, and you won’t want to have be a genius to accomplish this. An Integration Platform as a Service, or iPaaS, is the platform to achieve this.

Gartner’s Hyperautomation Spectrum

When you start to want to scale your automation efforts beyond RPA, at least in relation to the Hyperautomation infinite loop, the initial area you want to focus on are the first three steps of Business Objective, Exploring and thinking about various ways to transform your business, and then Process Analysis. When you start to think about the number and diversity of automation tools available in the DigitalOps Technology Toolbox, it becomes apparent scaling to Hyperautomation is not a trivial exercise. It is necessary to determine your automation scope based on the desired business outcome or your Digital Ambition.

Gartner’s Hyperautomation Spectrum is a great way to see exactly where RPA can help with your Digital Ambition, but more importantly what other types of automation you’ll need to consider to reach your business objectives. The way this works is we have Business Objectives, or your Digital Ambition, along the right axis, with our scale going from immediate savings on the bottom up to Business Creation / Reinvention / Recalibration on the top. Along the left axis, we have our degree of automation, which scales from Routine to Dynamic. Along the bottom axis, we have the Scope of Automation, which goes from Narrow to Broad. And then across the top axis, we have something Salient added, which is the Breadth of Processes, which scales from a single activity to a process or multiple processes, up to a Value Chain. We added this because we felt it was critical to highlight the scope of processes the different tools in Hyperautomation can cover.

As you move from the lower left-hand corner of the matrix up to the upper right-hand corner of the matrix, your risk, reward, cost, and business impact go from being very low at the lower left-hand extreme, to being very high at the point where the Breadth of Process and Business Objective axes conjoin. From this spectrum, what you would want to do, just as we describe in the Business-Driven Hyperautomation infinite loop, is begin with your business objective or Digital Ambition. What is it you want to achieve with your business? This will determine the level of Hyperautomation you need to reach. If you are just looking for immediate cost savings with little to no change in the way your business operates, and the tasks you are targeting are very predictable and repeatable, Task Automation will be just the ticket for you.

If you want to move beyond routine automation and cost savings, but don’t have a digital ambition of business transformation, the Process Automation level in the spectrum may be just the right level for you. Or, if you want to transform your business, you will need to get to the areas of Orchestration Across Functions, and Business Operations Creation and Reinvention.

Now that you know where you want to go, and where that puts you in the Hyperautomation Spectrum, let’s figure out what tools in the DigitalOps toolbox fit where in this spectrum. We’ll start in the lower left-hand corner and work our way diagonally across the spectrum to the upper-right. Task automation is the natural fit in the lower left-hand corner. This is essentially RPA. RPA is really great at automating routine repeatable tasks. That is low hanging fruit, and a great deal of the time, it brings immediate savings and ROI. However, remember the statement from HFS research about the fact all we’re doing with RPA is moving data around faster, but not really transforming processes.

That should be expected. RPA is not a process transformation, or even a process automation tool. It is a task automation tool. As you can see from where it lands in the Hyperautomation Spectrum, it is as far away from the upper right-hand corner, where business and process reinvention happen, as possible. Task automation, or RPA, is very limited in terms of any transformative effect it can have on your business, at least as a stand-alone automation tool. Think about it; what you are doing with Robotic Task Automation makes your existing processes run faster. However, you aren’t fundamentally changing anything other than speed and accuracy.

Let’s move on to process automation. This is where Complemented RPA starts to play a role. With Process Intelligence, you can begin to look at your processes for specific automation possibilities and analyze how those changes will impact your operations. However, Complemented RPA is still highly limited in what you can achieve. Its scope is simpler processes that don’t span functions or need sophisticated orchestration. As you start to move into Orchestration Across Functions and Business Operations Creation or Reinvention, that is where you get into more sophisticated processes, and the hard, but highly rewarding, work of transforming your processes and business.

RPA plays a much smaller role here. It certainly has a role, but it is a bit player. Essentially, you are looking at your processes, and determining for each type of work being done, what the best automation tool is to get that work done. Sometimes that will be RPA, but many times it will not. Essentially, RPA becomes just one possibility among many for completing a particular task within your overall process flow. As always, it comes back to your business objective. If you are trying to achieve more than just immediate savings, and are looking to transform your business, or even just automate more than tasks, stand-alone RPA isn’t enough. You’ll need to look to leverage more of the tools in the DigitalOps toolbox.

Automation Alignment Matrix

Now that you know what tools will be necessary depending on what you’re trying to achieve, you can go more granular and determine for each activity in a process, what is the best automation fit depending on the type of work being done? If you take a look back at our Hyperautomation infinite loop, where you are now in this loop is in the context of an activity within a single process, and determining for each activity in that process what type of work is being done. This is step four in the loop. Here you can determine which type of automation tool is the most appropriate for your needs.

Let’s take surface level look at Salient’s Automation Alignment Matrix. The Matrix has two axes. The bottom, or X-axis, is based on the Volume of Work, with the scale going from Low to High volume. The left, or Y-axis, is based on the Uniqueness of Work, with multiple scales. We have one scale going from Repetitive to Unique, and another traversing from Programmatic to Transactional to Exploratory (see blog linked above for definitions). The way you use this matrix is to document and analyze your process, which is step 3 of the Hyperautomation Infinite Loop, then you take a look at the type of work being done at each activity, or task, in that process. You can then layer the type of work onto this matrix, and thus try to determine what type of automation will help you get closer to your Digital Ambition. In our opinion, you should never lose sight of that Digital Ambition or Business Objective. Everything needs to be driving towards that. The Automation Alignment Matrix is a key way to help you scale beyond RPA and achieve Hyperautomation. For more information on the Automation Alignment Matrix, please read our previous blog on the subject.

In summary, stand alone RPA has made a lot of tasks execute faster and with fewer errors, but RPA by itself does not transform processes. It just makes your existing processes run faster. Leveraging the tools from the DigitalOps toolbox will at least give you the ability to transform your processes and business, and scale beyond RPA. The Hyperautomation Spectrum helps you determine, based on your Business Objective, or Digital Ambition, what tools from the DigitalOps toolbox you’ll need to scale beyond RPA. From there, within each process, leveraging Salient’s Automation Alignment Matrix, you can analyze the type of work being done at each task and choose the proper automation tool to help you achieve your goals.

As we mentioned at the start of this presentation, this is the second in a series. We’ll follow this with presentations about structuring your Hyperautomation organization, and leveraging IBM Digital Business Automation to do Hyperautomation. In a previous presentation, we discussed What is Hyperautomation.