Home Bots & Business ‘CIO’s, don’t fall behind and let’s get RPA up and running’

‘CIO’s, don’t fall behind and let’s get RPA up and running’

by Marco van der Hoeven

How do CIOs feel about deploying RPA and AI in their organization? What barriers are still there and what are the opportunities? Roger Camrass (CIONET UK) collaborated with UiPath to explore the role of the CIO in automation and RPA. To do this, they surveyed CIOs from fifteen major organizations. In this interview, Camrass talks about the most important results of the research and his vision on the future of RPA and automation.

In the survey among CIOs CIONET asked several questions like: What is the current business context for the fully automated enterprise? Will RPA assist in automating the IT function itself? What are the likely barriers that might inhibit RPA? And automation in general: where is everyone in the journey to automation?


Camrass notices four important ‘gaps’ where RPA can be of value to an organization. He first mentions challenges caused by legacy. “We’ve got a whole bunch of dysfunctional legacy processes which we can’t just change because they’re cross functional and highly manual. So how do we live with it? ERP is right at the core of all that, so we put robots between traditional legacy applications like core banking systems, core retail systems and core government systems, which are probably 30 to 40 years old.”

“And as banks and governments will tell you, it’s too costly and too risky to even begin to replace those things. So I spoke to a bank whose record systems are 24 hour batch systems. But how do you do mobile, real time banking, on a core system that’s updated every 24 hours? Clearly, there’s some patchwork quilt going on inside the organization. And I think RPA fills that gap.”


The second gap where RPA can offer a solution is repetitive office work. Camrass: “In any office today probably 30% of all office work is entirely repetitive. RPA can take all of that and automate it. You can take 30% of your workforce out, or at least release them from the drudgery of tedious work.” Third, Camrass mentions the call centers. “Call centers are really the frontline to the customer. If you go into a call center you will see a tremendous amount of effort going in human effort. A lot of the call center work can be automated using chatbots.”

“And the more intelligent chatbot bots become, the less is needed in the core sector. When I say chatbots, I’m talking about natural language processing, natural language recognition-bots, which are around since the 90s, but are now really well proven.” The last one, Camrass calls it ‘the big one’, is offshoring and outsourcing. “Offshoring companies cannot expand at the rate that they’re taking on staff. In the offshoring sense probably 40 to 50% of the work is repetitive. Therefore there are big opportunities for RPA in offshore too.”


Camrass found from this survey that there are a lot of important issues CIOs are currently working on. “They are all worried about cyber. That’s the number one.” The second issue is the cloud. “They’re preoccupied with hybrid working user experience, customer experience, preoccupied with mobile, mobile app, building mobile platforms, supporting them, supporting, massive escalation in volumes of call centers and security. So they need automation and they need to be involved with it. Because this could be a revolution outside their control. If robots come in at the right price, users will go out and just buy them.”

Camrass notices similarities with the view on the cloud about 10 years ago. “If you asked the CIO who’s using cloud ten years ago they wouldn’t have a clue. I think the same could happen with RPA. It’s something that you could just buy, as you would have done buying an Excel spreadsheet now. And that’s where it could get out of control rather quickly, particularly if there are many vendors around.”

“How do you even begin to support and maintain those robots? How do they interconnect because you don’t want 1000s of different islands of automation. I think it’s a genuine concern. I describe it as ‘XML on steroids’. This thing could move fast and it could caught by that with citizens development and you’ve got a recipe for excluding the CIO from everything. So I think CIOs recognized and have pushed RPA and automation up the agenda, because they recognize is like Cloud, they’ve got to get some control over this.”

Future role

So what is the role of the CIO? “One is to specify and operate platforms on behalf of their organizations. That includes governance, security, and cyber. One is to provide a set of standard tools that can be applied across the organization, of which RPA will be classically one. And third is to  mobilize a community of practice. That doesn’t just mean the IT people in the IT department, it’s universal. It’s all about education, training and experience sharing.”

“I think in that sense, the platform’s RPA has an extremely important role to play. And robots shouldn’t exist in isolation. They are part of the fabric of the automated enterprise. It should not be a patchwork quilt for the future. I think that’s where the CIOs are coming in. And to give them credit, I think many of them are deeply involved in process reengineering.”

RPA and AI: still a lot to do

Although RPA is high on the agenda for CIOs, much is still needed before robots can function at a high level on a large scale. “Just look at the population of robots in big firms. It’s 10s or 100s. It’s certainly not 1000s or 10.000s. So I would say it’s embryonic. Robots today are quite primitive in their functionality and capability. If you start to introduce machine learning, particularly into tasks, you will have continuous improvement. That’s a great potential. There is plenty of experimentation, but it is not really making impact yet. AI or machine learning haven’t really entered the mainstream. Hopefully ten years from now it will be.”

Advice to CIOs

Even though Camrass sees that RPA is still in an ‘embryonic’ stage, he has great expectations for the coming years in the field of robotics. “My advice to CIOs is to remember that absolutely got to be part of this game. You’ve got to anticipate that this is going to grow rapidly. It’s immature today, just as cloud was ten years ago, but look at where cloud is today. It’s everywhere. The same will be the case in robotics. It may only be five years rather than ten. But it’s going to be a commodity item.”

“But if it’s a commodity item, and everyone can buy it, you’ve got a control issue. So the advice is that you better take control early. You’ve got to at least standardize the tooling. You’ve got to actually work out how these things are going to be maintained, and how are they going to be secured. How are they going to interconnect together, but also with legacy? These are things that you need to be ahead of the game with. Because once that game starts it could leave you behind quite quickly. So, get on top of it now. Let’s get RPA up and running. In our own organization.“

You can find the complete research by Roger Camrass here


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