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Why RPA is Taking Off Across Government (And Why That’s a Great Thing)

Robotic process automation (RPA) is a hot topic in the federal technology landscape. Many agencies know that fine-tuning operations and processes alone won’t lead to transformational change. That’s because optimization by itself is not enough. Many government processes today—even optimized ones—are still largely manual and document-driven. To shift employees to higher-value work, ultimately achieve greater efficiencies, eliminate backlogs, improve citizen services and increase responsiveness, agencies will need to leverage automation.

Consider the findings of a recent Forbes Insights survey that queried over 300 senior executives about their enterprise transformational efforts. More than three-quarters of respondents said 60 percent of their processes could be automated. In addition, almost one in five said 80 percent of their process work could be automated.

In the government arena alone, federal employees spend tens of thousands of hours on low-value compliance-related activities as a result of rules and requirements that have built up over decades, according to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB). Consequently, the White House in 2018 rolled out the President's Management Agenda (PMA), which calls upon agencies to reduce the burden of these low-value activities and redirect those resources to mission outcomes that matter most to citizens. Additionally, the 21st Century Integrated Digital Experience Act (IDEA), which became law a year ago, further underscores the need for agencies to modernize how services are delivered by providing robust digital transactions using mobile, e-signature, webforms and other technologies.

AI-Enabled Automation

Since then, agencies have shown solid progress in reducing their low-value work through various approaches, including process improvement and standardization initiatives, deploying RPA and artificial intelligence (AI), digitization, shared services and regulatory reform. Federal agency leaders are starting to realize the potential that automation offers in freeing federal workers of menial, repetitive, manual and time-consuming work. In fact, an October 2019 report by OMB showed that 30 of the 100 “burden reduction” initiatives reported by the 24 CFO Act agencies relied upon RPA and AI.

These accomplishments point to the huge potential that AI-enabled automation offers in meeting federal digital transformation goals. Federal leaders overseeing the PMA initiatives announced in a September action plan that they are adding a new strategy for 2020 to reduce low-value work that focuses on accelerating RPA adoption. The action plan added that “agencies facing budget constraints and limited resources to deliver mission-critical activities benefit greatly from robotics process automation (RPA), which employs ‘bots’ to automate and standardize repeatable business processes. RPA increases the efficiency of existing operations so that more can be done with current resources, allowing agencies to shift staff from low-value to high-value work, improve business processes, transform culture and improve morale.”

This new RPA strategy builds upon the establishment of a new Federal RPA Community of Practice (CoP) that began in the spring of 2019. Ed Burrows, formerly of the General Services Administration, announced the CoP in an April 2019 blog, saying it will allow federal government leaders to explore opportunities, share ideas and collaborate on how RPA can be effectively implemented in their respective agencies.

This new push to advance AI and automation across government reflects the vast, and mostly untapped, opportunity to realize gains in productivity, efficiency and quality. This is where adopting a platform-based approach to automation is a game changer for agencies.

Deploying integrated, complementary capabilities allows for greater gains in operational efficiencies and customer satisfaction and is critical to advancing digital transformation. Why? When disparate automation technologies—such as RPA, process orchestration, advanced analytics and cognitive capture—are deployed as separate solutions, integration hiccups are common; this drives up total cost of ownership, and hard-to-maintain systems drive down efficiencies. A platform-based approach to automation allows these disparate capabilities to work together seamlessly to digitize end-to-end business operations.

A platform-based approach to automation is also critical for scale. A federal agency may start down the automation path using only RPA, but as agencies scale and expand upon their limited use cases, they often begin looking at cognitive capture, process orchestration and analytics. Having these capabilities integrated within the same platform can make the difference between failure and success as agencies scale their automation efforts.

A case in point is a large federal government contractor that supports the eligibility verification process of the Affordable Care Act health insurance program. This program processes tens of millions of consumers each year and 45 million documents annually on behalf of its U.S. government client—and Kofax automation plays a key role in almost every one of them. Kofax RPA automates the eligibility verification process, and intelligent AI-enabled data-capturing tools extract data at massive scale. The analytics capabilities of Kofax’s Intelligent Automation platform enable monitoring of the processes and workflows. A robotic workforce uses the same case management systems, rules and governance as human employees, but does so at up to six times faster.

The Kofax solution completes as many as 300,000 processes per month, saving substantial labor hours while providing a surge capacity that otherwise would have to be manual. As a result, the program can accommodate regular spikes in processing requirements without hiring the same peak-level additional support workers that would otherwise be necessary. Moreover, automation has helped dramatically improve the consistency, accuracy, quality and speed of the program’s work.

Federal agencies still have a long way to go in reducing the low-value work that takes employees away from higher-value activities, drives down overall efficiency and lengthens response times to constituents. With Kofax’s one-platform, integrated approach to intelligent automation, federal agencies can meet their transformation goals and simultaneously empower their workforce to focus on more meaningful work. Delegating repetitive, low-value tasks that starve federal agencies of their productivity and effectiveness to an AI-enabled digital workforce is a win for federal employees and for taxpayers.

To discuss your agency’s unique digital transformation requirements, contact us today.