Deloitte Insights

The robots are ready, are you?

The 3rd Annual Global Robotics Survey

November 2017

Over the past year, there has been intensifying interest in robotics and in the application of cognitive and artificial intelligence technologies, both in the media and on the conference circuit. RPA is now a proven technology and early movers in shared services and other administrative organisations are already achieving significant benefits.

This year’s Deloitte RPA survey, which attracted well over 400 responses from around the world, shows that awareness of robotics remains high. Even moreorganisations have investigated the RPA opportunity and/or built a proof of concept. They are convinced robotics will deliver a significant productivity increase and that it is applicable for a significant portion of their activities.


Continuous improvement and automation remain top of the strategic agenda: 53% of the respondents have already embarked on the RPA journey and a further 19% of respondents plan to adopt RPA in the next two years. If adoption continues at its current level, RPA will have achieved near-universal adoption within the next five years.

RPA is increasingly becoming an enterprise-level opportunity: for 64% of respondents, RPA is a strategic or enterprise-wide initiative. This figure has grown significantly. Just 12 months ago only 15% of respondents reported RPA being a part of a wider corporate initiative. Many organisations that started with function-specific RPA initiatives have grown or consolidated these to take advantage of the broader opportunity across the business.

There is an expectation that robots could replace a significant portion of the current workforce. On average, the expectation is that 20% of Full-Time Employee (FTE) capacity could be provided by robots. This expectation matches the reality for those that have already implemented RPA. In fact, those that have scaled RPA appear to have had such a positive experience that their expectations are even more ambitious: they believe that 52% of FTE capacity could be provided by robots.

Our key findings

  • RPA implementation has an attractive payback period – just under 12 months. Organisations that have piloted RPA expect, on average, a 9.3-month payback period while, in reality, the payback achieved by those that have implemented and scaled RPA has been 11.5 months.
  • Among those that have already implemented RPA, 78% expect to significantly increase investment in RPA over the next three years, with those that are piloting RPA planning to spend an average of $1.5m on RPA. Organisations that have implemented or scaled across the enterprise have already invested an average of $3.5m in robotics.
  • The C-suite and functional leadership are the most supportive stakeholder groups for companies that have implemented RPA: 72% reported a C-suite that is supportive of RPA.
  • Resistance to the implementation of robotics has fallen since last year among all other stakeholders. Critically, only 17% of respondents faced some employee resistance when it comes to piloting RPA. This dropped to only 3% with respondents who were implementing or scaling RPA.

Robotics to-do list

Start with a bold ambition

  • Think big - make robotics organisation wide to maximise the benefits
  • Think broad - leverage it fully across all relevant departments
  • Think benefits – look beyond headcount reduction and aim wider impact
  • Think high – get your c-suite on board, they will be your biggest advocates

Build a strong foundation

  • Focus on process – process complexity drives robot complexity
  • Gain buy-in from IT – secure IT support from the outset
  • Engage your people – build automation for and with your people
  • Use it to transform – scale robotics as a transformation, not an experiment

Deliver high-velocity change

  • Get lean – plan your digital workforce to be fast
  • Build a responsive organisation – build support across the enterprise
  • Implement right-sized governance – make it decisive, but flexible
  • Become agile – an agile way of working will maximise the impact of robotics

Deloitte expert viewpoint

‘“IT are absolutely critical to the successful deployment of RPA. This was a lesson we learned early on in our own RPA deployment in Deloitte. I have found there is a significant difference in both speed and cost to deliver between clients that have an engaged and supportive IT function and those where IT is less supportive.”
David Wright, Director, Deloitte RPA Lead

Related research

Read past editions of our Consumer Review:

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