automated processes (Nikolay Klimenko/Shutterstock.com)

RPA Playbook: DigitalGov's guide to the care and feeding of automated programs

The General Services Administration's DigitalGov program has released a playbook on robotic process automation.

Released Jan. 15 by the RPA Community of Practice, the playbook aims to give agencies "detailed, accessible guidance" for launching a new RPA program or scaling up an existing program.

RPA uses software bots, some with machine-learning capabilities, to relieve humans from performing high-volume, repeatable, manual tasks, such as running queries, making calculations and cutting and pasting records and transactions.  More advanced versions can act like digital assistants, providing insights from massive volumes of data.

"Current RPA programs operating within agencies are achieving roughly five hours of workload elimination per employee," GSA CFO and RPA Community of Practice Chair Gerard Badorrek wrote in the playbook's introductory letter. "If the government deployed RPA at scale and achieved only 20 hours of workload elimination per employee, the net capacity gained would be worth $3 billion -- and that is only scratching the surface."

The RPA Playbook identifies the major decision points and steps along the automation journey and provides technology, policy and program management guidance based on best practices and lessons learned from federal agencies.

When it comes to the technology that powers RPA, the playbook describes infrastructure for three levels of RPA programs -- start-up, emerging and impactful – that range from desktop applications to virtual desktops to enterprise platforms. It also includes sample evaluation criteria agencies can use when considering programs at each maturity level.

The playbook also covers technology policy – security, credentialing and privacy -- for the three levels and shares current approaches to these issues, as well as key decision points that other federal agencies have encountered.

The second half of the playbook deals with program management, covering possible operating models, program design and management reporting and business value metrics agencies can use for their RPA initiatives. Suggestions for finding the best RPA candidates are also provided, along with managing human-resource impacts and operations as programs scale.

GSA's Federal RPA Community of Practice is a thought leadership and collaborative body with 750 members from more than 50 federal agencies aiming to rapidly accelerate the adoption of RPA technology across the federal government.

Read the RPA Program Playbook here.

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