Q&A's by the RPA Academy

Do you agree that the US should consider taxing robots who replace human workers?

I do not.

The complexity of how such a tax may be calculated fairly in the first place is incomprehensible. Never minding the fact that the definition of ‘robot’ is unclear.

Also, productivity growth is in decline [1] so slowing the progress through taxation could have even greater negative economic impact, rather than the reverse perhaps implied by the question.

Governments have to function, true, but a simpler manner of taxation is needed than the blunt instrument of ‘robots’ and this gets even more complex if you add AI into your question

Rob King (VP Product, UK Country Director at The RPA Academy)


How do you estimate the number of bots required for a project in RPA?

How do you currently calculate the number of people you need for your business? The difference with RPA is not that significant, there are more similarities between RPA and your human workforce than you’d first imagine.

Also different vendors licence their products differently, giving some variation on how and what you need to calculate. The three extremes are costing by bot, costing by transaction, costing by time/processing. These differences are important to understand.

The most significant dependency is the frequency of work over time. Some businesses have seasonal peaks, all businesses have fluctuation throughout the day. So an assessment of which pricing model works best for your business is important.

At a simple level you generally have to calculate the number of bots necessary to deal with peak volume.

Rob King (VP Product, UK Country Director at The RPA Academy)


Are there any regulations and risks that apply to Robotic Process automation (RPA)?

Every industry has its own level of regulation so this is the first consideration, you need to comply with all relevant regulation as applied to the area you’re working in.

It can get complicated though, because regulation was written with people in mind, and RPA robots can work differently.

I’ll extend your question to include a bit of machine learning, the two most frequently occurring examples of where regulation challenges the way you implement automation are:

  1. Segregation of Duties

  2. Accountability (Traceability)

Segregation of duties is an internal control to prevent errors and fraud. By assigning at least 2 individuals to separate parts of a task, for example in payroll or payments, no one person is in complete control of the process. It makes sense and is a common procedure, but makes no sense at all if a bot does the job. Having 2 separate bots do the job follows the human process but would now fail the control as the same individual could now be responsible for working and deploying both bots.

Segregation of duties are still needed, but the controls need to be placed at the development/test/deploy to be effective.

Accountability in regulatory terms are individuals with recognized responsibilities within the organization. They often have specific skills or training and are the person who will have to go to court if any breach of regulation occurs. A bot can never have accountability in law, it has to be a real person. So every decision needs traceability (which can be difficult when machine learning is used, most models cannot work backwards to the reasons why).


Risks are really a separate, but hugely important, question. Companies embarking on any programme should weigh up the risks and establish mitigation (things that will be done to reduce the risk) and contingency (things that will be done if the risk occurs). Common examples of risk are:

  • Loss of knowledge from the business

  • Resistance from business areas (culture) delays/slows progress

  • Resistance from IT prevents progress

  • Over governance slows down progress

  • ROI not attained

  • Incompatibility of systems

  • Loss of control (change management)

  • Costs overrun

  • ‘Solution fails to meet business needs

  • Unable to find / retain the right skills

  • Over enthusiasm (behaviors)

you get the idea, spend some time thinking about these things. They’re no difficult to fix if you plan in advance.

If you’re interested in learning more, there are a few areas you can follow up: I have written a book on the Digital Workforce[1] which covers both business and technical side of RPA, I provide corporate training through The RPA Academy[2] who can tailor skills to your specific needs, and I consult[3] with businesses who are looking to understand RPA or troubleshoot their problems scaling RPA.

Best of Luck

Rob King (VP Product, UK Country Director at The RPA Academy)


Can 10-year-experienced Windows system administrators do an RPA course?

Anyone can learn RPA as mainly the applications use a workflow and UI to automate and expressions. Anyone with some IT knowledge should be able to easily relate to these concepts.

However there are many other things to consider: the tool — is it user friendly and drag and drop or specifically designed for developers, the trainer (if applicable) — how experienced they are, your skillset — your ability and level to use the tool will vary on your skillset

Azim Zicar, RPA Consultant at The RPA Academy


At what point should a start up start automating tasks?

This question pops up quite often when I’m speaking at conferences on RPA. From a startup perspective there are probably two views depending on technology.

The first is there is no need to automate (in the RPA sense) because the technology stack is configured in such a way that everything is straight through processing from the ground up.

The second view is that technology is not a key element and the startup begins with separate unconnected technologies that run the business. For example a web sales system, a customer CRM, a finance system and maybe even a separate order management system. All disconnected technologies. Hypothetically speaking, automation should start as soon as the company has established what processes they need.

In reality, in scenario 1, eventually something doesn’t connect into the ecosystem correctly and here automation can be used to serve the purpose of integration. This would happen at point of need rather than at any specific time.

Scenario 2 on the other hand tends to be an unrecognized need and doesn’t happen quickly enough! The barriers to automation have really fallen and the price point for getting started is zero. However, it’s easier (but more costly and less efficient) to add staff than add technology when the startup is less technologically competent.

Not deliberately getting into sales mode so my apologies but scenario 2 was one of my motivations for writing a book on this topic (see profile if interested), it was clear small businesses had lots of opportunity for RPA but falsely perceived that it was out of their reach.

From a learning perspective, I also run exec briefings, these are short interactive sessions to provide leadership teams with the insight into RPA. These are interesting to run as they also serve as myth busting, there are more incorrect perceptions of RPA than correct ones it seems!!! This serves to reinforce the point that businesses start thinking about automation a lot later than they should.

Rob King (VP Product, UK Country Director at The RPA Academy)


What are the steps you should follow in implementing RPA to get the best possible results and less RPA failures?

I’ve seen a similar question before: Rob King’s answer to What is the life cycle of RPA?

This takes a macro view but gives you phases and steps to follow. Fundamentally though the simpler answer is good planning, some preparation and an environment that supports starting small and growing.

As a consultant I would recommend tapping into experienced practitioners who can help you to understand and integrate RPA within your business. It’s not that you can’t do it alone, but focused consultancy will accelerate your progress and help you to avoid the pitfalls. It’s a simple equation and from my own perspective having someone familiar with the market will help you select the solution that is right for your business needs, probably the most important of the early steps.

The second consideration is ongoing knowledge and training. RPA solutions have several major updates every year, and it’s not really about just using one solution but the entire ‘ecosystem’ of solutions that together you will adopt to meet business needs. Learning companies like the RPA Academy provide Robotic Process Automation Training and the ongoing relationship to keep you up to date too.

I have written a book about this, Click Home, which was designed to take people on the whole journey from getting started, to growing and scaling up, this would be my final suggestion. By following the steps in the book you can avoid most of the pitfalls, making a few mistakes is fine so long as you learn from them. Good Luck.

Rob King (VP Product, UK Country Director at The RPA Academy)