Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been playing a transformative role across industries and businesses in the private sector. RPA increases speed and efficiency, lowers costs by automating repetitive and mundane tasks, and frees up workers to perform more strategic tasks.
Governments too are increasingly adopting RPA to reduce time-consuming administrative tasks and focus on mission-critical activities. From document processing to manual data entry, responding to information requests, and ensuring security compliance, government agencies deal with a lot of labor-intensive, repetitive work which can be done more efficiently and at a lower cost using RPA. The US federal, state, and local government is not just adopting RPA but has also constituted an RPA Community of Practice to guide agencies implementing RPA programs.
“The RPA Community of Practice includes important initiatives like designing common federal standards for credentialing, ensuring privacy and security, and designing common management metrics to gauge RPA’s government-wide impact.”
Identifying the Right Processes to Automate
While RPA finds a lot of applications across businesses, it does have some constraints regarding processes that can be automated. To identify the best-fit processes for automation agencies can first launch Process Mining technology to uncover processes that will deliver the best ROI or simplest implementation. But as a rule, the best processes to automate consume a lot of work hours and are repetitive. RPA bots mimic human behavior, so these processes need to be rule-based without requiring human judgment. Also, any data-intensive processes that require calculations and data manipulations are a good choice. Furthermore, the application of RPA for end-to-end processes is not necessary - automating sub-processes is often preferred.
RPA in Government Use Cases
Government agencies process a lot of applications filed by citizens via online portals and issue documents after approvals. These include:
- Passport applications and renewals
- Driver’s license applications and renewals
- Healthcare and insurance coverage records
- Employment records
- Tax forms
Automated application processing using RPA can not only speed up the process but also ensure accuracy as the RPA bot can verify personal information and IDs, validate application data, and approve the applications or send them to the relevant agencies for approval.
As digitization of government records gains momentum, a lot of data needs to be entered digitally. RPA bots retrieve data from existing digital resources or extract unstructured data from scanned documents and depending on the document type, include them in spreadsheets or legacy software systems. Automating data entry can optimize workflows and reduce errors, leading to cost savings.
Government agencies work with data in legacy systems and across organizations. Transferring data between systems becomes a necessity when upgrading systems. Data migration is often a highly structured and rule-based activity which is also the profile that RPA is best suited for. Bots can ensure data integrity during the migration process by checking for duplicate records, deleting unnecessary data, and notifying users when required.
Regular report generation on budgets, operations, etc. is a major requirement of government agencies to ensure accountability and transparency. RPA bots can extract data from both structured and unstructured documents residing in the organization’s systems and generate relevant reports based on specified rules.
RPA can be of great help to government agencies in emergency situations such as the Covid-19 Pandemic when there was a scarcity of resources to process a huge amount of data related to the outbreak. RPA bots can update public records of citizens who test positive for Covid-19 and send notifications with important information. Bots can also track the vaccination status of citizens and generate vaccine passports to help citizens travel safely.
Insider threat remains a cyber security challenge, with RPA, sensitive data is protected from unauthorized access as the bots process and manipulate data instead of human workers. RPA bots can discover vulnerabilities in the system and alert teams to take steps and secure the system. Furthermore, RPA helps in ensuring that regulatory compliances are met.
RPA can bring tremendous benefits to government agencies in their everyday work. Citizens have come to expect consumerized experiences and by speeding up processing, increasing accuracy, RPA can help the government meet those expectations. However, RPA implementations can and do fail. Partnering with expert and experienced consultants who can guide you through the implementation and provide support post-implementation can make RPA projects smooth and successful.