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Agile for RPA: To Be or Not To Be [Part 1]

By Pratyush Garikapati posted 05-26-2020 03:27


The Agile Manifesto has been around for almost 20 years now. Methodologies like Scrum, Kanban, XP etc. have been in practice for much longer. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) technology has been around since 2000s. Despite this, Agile for RPA remains somewhere between skepticism and mysticism.


In this 3-part series, we will discuss what it means to be Agile, what do stakeholders expect, and some common misconceptions around it. The focus of these articles will be the basics. Yes, you read that right – basics is what it’s all about. Get the basics right, and the rest is a joyride. If you are looking for a cheat-sheet on Agile+RPA, this is not it. (sorry!)

The first and most important aspect to understand is that Agile is NOT a set of instructions/guides/templates. In other words, it is not a method or a model. Agile (or Agile Manifesto) provides a conceptual framework, in the form of 12 principles, that one should imbibe, adapt and follow to manage their projects. Obvious questions at this point – Who should follow? Why? When? Does it really work?


WHO? That’s easy. Everyone who has a stake in the success of the project should follow Agile.

WHY? That’s easy too. It takes a team to make a project success. But it’s important to understand that the team doesn’t just comprise of the developers, testers, Product Owners and the Managers. It’s everyone whose support is needed to make the project a success. The genius of Scott Adams captured this ever so succinctly. (Spoiler alert – I am a Dilbert fan, expect more of these)
WHEN? There is a common belief that every project can be run as Agile, and in doing so magically delivers its goals. However, that’s not true. Agile came into existence to assist with uncertain and/or changing requirements and all the challenges that comes with it. However, you usually know your end-goal in a typical RPA project and have a clear visibility of requirements too. So, do you really need Agile for RPA? Well, it depends. Requirements visibility is a factor for deciding whether is Agile is right for you or not, but it is not the only factor. Agile does indeed elevate the effectiveness of your project execution, but only when it has the right enablers. We’ll explore this further in the next article – The Agile Iceberg.


Another misconception, in my opinion, is comparing Agile vs. Waterfall primarily because Agile is a methodology whereas Waterfall is a method. Waterfall method (or model) follows the principles of Sequential Reasoning that comes naturally to human beings (which is probably why it takes little effort to explain Waterfall model to someone). A more accurate comparison will be Agile vs. Sequential Thinking, followed by Scrum/XP/etc. vs. Waterfall. In practice however, methodology and method are used interchangeably.


That’s it for now! Thank you for reading. Stay tuned for the next part – The Agile Iceberg. Please do provide your feedback/critique here.





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