Crossing the chasm
: the RPA diffusion process and the respective role of consulting firms

  • Marisa Drinkmann (Student)

Student thesis: Master's Thesis


This thesis studies the diffusion of robotic process automation (RPA) and the respective role of consultants. Using the diffusion of innovation theory lens, evidence suggests that RPA adoption is facing a chasm, currently at a turning point of gaining traction. Based on 17 semi-structured interviews of consultants with RPA expertise, a qualitative content analysis using Gioia’s methodology was conducted and key findings were derived. Interviews confirm previous literature on the benefits of RPA, namely increased efficiency, quality improvement, and task reallocation, which are expected to persist as shortage of skilled workers and cost pressure drive the need for efficiency and automation. However, challenges are preventing companies from further adopting RPA, specifically lack of knowledge and acceptance, fear of job loss, and maintenance efforts. This study contributes to the literature by identifying five success factors on how to cross this diffusion chasm. First, strategically integrating RPA in a digital ecosystem allows for an end-to-end perspective. Second, enabling transparent communication through expectation management and knowledge sharing is essential. Third, companies need to prioritize processes over technologies. Fourth, ensuring organizational integration through employee empowerment and C-level support is key. Finally, future potential of RPA resides in scalability and integration of other technologies. In this process, consultants play a significant role in influencing RPA adoption. Evidence suggests consultants are expected to provide independent and holistic advice and to facilitate crossing the chasm by being trusted advisors, strategic sparring partners, and change agents. By staying informed, consultants can provide sophisticated advice and drive RPA adoption.
Date of Award26 Jan 2024
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • Universidade Católica Portuguesa
SupervisorFilipa Andrêa Godinho de Lancastre Serpa Pinto (Supervisor)


  • Robotic process automation
  • RPA implementation
  • Digital transformation
  • Consulting firms
  • Diffusion of innovation theory
  • Crossing the diffusion chasm


  • Mestrado em Gestão e Administração de Empresas

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