Heavyweight and lightweight process automation - how do companies select between RPA and back-end automation?

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School of Business | Master's thesis
Degree programme
Information and Service Management (ISM)
This study provides novel insight about how companies select between lightweight and heavyweight process automation and what are the factors affecting this selection. The automation approaches compared in this study are Robotic Process Automation (RPA) and back-end automation, defined as invasive automation, implemented by means of system development and/or data or application layer system integration. Decision about automation approach is not trivial, but can have a long spanning effect on company’s operations. In this study, two automation cases where selection between RPA and back-end automation was made were observed. Moreover, expert interviews were conducted in companies operating in fields of finance, telecommunications, and IT services. Based on this, four decision making criteria used by companies and eight heuristic factors that seem to indicate suitability of either approach were identified. The decision making criteria are Business case, Scope, Time to market, and Anticipated development of system architecture. The heuristic factors are Number of systems, Process volume, Changes anticipated in automation requirements, Stability of user interfaces, Interfaces between systems, Time to market, Permanence of process, and IT resource situation. It seems that companies do not proactively consider all of the factors that affect their selection by the end of the day. Stance of this study is that by recognizing also heuristic factors mentioned above, companies can make better informed decisions that help them to reap the benefits of automation.
Thesis advisor
Penttinen, Esko
RPA, heavyweight IT, lightweight IT, business process automation
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