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The Landscape of Process Automation

The Landscape of Process Automation

Welcome to Part I of our 3-part series on the Business Process Automation landscape!

In this three-part series, we will be touching on:

  1. What the landscape of Business Process Automation looks like
  2. What led to the rise of Deep Process Automation for automating complex enterprise processes
  3. Why blockchain technology is the best architecture for Deep Process Automation

Automation has been with us for as long as technology has existed. An early example of automation can be traced back to aqueducts which enabled water transport to be automated (1). Later, automation was adopted in the industrial age where there was an increased use of automatic devices and controls in production lines (2). In the 1960s, automation was seen through the introduction of enterprise resource planning systems which later evolved to Robotic Process Automation (3) in the early 2000s (4). Since the 1960s, process automation has increasingly been adopted in enterprises, in turn allowing humans to engage in higher value tasks.

Here we’ll review the automation landscape along with a deep dive into the different areas of automation.


There are a number of different dimensions used to categorize business processes in general. One important categorization is process complexity. We define complexity by (i) the number of tasks throughout the process and (ii) the number of logical rules used in the process.

Examples of tasks include:

  • logging in,
  • entering data, and
  • adding someone to Slack

Example of a logical rule:

  • IF Claim Amount > £500 THEN send claim to system A

Based on this definition of complexity we identify four general categories of processes:

  1. Individual Tasks, with 1-5 individual tasks with 1-5 logical rules
  2. Simple Processes, with 5-20 few tasks with 5-50 business logical rules
  3. Complex Processes, with 20-1000 tasks with 50-5000 logical rules
  4. Highly Complex Processes with 1000+ tasks and 5000+ logical rules


For each complexity category there are a multitude of approaches to automating enterprise processes. Below we review each automation category:

  1. Robotic Process Automation for automating individual tasks:
  2. Workflow automation for automating simple processes:
  3. Deep Process Automation for automating complex processes:
  4. Bespoke software for automating highly complex processes:
Landscape Article image
Fig 1. The landscape of business process automation (Note: companies shown are selected examples and are not reflective of the entire industry)

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