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Why Organizations Neglect Documentation for Automations and the Resulting Challenges

4 min read
Jun 10, 2024 9:00:00 AM

Automation is hitting an inflection point. After the initial gains organizations have enjoyed in the form of increased efficiency, quality, and productivity, bot outages and maintenance create an unexpected burden.

One of the issues exacerbating this pain point is the absence of automation technical specifications—documentation that offers a blueprint of what the automation does, the systems it interacts with, and the applications it touches.

Overlooking documentation when designing and developing automations can lead to many challenges down the road. In this blog post, we explore why organizations neglect automation documentation in the first place and the damaging issues this oversight creates later on.

Three Reasons Organizations Neglect Automation Documentation

#1 – The Rush to Implement Automation Quickly and Realize Initial Returns

One of the primary reasons organizations deprioritize or completely neglect to document their automations at the outset of adoption is because they want to implement RPA (Robotic Process Automation) quickly. Quick implementations and rapid deployments meant immediate benefits, which garnered the most interest so businesses could see a quick return on their investment.

The focus was on getting automations up and running as fast as possible for quick wins and early ROI. Unfortunately, this meant that specifications and process knowledge were completely deprioritized or neglected altogether.

#2 – Lack of Foresight and Awareness

Another significant factor that has led to a lack of automation documentation is a lack of foresight and awareness. When initially adopting and implementing automation, organizations were new to RPA. They did not fully understand the critical role technical specifications would play in the future and the severity of issues their absence would cause.

They might have also had third parties like consultants or professional services providers implementing automation, who in turn may have downplayed the importance of documentation and not done it at all.

Without thorough foresight or a culture that emphasizes documented process knowledge and specifications, it’s easy for this crucial step in the design and development phase to fall by the wayside.

#3 – The Perceived Lack of Immediate Value

Documentation, mainly where automation is concerned, is often viewed as a time-consuming and relatively unnecessary activity that doesn’t provide immediate value (and the consequences are too far off to frighten anyone into doing it in the first place).

Unlike the quick benefits realized when deploying an automation, the rewards of detailed technical specifications behind each bot are more subtle and long-term. This gives automation leaders another easy reason to deprioritize or completely ignore building process knowledge until it’s too late and the challenges and issues that arise become too big to ignore.

Four Challenges That Poor Automation Documentation Cause

The reasons automation programs haven’t invested in robust and detailed automation specifications may not be arbitrary, but they certainly are detrimental by creating the following challenges that can eat away at returns and can take a toll in terms of resources needed to correct them. They include:

#1 – Maintenance Issues

Without proper technical specifications, maintaining and fixing automations when they break and experience outages can be a nightmare. A simple UI (user interface) change that a bot interacts with can cause a host of bottlenecks and delays.

Without clear and detailed documentation, understanding a bot’s logic and function can be exhausting, forcing a developer to dig into the bot’s code and decipher what it does, leading to increased downtime and inflated maintenance costs.

#2 – Time-intensive Knowledge Transfers

One of our clients relayed to us that their RPA developers in their automation program spend 30% of their time trying to figure out what the bots in their estate do because they lack the documentation that would instantly communicate that. Therefore, onboarding new automation team members is an incredibly drawn-out process.

Without documentation, RPA programs also risk losing key process knowledge when team members transition to new roles or leave the organization altogether.

#3 – Barriers to Scale

Scaling automation is an objective for every organization that has already implemented it. Yet, to scale automation, businesses must clearly understand their existing bot estate.

Without the requisite documentation, automation programs have a harder time replicating the successful bots in their estate, limiting their ability to scale with speed and impact.

#4 – Compliance and Auditing Difficulties

All organizations are subject to some regulatory requirements, like how they handle personal data. Some organizations – like those in financial services or healthcare – operate in much more heavily regulated environments and must adhere to significantly more stringent controls.

Diligent documentation is always required when being audited internally or externally for compliance to ensure your automation estate operates within regulatory guidelines. A lack of documentation can lead to non-compliance issues, which can impose hefty fines and penalties.


Automation is reaching a pivotal intersection. While organizations have enjoyed initial benefits like increased efficiency, quality, and productivity, bot outages and maintenance issues create unexpected and taxing burdens. This is often due to the absence of technical specifications—documentation detailing what the automation does, the systems it interacts with, and the applications it touches.

Neglecting documentation during the design and development phases leads to numerous challenges later. These include:

  • Maintenance nightmares, where understanding a bot's logic without documentation is time-consuming and costly
  • Knowledge transfer difficulties, causing onboarding delays and the loss of critical process knowledge
  • Barriers to scaling automation due to unclear bot estates, and
  • Compliance and auditing challenges, particularly in heavily regulated industries.

To avoid these pitfalls, organizations must prioritize documentation. It may seem time-consuming without immediate value, but its long-term benefits in ensuring stable, scalable, and compliant automation processes are indispensable. Proper documentation transforms automation from a short-term efficiency tool into a sustainable, strategic asset.

With solutions being quickly made available that use generative AI to produce and catalog automation specifications in an automated way, perhaps the commitment to better automation documentation will see a rapid and meteoric rise.