Robotic process automation deployments: a step-by-step method to investment appraisal

Antti Ylä-Kujala*, Damian Kedziora, Lasse Metso, Timo Kärri, Ari Happonen, Wojciech Piotrowicz

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Purpose: Robotic process automation (RPA) has recently emerged as a technology focusing on the automation of repetitive, frequent, voluminous and rule-based tasks. Despite a few practical examples that document successful RPA deployments in organizations, evidence of its economic benefits has been mostly anecdotal. The purpose of this paper is to present a step-by-step method to RPA investment appraisal and a business case demonstrating how the steps can be applied to practice.
Design/methodology/approach: The methodology relies on design science research (DSR). The step-by-step method is a design artefact that builds on the mapping of processes and modelling of the associated costs. Due to the longitudinal nature of capital investments, modelling uses discounted cashflow and present value methods. Empirical grounding characteristic to DSR is achieved by field testing the artefact.
Findings: The step-by-step method is comprised of a preparatory step, three modelling steps and a concluding step. The modelling consists of compounding the interest rate, discounting the investment costs and establishing measures for comparison. These steps were applied to seven business processes to be automated by the case company, Estate Blend. The decision to deploy RPA was found to be trivial, not only based on the initial case data, but also based on multiple sensitivity analyses that showed how resistant RPA investments are to changing circumstances.
Practical implications: By following the provided step-by-step method, executives and managers can quantify the costs and benefits of RPA. The developed method enables any organization to directly compare investment alternatives against each other and against the probable status quo where many tasks in organizations are still carried out manually with little to no automation.
Originality/value: The paper addresses a growing new domain in the field of business process management by capitalizing on DSR and modelling-based approaches to RPA investment appraisal.

Original languageEnglish
Peer-reviewed scientific journalBusiness Process Management Journal
Issue number8
Pages (from-to)163-187
Number of pages25
Publication statusPublished - 31.05.2023
MoE publication typeA1 Journal article - refereed


  • 512 Business and Management
  • Analytic modelling
  • Business case
  • Design science research
  • Discounted cashflow
  • Investment appraisal
  • Present value method
  • Robotic process automation


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