Robotic Process Automation (RPA): You still can’t beat good process management

By Jamie Bartholomeou

Whether processes are being simplified, transformed or automated, they should be organised and controlled through solid Business Process Management (BPM). The workforce of the future will be a seamless blend of humans and machines doing those tasks they are more suited to. Whether it’s a human or digital pair of hands that’s actually completing the work, poor process management will only drive inefficiencies and errors.

A previous article, “Robotic Process Automation – Lift-off in t-minus when?” explored issues encountered when scaling an RPA capability. Utilising structured BPM thinking is a necessity to ensure processes are well embedded within an enterprise.

Roseman and vom Brocke (2010)1 suggest there are six core elements of BPM. From an RPA perspective, these provide a fantastic framework to ensure processes are under control. Of course, this should be considered across the entirety of an enterprise’s processes - BPM should not discriminate between automated and manual processes.

The six elements of BPM are suggested as follows:

  1. Strategic alignment. Significant RPA programs and other Machine Learning (ML) / AI-type technologies need to be considered enterprise-wide. Implementation without a strategic approach will likely result in sporadic deployments which lack direction and support, and ultimately, go the way of the 70% of digital transformations which fail (Morgan, 2019)2.
  2. Governance. One of the chronic issues often experienced post-automation is a loss of process ownership. Often for manual processes this can be a problem but by automating a process there is a real chance that a process owner can become distanced from a process, which is then exacerbated by people turnover. A structured Centre of Excellence (CoE) with stringent guidelines and controls as part of the strategic RPA approach must be developed to minimise this risk and prevent the risk of cottage industries developing.
  3. IT. From a governance, security and delivery perspective, IT is a key function to form part of the CoE. At its fundamental level though, investment in a BPM system is crucial to help maintain process oversight, knowledge and consistently review and improve. A BPM system should become a strategic tool used by an organisation to understand how it creates value for customers and where improvements can be continuously deployed. It will also provide a centralised process library and avoid the dangers encountered by having individual process maps and procedures stored as separate files deep on personal or network drives.
  4. People. Underpinned by a solid BPM system, process stakeholders must be agreed and assigned. Referencing the previously mentioned process ownership issue, this is as applicable to automated processes as well as manual ones. These people should be trained and skilled in the fundamentals of process management so that they can ensure continuous improvement but also understand when signals might be indicating a process is in danger of becoming out of control.
  5. Culture. Just as process management must be part of the strategic vision; to support better automation implementations and enhance future ML/AI approaches, a “process” culture needs to be fostered. Through executive sponsorship a focus on process excellence can help this develop.
  6. Methods. Providing simple but robust frameworks for BPM is crucial to help develop a process excellence culture but also to ensure that processes, automated or not, are understood and assessed in a standardised way. Good BPM isn’t rocket science but can sometimes be over-complicated by high touch methods and frameworks.

Too often process improvement teams are firefighters, tactically fixing enterprise issues with varying degrees of long-term sustainability. The use of solid BPM foundations will start to ensure that a more strategic approach is taken and offers a platform from which to ensure RPA and other future technological developments are implemented for a viable future. RPA is a powerful tool with many potential benefits if utilised alongside process improvement and process management techniques to heighten process maturity.


1. Rosemann, Michael & Brocke, Jan vom. (2010). The Six Core Elements of Business Process Management. 10.1007/978-3-642-00416-2_5.

2. Companies That Failed At Digital Transformation And What We Can Learn From Them, Blake Morgan (2019),

Jamie Bartholomeou is Senior Manager - Business Improvement at AMP Capital.