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Should CIOs be chief robot wranglers?

Stephanie Overby | July 27, 2016
Business Robotic Process Automation (RPA) initiatives can yield huge returns. But bypassing IT can create even bigger risks. Why CIOs need to take a greater role in RPA.

From an organizational politics standpoint, a CIO’s endorsement can facilitate buy-in across different business units, which is essential to ensuring results. Are there lessons to be applied here from how CIOs have effectively (or ineffectively) handled other forms of shadow IT?

Davison: In many respects, the dynamics at play with shadow RPA are similar to what we’ve seen in the past. Years ago, departments would buy their own PCs that didn’t conform to enterprise standards for capability, performance, documentation, and backup—and consequently you’d see problems downstream. The net results were the sub-optimization of funds spent, poor performance, inability to integrate into the enterprise, and—ultimately—replacement of the systems. The result then as it is now is that if IT isn’t involved, the solution will be sub-optimal. So the lesson for IT is to get involved early and often, and to be perceived as an enabler rather than an obstacle.

Lacity: We are already seeing how a lack of centralized oversight is creating RPA islands in some global firms. In one financial service firms, different business units had negotiated radically different prices with the same RPA provider!  If IT or another centralized group had aggregated demand, the company would have gotten a better deal. We also see business units selecting different tools with essentially the same functionality. 


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