For government agencies, 2018 was the year of Robotic Process Automation (RPA) pilots. I see pilots as being important for the Air Force, but not for RPA. The lessons learned and positive outcomes from more than 32 government organizations using UiPath suggests neither a proof of concept (POC) nor a pilot is needed to successfully implement RPA.
UiPath customers who were early adopters of RPA in the public sector include:
- Village of Deerfield, IL government
- Montgomery County, MD government
- Delaware state government
- 32 defense, intelligence, and civilian agencies
The next milestone for these pathfinders is to scale and sustain an RPA program that serves as the foundational governance for their automation. Pathfinder government agencies are already trying to have their Robots work with Robots in other agencies. Life-long learners are retraining to become the cadre for their organization by building additional automations. The flexibility the UiPath Enterprise RPA Platform provides the agencies is key to these pathfinder agencies’ great successes.
Over the past few months, I have written about the significant push from the Executive Branch around RPA including:
- President’s Management Agenda
- Office of Budget and Management (OMB) memorandum 18-23
- American Artificial Intelligence Initiative (AAII) executive order
- President Trump’s proposed Budget of the U.S. Government for Fiscal Year 2020, which mentioned UiPath clients General Services Administration (GSA) and the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) for their RPA successes
In the UiPath public sector whitepaper released last fall, we illustrated how high the return on investment (ROI) is for government agencies when they have an “automation first” mindset. The ROI remains high regardless of whether agencies follow the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) and Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to the Azure cloud or stay on-premise.
UiPath’s strong CAC/PIV credentialing and successful DISA STIG security scans suggest a robot on every employee’s desktop is more than a phrase – it is an achievable goal. Both attended robots (sometimes called robotic desktop automation, or RDA) and unattended robots (sometimes referred to as RPA by other RPA vendors) stand ready to make government more efficient, more effective, and able to provide better citizen services.
Any suggestion that attended robots are somehow not critical nor provide significant value is like telling a commander they must attack the beachhead only using the Air Force, though the Navy is built for the mission. No one would tell the Census Bureau to only use the phone to count people. UiPath gives government agencies the front and back office digital labor they need.
The democratization of RPA will allow the untapped ingenuity of the government workforce to dig their way out of the mountain of digital work put on them over the past 30 years. Democratization of RPA is not only possible, we're already seeing agencies making it a reality such as the NASA Shared Services Center (NSSC) with their “citizen developers.”
Like our human workforce, no single Robot is the right employee for all jobs. UiPath attended Robots and unattended Robots serve who and where they are needed. Sharing unattended Robots maximizes the ROI of enterprise task. Attended Robots enforce standards, audit, compliance, and allow for human-in-the-loop processing.
Let’s look at two great examples of UiPath Robots can make the public sector workplace better:
The right tool for the right job: your digital intern
A health-related government agency has a staff of 900 employees working on quality control for patient-related charges. The backlog was last reported to be about 65,000 cases and each case takes roughly one hour for each staff member to complete. The math is easy. Each of the 900 employees handles 7 cases per day and the average worker works 200 days per year. New records come in every day so this backlog may be viewed as “just a fact of life.” The government agency is not going to hire its way out of this backlog.
If we assume all 900 employees work in Dallas, Texas, and are GS-9, Step 5 pay grade, that is a salary total of approximately $53M. Tack on a full burden employee rate, computers, a place to work and you can see how much the costs add up. Money is not going to buy down the backlog in this example. What will resolve this backlog and free this health-related government agency to reap big benefits is a UiPath attended Robot.
Consider the impact of automating just half of this one-hour per case task. Assume that an exceptionally long period was needed to train the Robot to do this work (say two months) and that instead of each of the 900 employees developing their own solution only one Robot needed to be trained. The other 899 Robots would just call on that script from the UiPath Orchestrator. Attended Robots are designed to integrate with the human workforce and they are deployed on the existing 900 workstations. The deployed attended Robots are not competing for processing time because each Robot is sharing the computer with the human employee.
Consider the impact on the workforce when employees realize they can now complete 14 cases a day (double their previous capacity) for a 1% expenditure by the agency. Standards are maintained, metrics are collected, people make the cognitive decisions while their digital intern (the attended Robot) gathers information for the next case.
The cost savings, time compression, adherence to standards, compliance, and the elimination of digital work by your staff make attended Robots the reason UiPath wants a Robot on every person’s computer.
When you have a heavy digital workload, it takes a village
When your task is a true enterprise task you don’t want a single person working the activity; you want a village. Unattended robots are designed for the 24/7/365 digital world. On a virtual machine, coordinating the machine’s activities with other digital labor amplifies the power of RPA.
Does your government agency receive hundreds of visa, passport, invoices, travel vouchers, emergency relief requests, contracts, etc. coming in around the clock? Why only work on those requests when human employees are in the office?
Almost every agency has an office which receives invoices. The employee tasked with handling invoices knows there will be a backlog of invoices awaiting them at the beginning of the day, that more invoices will arrive throughout the day, and they will have a backlog when they leave at the end of the day.
The processing of an invoice voucher is pretty straight forward because the vendors rarely change the format, but the employee will still need to manually locate the name, address, contact information, quantity, cost, etc. Any ad hoc meetings the employee participates in will put them further behind in their invoice work. This is necessary work, but not necessarily work the human employee needs to perform.
Let's look at an alternative:
When invoice emails and scans arrive at the office, the attachment and the fax is scanned by a UiPath Robot. The Robot is trained to open the email, scan the document, extract the data, and apply triage rules to the data. If the invoice is from a known source, then the Robot will create a ticket and assign it to the right person. If the Robot is not able to extract the data, the Robot can send the email to the “people” queue. If the data is missing, the Robot can immediately send the form back to the person who sent it, and the person can resubmit the information. All this can happen before anyone gets to the office.
Attended Robots can do these tasks for every invoice. With UiPath, if these batch jobs start to overwhelm the ability of the Robot, the UiPath Orchestrator can be told to automatically assign more Robots to the work.
The results of using a Robot to assist humans with these invoice tasks include cleared backlogs, more accurate end-to-end competition times, and cleaner data.
It's critical to have a flexible RPA solution
A discussion about flexibility would not be complete without reminding you that UiPath Robots not only work in their silos they also work together. Consider how the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) might use attended and unattended UiPath Robots:
It is August 25th, 2017 and hurricane Harvey has hit the Texas coast.
FEMA’s unattended Robots have been:
- Constantly polling hospital websites for room and medical staff availability,
- pulling from the Army GCSS system to check the status of logistical supplies, and
- pulling from Texas police and fire databases to create a real-time map of the situation.
FEMA was prepared and deployed their staff to help the citizens of Houston. The staff hit the ground running. While attending meetings, each staff member can have their attended Robot working with the unattended Robot to update other personnel with the information needed to perform their work.
With Robots working together, there is no waiting for data or receiving unnecessary information. Even when a staff member goes to sleep or stops for a situation update, the unattended Robot is checking in with the attended Robot. The two Robots pass information to make the data even more accurate and useful.
After three weeks have passed, the weather forecast reports Puerto Rico is likely to be hit with a strong hurricane. FEMA's unattended Robot has been collecting data from across the hurricane region and the FEMA team will be able to be more proactive about their deployment. Staff members know their Robots are there to help them help citizens.
In the examples in this blog post, Robots, people, and solutions are all applied when and where it makes sense in order to provide the most efficient solution for the problem. UiPath provides the flexibility your government agency needs at a price that is right-sized to your solution.
Create an army of citizen developers, build an army of enterprise digital labor, and free yourself from the boring work your computer has assigned you. Don’t attack the coast without the Navy.
Let me connect you with the successful pathfinder agencies I mentioned earlier in this post. Alternatively, I can meet to show you why having the freedom to accelerate your digital transformation through a flexible RPA platform improves your mission in a myriad of ways. Please contact me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Public Sector Evangelist and CTO, Americas, UiPath