What will the federal workforce look like in the future? With the worst of the COVID-19 pandemic behind us and the reopening of many government offices, it’s a great time to ask that question.
How Will RPA Be Used in the Future in Government?
The future workforce will be a blend of human, digital, and systems, enabling organizations to be more productive and more agile; important attributes for an ever-changing global economic landscape. The human element will still be comprised of supervisors, employees, and contractors, but something new will be added to the mix: the digital worker. Capable of reducing the burden of repetitive, simple tasks, the digital worker will allow humans to focus on more “high-value” work where the flexibility, spontaneity, and creativity of the human mind are at their best. Today, federal leaders have an opportunity to “reimagine work” with intelligent automation (robotic process automation (RPA) infused with AI capabilities), freeing up the government workforce to focus on the activities and processes which truly support agency missions and citizen services.
RPA in Government Sector: Inclusion of Automation as a Key Solution
It’s important to note that many government agencies have already embarked on the intelligent automation journey by implementing several RPA processes. For example, the Center for Drug Evaluation and Research has seven robotic process automation projects in development as it moves to free up staff for its core science mission. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services uses RPA to help speed up the review of Medicare claims. Meanwhile, the Internal Revenue Service is focused on developing RPA tools to improve DATA Act reporting.
A 2017 report from Deloitte’s Center for Government Insights estimated that RPA could save federal agencies $41.1 billion within five to seven years if there is a significant investment in automation. In addition to cost savings, this also allows government workforces to be better aligned by skills and diversity, and increases job satisfaction and retention, as RPA allows employees to more rapidly achieve job effectiveness by focusing the training on the most important processes and not the minutia and repetitive administrative functions.
Government initiatives, supported by the new administration, are pushing agencies towards the inclusion of RPA as a key solution to unlock a more efficient, streamlined, and responsive government. The Office of Management and Budget released memorandum M-18-23 on August 27, 2018, requiring agencies to “develop and implement strategies for shifting resources to high-value activities.” As part of this shift, agencies are specifically directed to introduce “new technologies, such as RPA, to reduce and redirect repetitive administrative tasks.”
The prior President’s Management Agenda (PMA) encouraged government entities to begin “developing a workforce for the 21st century” as one of its top aims, and the Biden PMA is fully expected to continue to expand this. The goal “is to align and strategically manage the workforce to efficiently and effectively achieve the federal government’s mission.”
Benefits of IA and RPA in Government
Automation helps public sector organizations deliver services faster to constituents, improving citizen trust and engagement.
Ways RPA Can Benefit Public Sector Organizations' Citizens:
- Improving citizen satisfaction by delivering higher quality services faster and with more consistency
- Transforming shared services to scale seamlessly
- Optimizing Public Sector recruitment and retention by reducing manual work required and freeing employees to focus on higher-value work
- Increasing data security for governments and citizens with fully auditable digital workers
- Establishing organizational agility and resilience
- Providing transparency to citizens
The Future of RPA in Government
The Journey to Intelligent Automation
Automation should not be solely about offloading mundane tasks from humans. Instead, organizations should look to create an environment in which humans and technology collaborate to not only accelerate workflow processes, but to also increase compliance and consistency, reduce risk, and elevate/accelerate decision-making.
This is possible with RPA driven by artificial intelligence (AI) – intelligent automation, which elevates robotic process automation from single process use to strategic end-to-end use of the technology across an organization, clearly aligned to specific goals and outcomes, such as modernizing and transforming agency operations to improve citizen services, responsiveness, and employee satisfaction. The goal is to allow technology to do what it does very well – gather, ingest and analyze data – while humans focus on making decisions that align with agency objectives and goals.
But really, what is intelligent automation? Many federal managers know about or have adopted automation to some degree to reduce repetitive tasks, but how is intelligent automation different and how should it be adopted for agencies to elevate workers to higher-value work? Contrary to what some people might think when they hear the word “robot,” there are no true robots in intelligent automation. Intelligent automation uses software or “bots” with AI and machine learning capabilities to handle high-volume, repeatable tasks that previously required humans to perform. These tasks can include queries, calculations, and maintenance of records and transactions. But beyond just handing off these tasks to a “bot” scripted to handle repetitive tasks, true intelligent automation can mimic human behavior, learning and improving the actions it observes and takes and accelerating a human being’s ability to gain valuable insight from massive volumes of data.
Deploying RPA in the Government
SS&C Blue Prism Robotic Operating Model™ as a Deployment Methodology
Technology insertions without a cross-functional implementation plan and operational methodology often go awry. To help organizations along their automation journey, SS&C Blue Prism offers The Robotic Operating Model™ (ROM). This approach enables organizations to successfully maximize business benefits through the scaled deployment of intelligent automation, which rapidly delivers ongoing business value through the identification and automation of manual processes within a structured and controlled IT-approved environment.
The ROM is built on seven foundations:
- Governance and Pipeline
- Delivery Method
- Service Model
Identifying a vision is a critical first step because it is here that an organization’s leaders determine the expected business benefits and outline how these align with corporate strategy. The next step is to define the organizational design that best supports the delivery of the automation capability and aligns with corporate strategy and culture. Many agencies are currently piloting RPA or already have bots in production, but so much more can be learned, accomplished, and shared with the collective efforts of industry and government, according to the General Services Administration, which recently launched the RPA Community of Practice (CoP). The RPA CoP will facilitate collaboration and problem-solving between federal agencies interested in implementing RPA.
Intelligent automation has the potential to usher in a new wave of digital workers who can solve logic, business, and system problems without human intervention. At the same time, if applied strategically, it can deliver seamless communication and collaboration between digital workers, people, processes, and technology. Digital workers will not only save the government time and money but also enable the workforce of the future to focus on high-value tasks that will help agencies meet their missions in a more efficient manner while empowering government workers to be their best.