If you ask 1,000 people how they define “digital transformation,” you’ll likely get 1,000 different answers. And they’d all be right.

At its essence, digital transformation is about empowering all facets of your business with digital capabilities to accelerate sales and growth, ultimately helping your business achieve its vision and be its authentic self.

Robotic process automation (RPA) is the first step to digital transformation.

If you look at the history of automation, it started as projects of varying degrees of complexity within the IT department or one unit of the business. Then automation began occurring in other areas of the business, such as operations, marketing and human resources. Continuing that sprawl is the basis of the journey to digital transformation.

Until recently, though, the technological capabilities to continue that sprawl didn’t exist in a way that was usable and digestible by the average business — especially in terms of automating disparate and sometimes complex business units. But now, technology has caught up to the aspirations of technological visionaries, and digital transformation is the new top-of-mind objective for companies serious about maintaining year-over-year growth and differentiating themselves from the competition.

There are five steps in the digital transformation journey business leaders should consider:

1. Explore and learn more about RPA.

In addition to learning how RPA will benefit business, it’s important to know the differences between RPA tools and platforms. The importance of picking the RPA solution that supports growth and scalability cannot be overstated. It’s very important to have a cloud-based architecture in place and certified.

You also want to consider the reusability and sustainability of your RPA platform. Using modular objects and designing with reusability in mind from the start is critical.

2. Identify and prioritize an automation process.

The next step is to select a process for automation. Start with a low-hanging fruit use case and make sure it is sustainable. Change and transformation happen continuously, so you must build for resiliency.

3. Develop and deploy a digital workforce.

Now, it’s time to deploy your workforce. You do this by assigning automated tasks to your digital workers. It’s an important step at this stage of the game to build internal support for your efforts and engage the right stakeholders.

4. Scale, manage and optimize the digital workforce.

The benefits of agile process automation cannot be underscored enough. Achieving it enables businesses to easily scale, maintain and optimize their digital workforce.

It’s best to take an advisory approach to automation, comingling domain knowledge, expertise and digital capabilities (like using process mining to identify automation opportunities) to help you continually manage, optimize and build your roadmap for digital transformation.

When you use capabilities such as process mining, you can identify high value opportunities, and you can confidently manage your digital workforce with an industrialized approach.

5. Measure and report on the success and key performance indicators (KPIs).

Your RPA platform should be capable of logging information in real time, so you can use it to measure and report on outcomes. With true enterprise RPA, process steps are comprehensively logged and put into a process ledger so you can see the process as it is executing in real time.

This immediate analysis allows you to measure the return on investment of automation and your digital transformation journey as you measure business performance against your unique KPIs. Those KPIs can be built into a dashboard for even easier reporting.

Ultimately, measuring the success of your digital transformation comes down to your business’s reasons for taking the journey to begin with.

The key drivers of any digital transformation effort are cost, speed and compliance; and it’s largely true that any business embarking on a digital transformation journey will experience the benefits of these drivers. But to measure the true success of your efforts, you’ll need to define — even before you begin exploring RPA — what you’re truly striving for with your automation efforts and then move the needle toward achieving that. These efforts are iterative, so simply moving the needle toward the goal is a substantial KPI in determining the success of your digital transformation.