Simplistically, RPAs may be defined as a set of tools to emulate human actions in computer systems. In e-governance projects which are quite large in scale and many departments are continuously seeking integration and data exchange from each other, a high degree of automation is gaining prominence. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) helps capture, interpret existing applications data, triggering responses and communicating with other digital systems without disturbing the core business applications. RPAs can be of 2 kinds – Assisted RPA or Unassisted RPA. RPAs are light weight and do not require heavy investments, and sometime IT team is also not required to help in its implementation.
Identifying Processes suitable for RPA
In an extensive deployment and large scale technology landscape, it is not easy to identify the processes that are suitable for such automation. Therefore, an approach to select suitable processes for automation is needed. For instance Nordea – Nordic region’s largest financial services group and one of the biggest banks in Europe has a relatively clear approach. The processes that have high volume, regular, batched, reliant on structured data and stable systems, and subject to few planned changes and upgrades are potential candidates for automation.
“RPA is no longer a nice to have tool, and can be of special use in public sector. Government gathers maximum data, has possibly a bigger user base to serve and is commonly overworked and under staffed in wake of growing demands. To address the mounting backlog, continuity of operations, and pressing need to deliver better public services, RPA is now an operational necessity.”
With increase in identification and stacking up of processes for automation, governance of RPAs becomes critical. In case the department’s IT function is not centrally managed, RPA governance plays a crucial role in balancing autonomy, compliance and control. A popular model for RPA governance is hub and spoke, wherein standardization and best practices are centrally driven (from CoE) and satellite business units have their own RPAs adhering to recommendations of CoE (Center of Excellence) unit. The CoE may strategies, operating model and development practices. As far as choosing RPA software is concerned, many organizations still prefer subscription based solution. Though a range open source solutions are available, one is required to carry out scripting or programming work in development and deployment phase. Some RPAs if required may also be identified for outsourcing to non-core solution providers to an extent.
As the bouquet of RPA’s grow, maintenance and monitoring becomes important. Sometimes a well established process, human intervention and escalation procedures are also required to be put in place. Therefore whether outsourced or not, an organization should have a certain degree of competency in RPAs.
RPA Use Cases in public sector
Hyper-automation at the time of emergencies
COVID-19’s massive impact on citizens and high expectation from government created an unprecedented backlog of old and new work across departments. In India, a city municipal authority needed to authorize the movement of essential services and delivery executives of various service providers. They build the Lockdown e-Pass bot to issue curfew passes to designated first responders.
California Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) continues to streamline and drive services using RPA in wake of pandemic situation. These include title transfer, vehicle registration, temporary extension of expiring licenses, renewal of commercial vehicle etc.
Federal agencies are the biggest collector of data. As AI has great potential for every agency, similarly robotic process automation could help agencies manage benefits administration, payrolls, claims processing and other repetitive tasks. Thus, helping agencies free up employees for mission critical work.
Document handling and Validation
The benefits of RPA is two fold. It saves operational cost and important time of government employees and at the same time helps provide faster customer service. A large portion of work on government employees is document handling and validation. Most of it is routine and rule based and thus it is a good candidate for automation.
Reconciliation and Reporting tasks are highly repetitive and time consuming. Processes such as ledger reconciliation, routine reporting etc. can be automated.
Form Processing: Service enquiries from public are highly standardized and is fairly rule based. This is an ideal candidate for automation and can boost customer service beyond what human staff can do.
HR Tasks: Data management, compliance, payroll administration, onboarding and off-boarding are rule based HR processes. The automation in these space will help government free time for the employees to focus on more important tasks.
Financial management and audit trail: These processes are rule driven, error prone and unfortunately highly intolerant to errors. Bots can routinize decision logic and eliminate key stroke errors, resulting in risk free audit readiness.