Automation is a hot topic among state and local governments. Faced with tight budgets and growing workloads, agencies are looking for tools that can perform work with minimal human input. Recall a repetitive, unexciting work assignment. Wouldn’t it have been nice having an automated tool perform that task?
Although many public servants might say yes, many are finding that automation’s hype doesn’t match reality. Nationwide, scores of agencies are discovering three main reasons that innovating with automation is harder than expected. First, these agencies are struggling to communicate about automation agencywide. Second, they’re wrestling with how automation fits with their security requirements. Third, they’re anxious about how automation will impact their workforce.
Fortunately, the use of open-source software – publicly available code intended for collaboration and innovation – can help agencies address all three challenges and embrace automation in whatever way works best for them.
To understand how automation and open-source software can become a dream team for agencies, GovLoop spoke with Damien Eversmann, Senior Solutions Architect at Red Hat, a provider of enterprise open source software solutions.
According to Eversmann, open-source software’s communal development erases the barriers between an agency’s various teams. Furthermore, creating opensource tools also attracts private-sector companies and other external participants.
“Anyone can contribute,” Eversmann said. “If you contribute to software, you can help steer what some of the next features are. And, if you have concerns about security or stability, you can view the source code itself.”
That ability to view the source code provides agencies with more confidence when it comes to vetting automation to ensure it meets their cybersecurity requirements. Better yet, once vetted, automation can improve cybersecurity by taking over such tasks as resetting passwords – which both reduces the opportunity for human error and frees up cyber professionals to focus on higher-value work.
Taking repetitive, process-driven tasks out of a job description is not a foundation for eliminating jobs but for improving job satisfaction.
“Lots of people have workloads that are too big and not enough time to do them,” Eversmann said. “Automation can take some of those things off their plate. It gives all those workers time to do more with less and focus on more interesting tasks.”
Eversmann added that agencies should not think about automation as an all-or-nothing proposition. Nothing could be further from the truth with open-source software in the picture, he concluded. “The nice thing about open-source software, it enables you to be much more agile,” he said. “You should get started on automation as soon as you can. Once you’re no longer afraid of it, there are lots of things that you can do.”
Takeaway: Open-source software can help agencies adopt collaborative, innovative and secure automation whenever they’re ready.
This article is an excerpt from GovLoop’s recent guide, “How State & Local Gov Tech Will Look in 2020 & Beyond.” Download the full guide here.