Robotic process automation delivers more efficient government operations while improving public service delivery and citizen experiences.
Digital government and online services are high on the priority list for state chief information officers, according to the NASCIO 2022 State CIO Top Ten Priorities report. State CIOs are primarily interested in methods and tactics for accelerating transformation, such as building a framework for digital services, using a single portal, improving and digitizing citizen experience, ensuring accessibility, deploying digital assistants, managing identity and protecting user data.
Citizens expect faster, on-demand digital experiences with state agencies, but delayed service delivery and poor customer experience remain major hurdles. As such, many state CIOs are turning to robotic process automation (RPA) to overcome these challenges.
How RPA helps streamline public service delivery
The popularity of utilizing RPA and artificial intelligence to streamline digital services and address workforce and budget challenges is growing across state governments. Some states have successfully deployed these technologies, allowing for more efficient government operations while improving public service delivery and citizen experiences.
For instance, the New York State Department of Labor, which oversees unemployment claims, was overwhelmed with requests during the height of the COVID-19 pandemic. The department turned to the New York State Office of Information Technology Services, which used RPA to automate the processing of millions of incoming claims – ultimately reducing claim processing time from 45 minutes to just over one minute.
The Virginia Information Technologies Agency ran two successful RPA pilots. One automated running financial reports on agency invoices, and the other converted paper health lab reports into electronic forms. Agency leaders saw that automating back-office operations improved process efficiency and eased workloads on employees. As a result, VITA launched the nation’s first end-to-end RPA service offering, which will benefit 65 Virginia agencies over time.
4 ways to streamline digital services with automation
To benefit from RPA and streamline service delivery, state CIOs and IT teams should consider these strategies when deploying automation:
1. Automate contact centers. Contact center agents need data at their fingertips to answer citizen requests, but pulling data from legacy systems is not easy. Too often when constituents call a government contact center, they find themselves having to repeat information, wait for agents to find information or find themselves put on hold. However, automation can perform time-consuming tasks by collecting data from various systems and quickly presenting it to call agents so they can address requests faster.
2. Use process mining. State agencies should choose an automation platform that incorporates process mining, a technique to analyze and track processes that allows IT teams to find opportunities to implement RPA. As staff and software robots work with an agency’s IT systems, their activities are captured by those systems. Process mining transforms this data into an event log and then creates visualizations of the end-to-end process along with insightful analyses. This helps an agency understand, improve and monitor how things get done so it can increase efficiency and reduce costs.
Any automation platform should also feature task mining to find opportunities for attended and unattended automation at each step of the process. Task mining analyzes how employees get work done to identify and automate repetitive tasks, thus eliminating human error.
3. Adopt document understanding. To better process paper or electronic forms, agencies should also adopt document understanding, which helps to quickly pull necessary information from form submissions. Software robots extract, interpret and process data – even from PDFs, images, handwritten or scanned documents. An RPA platform with document understanding helps robots make organizations faster and more agile by allowing them to delegate more of their digital paperwork to bots.
4. Implement unattended and attended automation to speed up workflow processes. Unattended automation operates without human intervention, or with as little human intervention as possible. Actions in unattended automation are self-triggered by software robots and work continuously in a batch-mode, which allows automation software to operate on a 24/7/365 basis.
Attended automation relies more on cooperation with agency employees or administrators for tasks where human intervention is required. Attended automation solutions reside at an employee’s workstation and are triggered by specific events, actions or commands that an employee engages within a specific workflow. Attended automations are best suited for use with smaller, more fragmented tasks, such as submitting expense reports.
The future of automation and digital service delivery
Because citizens more frequently interact digitally with government, state CIOs and decision-makers should consider emerging technologies and processes that improve citizen service delivery and communication. At a time when surveys show an eroding trust in state government, automation can help rebuild this trust faster while helping agencies achieve their mission.