The Role of Organisational Change Management in Robotic Process Automation Implementation Projects

Wallace, Erin
Waizenegger, Lena
Doolin, Bill
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Master of Business
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Auckland University of Technology

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has witnessed a significant increase in popularity since 2018, with numerous medium and large enterprises adopting RPA each year. Despite the high uptake of RPA, there are many challenges that organisations may face. People management is a significant challenge during RPA implementation. However, the literature lacks a clear Organisational Change Management (OCM) framework that is suitable for RPA projects and assists in managing the needs and expectations of the stakeholders in the project. As RPA performs human tasks, it impacts the human workforce as well as their work processes and practises but also has significant technical implications. Therefore, a socio-technical approach to RPA implementation is needed to assist in constructing a suitable OCM framework for RPA implementations. This study aims to investigate the underlying socio-technical dynamics of key issues and events that occur during RPA implementation in a tertiary institution to understand how RPA projects unfold. The study also investigates how OCM strategies can influence and how they should be applied in RPA implementation projects.

I conducted a qualitative case study in an Australasian university by interviewing 13 employees, managers, and RPA vendor representatives, to address the following research questions: “How do RPA projects unfold in the context of a tertiary institution?” and “Which Organisational Change Management strategies can address the challenges faced by organisations when they are implementing RPA?”

Taking an abductive approach informed by socio-technical theory and process analysis, I constructed a detailed narrative, consisting of six logically coherent episodes that explained the key issues, and events that were identified throughout the project. The episodes also illustrated the underlying socio-technical dynamics, to understand how the key issues and events led to the outcome of RPA implementation at the university.

I found that the socio-technical components (actor, task, technology, structure) were tightly coupled and had cascading effects between the various levels of an organisational system. Where one component was impacted, gaps formed in the system which posed the need for an intervention strategy to realign it. Often, OCM strategies were utilised and were either effective or not utilised, causing problems within the organisational system. This reinforced the importance of utilising OCM to increase the likelihood of project success. In taking a socio-technical perspective, it was found that RPA technology fulfils a dual role between technology and actor and introduces the concept of hybrid processing which enforces the notion of using the complimentary skills of humans and bots for greater outcomes.

This thesis presents an evidence-based illustration of the project phases of RPA implementation and a framework that describes the key OCM strategies to consider during RPA implementation projects. The findings of this study will be useful for practitioners who are considering adopting RPA to learn about RPA technology and what is involved in its implementation. It additionally assists in planning an RPA project with the associated OCM strategies to improve the likelihood of project success. The findings also encourage practitioners to utilise hybrid processing to optimise their business operations through close collaboration between humans and bots.

Case study , Hybrid processing , Organisational change management , Process analysis , Robotic process automation (RPA) , Socio-technical theory
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