Intelligent Automation in the Federal Government: Key Factors for Success

Five years after the federal government deployed it’s first robotic process automation (RPA) application, automations have reduced over 1.4 million hours of low-value work across the government, giving employees time to focus on agency mission delivery and improving citizen services.

Consider this use case:

The U.S. Armed Services – including the Army, Navy, and Air Force. – maintain thousands of facilities on military installations. Each of these facilities requires regular and preventative building maintenance, repairs and replacements of components, and restoration, and modernization. But keeping a pulse on facilities operations, particularly work order management, is a painstaking process.

When facilities work is required, it’s common for work orders to be collected and managed using multiple systems, both internally and externally. As a result, repetitive data entry is needed to ensure the necessary information flows and synchronizes through each system – a highly manual, time-consuming, and error-prone process.

Using RPA, we can mitigate this problem of “swivel seating.” In a matter of seconds, a robot can simultaneously enter and synchronize work order information across systems ensuring accurate, timely, and auditable information without any manual input.

But sometimes these documents are hard to read, the print is faint or key information is missing. That’s where IA can be layered in. When RPA is used together with intelligent document processing (IDP) including, optical character recognition (OCR), advanced ML (classification and data extraction models), it can learn from the thousands of work orders handled by robots and extract key information to flow to for expedited processing. The program can also understand unstructured text blocks and unusual layouts that robots can’t and fill in the blanks. This increases accuracy, reduces exception handling by employees, frees up workforce hours, and is fully auditable.

But the possibilities don’t end there. With hyper-automation, agencies can open the aperture and make automation a part of every decision the organization makes – automating any process that can be automated!

Intelligent automation in government remains a challenge

Even so, many federal organizations don’t realize the benefits of this spectrum of IA solutions or stumble at the first step – implementing RPA. According to Ernst and Young, up to 50% of RPA projects fail.

Why is that?

Every organization is different. However, in my experience leading highly successful automation programs for the U.S. Army including the U.S. Army’s first RPA Program and production deployment of bots,  and through my vast industry experience including countless conversations with government CFOs, CIOs, and technical leaders, I’ve arrived at two conclusions:

  1. Investment is an afterthought

Despite the millions of hours saved by automation in the federal government, many agencies are just getting started with RPA. And that’s ok. RPA is great for automating repeatable tasks. Just look at the Defense Logistics Agency’s J6 Information Operations group. J6 has one of the most established and robust automation programs in the government with more than 200 RPA bots in play. USDA has also successfully deployed RPA for dashboard reporting and metrics.

These successes, however, are the exception rather than the rule.

Many automation programs get to the proof-of-concept (PoC) stage, then fade into the sunset. For instance, an agency may see the potential of RPA for a specific use case and work with industry to develop a PoC. But because they did not structure a funding request early or plan beyond a PoC, they lack the investment and resources to move forward.

In short, without organization and strategic planning, most RPA programs falter.

  1. A unified management approach is needed

For automation to work at scale, in fact any kind of IT initiative, a unified management approach is required.

From the top down, agencies must believe in the potential of RPA, IA, and hyper-automation. They must have champions who can take the ball and run with it to the goal line. Champions who see the benefits, advocate for these programs, communicate with stakeholders, get everyone on the same page, and execute on behalf of the government and industry.

No matter how much technology is thrown at the problem, intelligent automation programs will not succeed without this organization, without that unified understanding.

Macro Solutions can help

Federal agencies turn to Macro Solutions for the stewardship, guidance, and innovation they need to derive value from and scale their IA programs.

Wherever you are on your intelligent automation (including RPA) journey, our portfolio of enterprise services can help you structure and organize, overcome cultural barriers, and navigate the strategic relationships needed to ensure funding and success. Importantly, we’re honest, we know the pitfalls, and we’re proven.

We also have deep relationships with industry, including key partners like UiPath, Alteryx, Salesforce, Oracle, Workday, and more. Working as one, we design, build, and operate powerful integrations that solve government’s toughest IA challenges across multiple domains: financial management, supply chain and logistics, customer service and management, acquisition and procurement, human capital, and payroll, and more.

To all this we apply Agile methodologies. Agile is a natural fit for IA because it encourages close collaboration between stakeholders and ensures that processes are executed in a more intelligent and rapid way.

Contact us today to learn how we can help your agency kick-start or scale its RPA and IA programs and, when you’re ready, realize the potential of hyper-automation. You can also connect with me directly via LinkedIn.