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5 reasons why companies struggle to scale their automation program

Catalytic’s new ‘State of Automation’ report finds the common obstacles many companies need to overcome to find automation success. .

One of the obstacles to achieving true digital agility is a company’s capacity to scale an initial automation pilot program beyond single departments to the entire enterprise. 

Because automation is intended to transform internal, company-wide operations and respond to long-term external competitive pressures—not to mention unforeseen national or global events—a company’s pilot is only as successful as its flexibility to scale.

According to Catalytic’s recent data study, Only 9% of enterprise leaders reported their company’s automation efforts as being at the “Pro” level, meaning that their automation solutions are optimally deployed and configured organization-wide. Why so few?

According to our findings, here are a few common factors holding them back.


Lack of employee buy-in

More than 90% of employees report they are familiar with the concept of automation, and a majority believe it will make their jobs easier. This implies a better understanding of the concept and more ubiquitous adoption across industries. But the employees who were hesitant with the concept knew very little about it. 

The truth is, an effective platform enables all business users to create automations—not just tech-minded employees—as each user will have the deepest understanding of their department’s processes that require improvement and are primed for automation.

The more you educate and communicate with your employees about the value of automation in your organization, the more likely they’ll be willing to build automations of their own departments, which in turn supports company-wide scaling.


Reliance on legacy technology

Countless companies operate with on-prem legacy systems that they’ve used for years, even decades.  But for many, what was once a meaningful technology investment has worn out its welcome. Some systems may be too outdated to keep up with the necessary speed of operations, and often disparate platforms fail to communicate with each other, causing additional manual work, errors, missed handoffs, and wasted time.

The price and risk of ripping out and replacing these systems is often a deterrent to doing so. And implementing certain automation tools – like RPA, to name one – may make minor improvements resulting in one-off benefits, but essentially cements your operations into the very systems you need to move beyond.

According to the study, survey respondents note a reliance on legacy systems is the No. 2 reason they’ve seen their automation effort fail to scale. Although many companies introduce costly automation technology, it’s not always integrated in a meaningful way.


No clear automation journey or plan of attack

Whether a company is piloting a program for the first time, or has tested a variety of technology with varying degrees of success, proper planning can be an obstacle to scalable growth.

The pilot may apply automations to disparate processes, systems, or departments, in hopes of a positive result. But without a proper implementation plan, growth timeline, forecasted ROI, and clear KPIs that support corporate goals, your company is not creating the necessary strategy to scale successfully.

Choosing a lightweight automation platform that doesn’t require costly consulting fees is a good start. And during the early sales conversations, ask potential providers how their solution delivery and customer success teams approach the customer journey, and how they plan to partner with you along the way.


Identifying ownership and stakeholders

A majority of organizations surveyed (78%) said they take a centralized approach to automation, where the purchase decision and implementation is owned by a single team—usually the C-suite or IT. Only 22% distribute this responsibility across departments and teams, with multiple stakeholders across the organization.

However, those companies with a distributed approach saw a 10% higher likelihood of employees believing their automations were more successful and scalable ahead of industry peers.

Though the distributed model is far less common, it often gives employees company-wide a personal stake and greater influence in the evolution of their company. Likewise, it prevents the planning, implementation and expansion of automation from being placed on a single department—namely overwhelmed IT teams with a backlog of work that creates bottlenecks and slows the process down.


Failing to contour to organization size

Once size does not always fit all, and that’s particularly true of an automation strategy. According to Catalytic’s study, smaller organizations report ranking ahead of the curve with their automation strategy compared to their larger peers, and believe that gives them a competitive edge. 

With fewer employees and therefore fewer stakeholders and decision-makers, there’s more cross-company involvement in the buying, implementation and scaling processes —not to mention fewer processes to automate, less data and fewer tools to integrate.

In fact, 39% of employees in organizations with 250-1,000 people believe their automation tactics are superior, compared to 23% at companies with 50,000-plus people.

That doesn’t mean all is lost for larger organizations, however. To keep with their smaller-sized peers, larger enterprises need to be more thoughtful with their planning strategy, in terms of involving more stakeholders, better communication, and ensuring you’re choosing a technology provider that’s flexible enough to accommodate your needs.




Read the full report for a deeper understanding of the state of automation in 2020, along with tips on how to build a successful action plan that you cam implement immediately.

Read the Catalytic report

Written by Catalytic