The COVID-19 pandemic has made automation a boardroom imperative. The urgency and need for automation technologies, such as robotic process automation (RPA), artificial intelligence (AI), and machine learning (ML), is stronger now than it was even in the pre-COVID era. Considering the scale and cost of implementation, organizations are exploring ways to make automation more cost efficient and faster to deploy.

The concept of Democratization of Automation is gaining strength. This paper provides an overview for what it means for an organization to adopt a Democratization of Automation approach, and how to prepare for it.

Going Straight to Automation

Unlike most standard technology implementations, automation requires substantial human participation and support. For many companies, the existing strength of their IT developers may not be sufficient for the scale of the deployment. Given these circumstances, the Democratization of Automation is a key to success. This approach empowers non-tech users called Citizen Developers to automate daily mundane tasks. This can be done using a simple graphical interface and smart automation building tools. Subject matter experts (SMEs) play a critical role in building the important business aspects of the application, as well as performing regular maintenance and enhancements.

HFS Research

Gartner on Citizen Developer

EXL Research

This approach enables organizations to effectively and efficiently achieve the following goals:

Utilize SMEs business knowledge – when developing sustainable automation practices, focusing on automating repetitive and error-prone process steps.

Maximize the ROI - Utilize the automation experts’ time for higher complexity automations giving better return on the investment.

Target quick wins to see early gains in the digital transformation program

Increase automation scope - Citizen Developers can target task-level automations that often are de-prioritized or overlooked due to limited benefits.

Employee satisfaction grows due to increased engagement in the company’s long-term goals and getting upskilled to improve their quality of work life

Benefits of Democratization of Automation

Challenges of Adopting the Democratization of Automation

Every new approach comes with a new set of challenges. Democratization of Automation is no different. Various stakeholders often share many of the same concerns.

These include:

  • Avoiding duplicate automation ideas getting implemented across the organization
  • Ensuring adherence to process and regulatory compliance and data security measures
  • Creating bandwidth for business teams that are already utilized to their maximum capacity
  • Overcoming environment issues experienced by IT developers
  • Ensuring the availability of infrastructure for a large scale implementation, such as virtual machines in the case of virtual set-up, and their practicality
  • Creating discipline around documenting theprocesses getting automated
  • Managing the scale and expense of teams involved in the automation program
  • Ensuring that the coding is accurate as per the different processes

The above concerns can be addressed by developing and following a systematic framework keeping in mind the above challenges involved with Citizen Developers.

Groundwork before Bringing Citizen Developers into Action

AI and RPA technologies have already introduced the world to a digital workforce that can take on routine back- and front-office functions. Citizen Developers can be used to bring agility to this digital transformation journey, building apps far quicker using pre-built modules and drag-and-drop functionalities in automation tools. But, considering the enormity of many implementations, organizations will have to do a lot of prep work in order to lay a strong foundation for the transformation and mitigate the associated upfront risks:


  • Streamline the process for getting required infrastructure and environment access to support large scale automation
  • Mapping the processes and evaluate similarities across all functions in order to plan the deployment effort better
  • Consider the involvement of Citizen Developers when defining the process complexity
  • Create or redesign a deployment framework for Democratized automation that may include the following:
    • Defining additional toll gates for business and technical teams to ensure process, technical, and regulatory measures are met
    • Revisit testing methodology to ensure that the code prepared by Citizen Developers is getting tested thoroughly before moving into the production environment

Role of Digital Centers of Excellence in the Democratization of Automation

Digital Centers of Excellence will continue to play an integral role in adopting and running transformation with Citizen Developers involved. In addition to monitoring the automation journey centrally, the responsibilities would include:

  • Track efficiency target to ensures that the committed efficiency is getting recognized
  • Develop reusable code modules specific to business requirements that can help employees automate their processes
  • Create and enforce a deployment framework factoring in the Citizen Developers
  • Assess the technical feasibility of each automation project before the Citizen Developer dives into It
  • Data sourcing that works with Citizen Developers to identify the data required for automation, and source the data in the test environment and production environment
  • Automation validation that validates whether the business team has adhered to the testing methodology laid down in the framework
  • Integrate and stabilize to help employees integrate the solution in the production environment and provide support to stabilize the code
  • Conduct audits on automations to ensure regulatory and compliance checks are in place and documentation is up to date
  • Mentor Citizen Developers through this journey through training and buddy or mentorship programs
  • Develop and implement complex automation which cannot be automated by Citizen Developers


With heightened demand for automations, Citizen Developers will play a very significant role in the future of digital transformation. This approach can help organizations match the pace of automation required, leading to a significant change in operating models.

Role of Digital CoE and Citizen Developer

Role of Digital CoE and Citizen Developer


1. Reinventing customer experience in a post-COVID virtual world

2. Gartner Glossary

3. Why You Need To Know About Low-Code, Even If You’re Not Responsible For Software Delivery

4. Forrester: Automation could lead to another jobless recovery

5. Covid-19 crisis will accelerate firms' automation plans: Report

6. Democratizing RPA in an “Automation First” Era

7. COVID-19 Has Made Automation A Boardroom Imperative


Sumit Taneja
VP and Global Lead,
Insurance Transformation & Advanced Automation,
EXL Digital

Shruti Nandkeolyar
Senior Engagement Manager,

Rupesh Malik
EXL Digital

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