Federal and State Governments Scale and Succeed When They Formalize Their RPA Programs

Nov 4, 2020

Joel Cherkis,
Vice President, Global Public Sector Industry at UiPath

Sangeetha (Uma) Natarajan,
Head of Presales & Customer Success – U.S. Public Sector

As budgets tighten and personnel resources shrink, government agencies across the country are considering how automation can prevent backlogs, deliver additional services, and stretch resources. Getting started with automation and robotic process automation (RPA) in your government organization can seem like a daunting prospect. But many agencies are enjoying great success with automation—finding more and more ways they can use automation to save manpower, reduce expenses, and increase efficiency.

Most federal agencies start by automating back office functions: human resources, finance, supply chain, and procurement. But they frequently expand into mission-related tasks, tactical use cases, cybersecurity, and other uses across every agency vertical. They learn that automation is not a niche technology, but broadly supportive for civilian and defense uses.

The state government process is a little different. The amount and kind of automation implementations vary from state to state. One state might focus on transportation: the Department of Motor Vehicle, transportation maintenance systems, or tolling. Whereas another state might automate health and human services: unemployment insurance, SNAP benefits, social services, etc. Once automation success stories are well known, states learn from each other and more agencies want to automate.

Getting Started with RPA

As a first step, organizations need to have internal discussions about how much of the process they want to run in-house—based on their end goal. If the agency has no inhouse experience, they might want to bring in a partner organization to design an automation operating model or a service that monitors their automation technology.

Getting started requires a lot of thought but not a large team—unlike most IT programs. RPA is adaptable to the program size and can readily scale. If the organization decides to build its own automations, they look at specific types of designers, whether it’s a dedicated RPA developer or a business user with a background in maneuvering in Excel and creating pivot tables. Small, limited projects can start almost immediately, but even bigger programs can be as quick as a couple of months depending on how fast the agency can move.

Many agencies are tempted to start with a one-off automation project that provides small productivity gains, but you can realize greater benefits and bigger ROI with an RPA program—which allows you to think strategically about RPA capabilities and consider holistically how automation will benefit the organization. You can take advantage of existing resources rather than reinventing them.

Sangeetha Natarajan, UiPath’s Head of Presales and Customer Success for U.S Public Sector, observes that successful RPA programs, whether in federal or state agencies, usually have three characteristics.

  • Senior executive sponsorship that brings other leaders to the table.
  • Upfront consideration of how to expand the program throughout the agency.
  • Ownership of the program and a plan for organizing implementation. Will you have a centralized COE managing the deployment? Or, will you enable faster growth by giving departmental autonomy to create their own automations?

Forward-leaning agencies also have an automation first mindset; they’re always thinking about how to increase productivity within their workforce. Such organizations proactively consider the role that automation can play from outset—rather than reactively using automation to fix a problem.

Measuring ROI

Different agencies have different goals—and various ways of measuring ROI. Some save millions by automating processes that employees previously performed. For other agencies success could mean productivity gains or money saved by preventing government fraud.

Many automation projects focus on backlogs. Joel Cherkis, Vice President of the Global Public Sector Industry at UiPath, describes how “the UK Department for Work and Pensions had a backlog of 30,000 people who were waiting for benefits and averaged a 30-40 week wait. Within two weeks of implementing automation, the agency had eliminated most of the backlog.”

However, one thing is the same: a successful RPA program should define that ROI before they start the process. ROI goals are often defined annually, but many agencies meet their ROI goals within a quarter of a year.

Barriers to RPA Adoption

For federal and state agencies, the biggest barrier is getting through the government procurement cycle. Another obstacle is finding people who understand automation from a broad strategy perspective.

A frequent challenge is having agencies grasp the value of automation at the beginning of the process—since so many other priorities take their attention. Often employees don't know their true end goal; they start an automation process with an idea of what they want to accomplish, but the process becomes more open-ended as they proceed.

For example, they might expect to automate the reporting process for people receiving benefits. But as they build that automation, they recognize the possibility of expanding automation into data aggregation or validation.

UiPath Automation Platform

The UiPath Automation Platform brings an end-to-end vision of how an automation program can be executed, starting with the discovery and prioritization of processes to be automated. It allows automation building at multiple levels of expertise: from business users who don’t know coding to seasoned developers building agency-wide automations with huge ROIs to managing bots at scale—since some public sector UiPath customers have thousands of bots in production.

Every agency wants to embed AI into their programs and bring those capabilities to the end user. But agencies don’t need to hire data scientists to build a program from scratch. UiPath’s platform quickly enables AI as part of your RPA program and scales it across your agency. The UiPath platform also makes it easy to track ROI.

GovPATH User Group

UiPath takes pride in ensuring their customers are successful and providing the technical advice that government agencies need. Agencies often use less than 50% of the functionality for software they’ve purchased. “UiPath wants our government customers to maximize what they get from RPA, so we created the GovPATH technical working group to connect agencies using UiPath with their peer agencies,” says Jim Walker, UiPath’s Director of Public Sector Marketing. UiPath also introduces tips, tricks, and best practices, letting agencies maximize the value of their UiPath investment.

Ultimately the agencies that are most successful take time to research, join GovPATH, and gather advice from UiPath representatives. Let UiPath tell you what they have learned from working with multiple other government agencies—to help you sustain and scale your program.

Promising new technologies often under deliver, but agencies working with UiPath see a tremendous return on investment regardless of which metric they use to measure it. Throughout more than 79 deployments, UiPath applies the lessons learned from the previous deployment to the next one. Every UiPath customer benefits from that level of experience, and government agencies that work with UiPath have reported great success using organic staff. UiPath reboots work!

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