RPA Already Exceeding Expectations for Better Public Sector Performance


As an academic, I ventured into learning about robotic process automation (RPA) with some trepidation. Previously, I had spent twenty-five years in the private sector managing large nonprofit organizations, hearing pitches from various technologies which made exorbitant claims to deliver value but, when implemented, fell short.

So, when I first learned about RPA, I wasn't going to make those historical mistakes again. This time I wanted to be more suspicious and ask even more tough questions. I was intrigued by the technology as I had spent my entire professional career working to make the public sector more effective and efficient thinking citizens were owed outstanding stewardship by elected leaders.

I could not have been more wrong about the benefits RPA technology brings to the public sector and the promise it delivers on to make government work better for citizens.

During my learning process, innovative and practical use cases kept appearing. I was constantly and frankly, amazed, by the creative solutions RPA companies like UiPath and various technology implementors who helped automate all sorts of different functions and mission-centric business processes in myriads of agencies at all levels of government which resulted in good use of tax dollars.

I also discovered that more people needed to know about this technology and its promise which it consistently delivered. Many friends in the "corridors of power" were not acquainted with RPA technology and its capabilities. I came to believe that there were two general groups of people inside the public sector: those who were familiar with RPA with IT backgrounds and many more who did not know because they were policy-oriented. That meant, in order to accelerate its adoption, an even more sustained education campaign around RPA in the public sector, especially for non-IT workers was necessary.

Our partnership with UiPath allowed us to launch The RPA Initiative at the Center for Business Civic Engagement at the Schar School of Policy and Government at George Mason University in January 2021. The mission of the Initiative is to research, educate, and communicate how the adoption of technologies can improve productivity, operations and service delivery of public sector organizations.

The Initiative would also study and recommend possible governance models and public policy initiatives for RPA deployment in the context of the broader economic outlook and the future of work. As part of its mission, the RPA initiative will take a multi-disciplinary approach to provide points of view on how RPA technology can help tackle both traditional and novel challenges of the public sector.

The Initiative has hosted successful webinars on RPA issues that are occurring around the public sector, and we just issued our first research paper on "The Promise of RPA for the Public Sector." More research, education and communications are planned. Feel free to leverage the information. Of course, we also invite you to join the efforts.

Claim your complimentary copy of the research paper.

Currently, we are experiencing a troublesome political partisanship that at times seems to strain our country at its core. But RPA has no partisanship. It has no political ideology or party home. As we point out in the paper, it has been implemented across by officials across the entire political spectrum seeking better value for their citizens, and it enables public sector employees to focus on high-value priorities without having to face their time being consumed by mundane and routine tasks.

If RPA was a horse, it would be a triple crown winner. It wins for public sector organizations. It wins for public sector employees. It wins for stakeholders who desire more value out of their tax contributions. I believe elected officials will continue to flock to this technology because of the practical value it delivers to all.

You may have different goals for the RPA industry. But here are mine based on working in public sector institutions and communications my professional life:

  1. To sustain our focus on education, research and communications to ensure people know about and embrace RPA, its benefits and positive societal impact.

  2. To exponentially raise awareness of use cases, not only to provide more examples of RPA success, but to spur even more innovative ideas so RPA alone or in conjunction with artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) can be used across all public sector organizations.

  3. To celebrate with intense humbleness and optimism the fact that RPA is making America work more efficiently and effectively. We all have assorted motives and parts in the RPA family. But no matter what each of us does every day, we are part of a movement that is value driven, practical results oriented, and bringing a positive impact to all. That is not something everyone say about their profession or industry.

Editor's note: this is a guest post. Views represented in this blog post belong to the author.

david k rehr phd
David Rehr

Professor and Director of the Center for Business Civic Engagement, George Mason University

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