As an industry, the public sector is at the start of its automation adoption journey. Forrester estimated that robotic process automation (RPA) would account for just 10% of the public sector’s administrative workload last year. But the momentum is growing. A Gartner survey found that 33% of government respondents plan to implement RPA in the next two years.
The UiPath AI Summit 2022 featured experts discussing the growing use of AI and RPA in the public sector. Gokul Solai, CEO of Novatio Solutions, emphasized the importance of adopting the right organizational structure and strategy when implementing these technologies in government agencies.
Additionally, the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department shared their experience with AI and automation, highlighting the reasons why these technologies are gaining popularity in governments and agencies around the world.
Our RPA deployment was an important stepping stone in our digital maturity. It was about helping people trust technology more and creating a more interesting workplace for the younger, digital generation.
Christian Falberg Goth, CIO, Greater Copenhagen Fire Department
Like a lot of organizations, the Department’s initial motivation for adopting RPA was to eliminate manual tasks to drive efficiency and reduce errors. And in many ways, it was a typical IT project. But as the Department’s Chief Information Officer (CIO) Christian Falberg Goth noted, what began as an IT project quickly evolved into a broader digital transformation initiative:
“We’re not a natural digital workplace. Firefighters and ambulance crews primarily do physical work. So, our RPA deployment was an important stepping stone in our digital maturity. It was about helping people trust technology more and creating a more interesting workplace for the younger, digital generation—especially in areas like HR and payroll.”
To help make a smooth transition to a new way of working, the Department wanted the help of an organization that would act more as a business partner than an IT partner. And Sopra Steria fit the bill. The Department had used RPA for a while, and they started working with Sopra Steria to further enhance its capabilities. So, they identified a process that was ripe for transformation—processing firefighter overtime—and embarked on a five-week project to automate it.
Accurate and efficient overtime processing plays a major role in employee satisfaction. But before automation, it was a highly manual, time-consuming, and cumbersome process for the Department. It involved three core systems and two internal departments. But the team was successful because they approached the challenge as a business project. They clearly defined roles and responsibilities and how to handle errors and changes.
By focusing on organizational development and digital transformation—and not just the supporting technology—the team helped foster a digital mindset throughout the Department. They helped change the culture and created a more dynamic workplace that helps attract the best and brightest.
Gokul Solai, CEO of Novatio Solutions, echoed many of the themes raised in the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department’s story. He noted how many public sector agencies are deploying AI and RPA in silos. As a result, they’re missing out on the full benefit of the technologies. For Solai, it’s not the number of projects and processes that’s important. It’s the mindset that matters most.
Public sector agencies need the right organizational structure and strategy. They need to think through issues such as how to scale and how to set up the right governance. And they need to adopt a design thinking mindset. That entails looking at a solution in terms of its organizational impact and taking advantage of synergies for what you want to build now and in the future.
Solai also had advice for public sector agencies that are starting or scaling their automation initiatives. First, he counseled focusing on ROI but redefining ROI in terms of citizen benefits. He also shared that it’s critical to diversify the automation team to include more roles and perspectives. He stressed the importance of a centralized center of excellence (CoE) model that spans departments and functions. And he advocated for a clear delivery strategy that includes a roadmap of potential future technologies.
Finally, Solai recommended learning how to fail fast. He advised it’s more important to forge ahead and quickly identify and address problems as they emerge rather than trying to get everything perfect from the outset.
Solai closed the session with an interesting insight: AI is helping translate RPA (which has traditionally been a back-office technology) into a citizen-facing, front-office solution. So, as automation makes the work environment better for public sector employees (as with the Greater Copenhagen Fire Department), it’s also helping agencies deliver better service to citizens. It’s a win-win scenario for governments and their citizens.
You can access this session in full (and all the other sessions from the event) on the UiPath AI Summit 2022 site. And you can check out the UiPath website for more on the impact of automation and AI on the public sector.
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