POINT OF VIEW
The Public Sector is always under pressure to deliver more with less, adapt to public demand, accommodate changes to regulations, while at the same time maintaining an effective service to citizens.
A difficult situation that requires innovative thinking to make any progress. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can make the difference.
Since February 2020 the added burden of managing a workforce from home, all against a backdrop of rafts of quick turnaround regulations, has emphasised the need for new ideas.
During these uncertain times, one thing is for sure – Digital transformation and Robotic Process Automation are changing the ways that local government functions.
Public agencies have been flooded with extra work caused by central governmental measures to curb the pandemic’s effects.
From the rapid law changes and periodic closures, to hundreds of thousands of applications for different government subsidies, the public sector has to adopt technology faster than ever before.
One example is the government’s furlough job retention scheme. The result was that 1.3 million jobs were furloughed through to mid-December 2020. The lockdown restrictions in 2021 are expected to cause this figure to be significantly higher.
As the number of applications for support increases, so does the pressure on the public workers to process applications faster, in order to provide timely financial support to those in need.
Using Robotic Process Automation to Improve Efficiency
Digital transformation provides a solution to the problem of how to do more with less. It’s one of those things that are so clear that we question why it was not done before.
“Improved productivity means less human sweat, not more.”
By mixing human case workers and decision makers with RPA bots the workforce can be augmented to deliver significantly more capacity at the same time as managing cost. As governments grapple with tight budgets and stretched resources, the technological advances in Robotic Process Automation, Enterprise Integration, and AI are driving operational efficiencies with automation solutions.
Why RPA when there are other options?
RPA reduces the time to value, has a lower technical learning curve, and can be easily adapted as the situation changes.
An organisation can certainly implement RPA without a full-blown digital transformation program. However, most digital transformation programs benefit greatly from the inclusion of some intelligent automation capabilities. Making RPA a natural first step regardless of strategy.
An RPA software bot replicates the way humans interact with applications; automating the mundane and freeing humans to make decisions and address the more complex or one-off tasks.
For many organizations, implementing RPA is the first (and simplest) steps on their digital transformation journey.
RPA is not just for Local Government
Local Government bodies stand to gain significantly from digital transformation initiatives. The implementation of robotic process automation throughout their core processes helps to satisfy the need for more data, faster processing and better decision making.
Citizens generate a huge amount of data every day. And when it comes to personalizing their unique experience and making informed decisions, there’s no better source of information than a single view of citizen.
RPA Bots can act as ‘central filing clerks’ that ingest citizen data of many types, to create a unified profile that can be used to deliver improved services to citizens.
This approach scales and creates opportunities for new ways to tap into data and make smarter decisions.
RPA robots can be used to automate data management tasks, ranging from automated approvals, responding to queries and requests, and handling exceptions from straight through processes.
The RPA robot, and enterprise connectivity, combined with human decisions can be used to gather and process ID verification & credit checking, or to fast track particularly important cases.
Legacy UI customisation
Conceptually RPA may sound similar to workflow automation. After all, both work towards the same goal of removing manual and repetitive work.
The difference is in the process.
RPA bots automate individual tasks, accelerate workflows, and reduce systems disruption by integrating data from legacy systems. It can breathe new life into legacy systems and create digital process flows, where before there was only spaghetti code, manual workarounds and swamps of data.
Furthermore, data editing and normalization rules can be set into an RPA routine to automate the manual work that users must sometimes do to ensure high-quality data for analytics.
Dealing with implications
When a citizen moves to a new house or changes preference there are often multiple systems that need to be updated. Why not let an RPA bot take the strain?
Auto processing of queries & applications can aid every local government’s goal to make it quicker and simpler for its residents to get in touch and complete tasks, but also to free up staff’s time.
Many organizations have legacy systems in their environment that are not connected, and have different ways of representing the same information. We call this “islands of automation”.
Swivelling in a chair is fun when it doesn’t involve work.
Employees literally swivel between applications or computers to perform the laborious task of manually extracting information from one application and then validating it and pasting it in another application.
What if the workload increases? Is increasing the labour force the only solution?
Robotic Process Automation can play a significant role in avoiding human work re-keying data. RPA bots are perfect in handling tasks such as moving from one application to another, putting data into multiple fields, re-entering data, or copying and pasting.
Almost any task that is driven by rules and schedules can be automated with Robotic Process Automation. RPA is great for short-term tactical solutions; from integration of systems, data migration, and data collection and sharing.
Using RPA Automation
Strategic tasks such as data integration and analysis are left on the back-burner because they can always be done tomorrow.
Staff often have to dedicate a large portion of their time to operational tasks that seem to be immediate priority, such as collecting, moving, cleaning and re-purposing data. It is these “immediate but proscriptive and mundane” tasks that are perfect for RPA. Including general business processes, human resources, customer relationship management, and processes specific to local government.
Think of an RPA installation as a Swiss-army knife for data processing; that can be turned to anything.
- Expense Management using RPA
- Reading forms (PDF, Word, Handwritten)
- Collecting information for regular reports
- Assembling evidence for case reviews
- Aggregating staff information for review
- Work related sickness, absence registration, work incident recording
- COVID activity (cleaning or other) record keeping
The RPA bots perform various functions from UI data entry and file creation to queue processing, screen scraping and system integration.
Regular reporting and oversight
Reporting is a key activity across department. Providing live data, information and analysis to help make informed decisions in a timely manner. The challenge is in gathering information quickly and accurately before reporting it in a consistent way. This can often take up large amounts of employee’s time when pulling information from multiple business systems.
RPA automates the extraction of data to come up with accurate, effective and timely reports. The robots can login to your business systems, gather data and pull together your data reporting. This can be programmed to suit your business requirements on a scheduled basis, allowing you to have instant information as and when you need it. Reports can be provided on a live dashboard, or via email to relevant people in your business.
Conclusion and next steps
Adoption of RPA starts with an ideation conversation with Responsiv to flesh out ideas, consider the options, and decide whether it is right for you at this particular time.
We know that councils have a great deal going on, and RPA can be tactical or strategic, and can move from being tactical to strategic. Either way the initial implementation needs to deliver value and demonstrate the opportunity, otherwise what’s the point?
If you decide to give it a go, then we will start with a discovery phase. This involves reviewing the processes that may be candidates for automation, and identifying two or three that can be delivered quickly and that will demonstrate value.
Following discovery, a Responsiv RPA developer writes a set of instructions that instruct the RPA software to execute your process.
Any exceptions or escalations are reviewed and resolved by an experienced business user to be added to the automation or treated as exceptions.
We have no doubt, Robotic Process Automation can bring significant efficiencies to your organisation and look forward to our first conversations.
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Richard Whyte has been building enterprise IT solutions for over 20 years. He is known for creating innovative practical solutions that provide a strong foundation for future development, whilst solving immediate problems. Previously the European CTO and Principal Architect for IBM Systems Middleware at IBM, he has an MBA, a degree in Statistics and Computing, is a Chartered Engineer, a Chartered IT Professional, and Fellow of both the Institute of Technology and the British Computer Society.