Agencies Find New Ways to Put RPA to Work

For government workers, robotic process automation (RPA) will change the productivity equation.

In recent years, the productivity of government staff has been constrained by the math, with the number of employees staying steady or shrinking while the number of constituents and programs continues to rise. For agencies, RPA serves as a force multiplier, offloading the repetitive, process-driven tasks from employees and freeing them to focus on higher value work.

But that’s just the beginning, said Chris Townsend, Vice President of Federal Sales at UiPath, which provides RPA solutions. “What’s most exciting to me is the ability of RPA to make a mission impact — to really start to solve some big mission problems in government,” he said.

To realize that full potential, however, agencies need to think about RPA in new ways. Townsend highlighted three key points.

1. RPA goes beyond the back office

Agencies often bring in RPA to help with back-office functions, such as human resources or finance, where repetitive, process-driven work abounds. But process-driven work also is found in many mission areas, said Townsend.

For example, RPA has helped the Veterans Administration handle a surge of paperwork that came with the VA Mission Act of 2018, which permits veterans to file claims for care received outside VA medical centers in certain conditions.

When the program began, it would take 10 VA workers (who had to be reassigned from other jobs) to process 450 claims in a day. As part of pilot projects with several medical centers, 2 bots were able to process over 11,000 records improving throughput by up to 90%.

2. RPA goes beyond mundane tasks

In the early days of RPA, bots were limited to mundane tasks that involved no human reasoning. But artificial intelligence is rewriting those rules, said Townsend.

“With the injection of AI, we can do some basic cognitive tasks, and really improve the capability of the automation platform, while providing a path for agencies to leverage AI in a practical way,” he said.

For example, UiPath has been working with the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office to see how RPA can automate the processing of patent applications, getting them to the adjudication phase more quickly. UiPath AI Center provides a framework that agencies can adopt quickly.

3. RPA plays by security rules

RPA might be a new twist on automation, but the same security rules apply. Agencies using RPA must implement the controls they enable for any other software and continue to enforce roles-based access to robots, said Townsend.

Additionally, UiPath provides an Automation Operation Model, “which is a very robust operating and governance model for how to manage your enterprise bot infrastructure,” he said.

UiPath believes that RPA will change how agencies think about automation, elevating it to a concern not just of the IT staff but of the larger organization.

“From the top down, UiPath is really focused on helping our customers use the technology to benefit their entire organization,” Townsend said.

This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “Looking Forward: 5 Tech Trends Shaping 2021.” Download the full guide here.

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