software bots

NASA to explore bots for business processes

NASA may have found a way to automate business processes, saving it thousands of costly government man-hours.

The space agency intends to issue a contract to Deloitte Consulting that calls for the use of emerging robotics process automation technology.  RPA uses  software bots to automate routine but costly tasks that workers often perform manually.

“These processes typically lack the scale or value to warrant automation via IT transformation,” according to an October 2016 Deloitte report. “RPA tools can improve the efficiency of these processes and the effectiveness of services without fundamental process redesign.”

RPA accomplishes that by tracing how people interact with applications using a simple interface and basic decision trees, according to the report. “Entire end-to-end processes can be performed by software robots with very little human interaction, typically to manage exceptions.”

“Before, in a laboratory, you would have scientists doing routine work,” Deloitte Consulting Principal Marc Mancher said at an industry gathering last fall. “We have taken 1,000 minutes of work and turned it into two minutes through the machine,” he said.

The NASA contract gives Deloitte status as the sole-source developer of a proof of concept for RPA software to be used and tested at NASA’s National Shared Services Center (NSSC) at Stennis Space Center, in Orlando, Fla.

A statement of work calls for the development of four proof-of-concept processes that will play various financial management processing roles in the NSSC’s Bots-as-a-Service pilot.

The bots will improve processes governing funds distribution, agency funds control, the Office of the CIO’s reconciliation and NSSC’s financial management.  Deloitte is also expected to mentor NSSC staff in the online management of bots’ work assignments and help plot management for the growth of bots when offered as a service.

The proof of concept bots will also be in the NSSC’s production environment until Oct. 1, 2017, when the winner of the permanent contract, which is not yet out for proposals, will operate the bot.

About the Author

Paul McCloskey is senior editor of GCN. A former editor-in-chief of both GCN and FCW, McCloskey was part of Federal Computer Week's founding editorial staff.

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