September 15, 2020
UiPath, robotic process automation (RPA) is the hyperautomation enterprise software platform driving unprecedented efficiency and value across the federal government. It is one of the key enablers of an agency’s digital modernization program. RPA uses robots to perform repetitive, rules-driven, tedious and mundane work that while necessary is thought of as low-value tasks. In return for freeing up employees to take on high-value tasks and decision making tasks that require human intervention agencies are reporting thousands of hours of FTE hours saved, avoiding cost, lowering cost, higher compliance rates, better data accuracy and faster process throughput times.
Where pre-COVID RPA was only being introduced and evaluated it is now being seen as an operational imperative that brings resiliency to federal as well as state governments. Agencies across government are now doing more than testing the water. They are jumping in the pool. The UiPath hyperautomation ready platform is here to assist them. The technology proved its value during COVID-19’s peak period. It saved agencies millions while providing huge boosts in efficiency. The pandemic created a backlog in many agencies, but many are discovering that automating tasks is an efficient and effective way of keeping things moving when employees aren’t in the office because RPA augments the most digital aspects of a task leaving employees to perform the most human part of the task. They team; they do not compete.
RPA, once considered just a back-office solution for HR and finance, has proven it is a mission enabler also. Federal customer addressed major mission challenges, such as improper payments, overpayments, tax fraud, Medicare fraud, etc. over the past eight months. Many of these problems can be addressed by linking disparate legacy mainframe systems together, which robots are exceptionally well positioned to do.
The return on investment can be measured in dollars and more importantly by eliminating inefficiencies and creating extra capacity. RPA does not replace jobs; it provides government employees with a productivity boost and takes the most boring tasks off their plate. With a robot’s help, a person might do twice or three times as much work, increasing capacity without incurring overtime costs or missing their kid's baseball game.
In a series of recent webinars, a number of government agencies shared success stories about how implementing UiPath has saved money and created new efficiencies.
Providing HR, finance, and procurement, the Shared Services Center implemented the first successful government deployment of RPA with the “Washington” bot in 2017. Working with the employment verification team, the bot would receive an email from a NASA center, check it for the right information, and submit a ticket to the appropriate team. The process was so successful that Shared Services now has approximately 60 robots with 30 in their pipeline.
One the first bots that GSA first developed pays invoices to prevent automatic fines if they aren’t within 30 days. The Prompt Payment Act levies a 1% or 2% fine on agencies who fail to pay public sector vendors on time. Over time this inefficiency cost agencies operational budget funds. That single bot is saving GSA thousands every year. The GSA CFO sent its employees for RPA training as a way to reskill and retain their existing staff. The non-IT employees, closest to the process are now building robots for the agency. With 40 bots now and 70 in the works, GSA is also encouraging other agencies to use the technology. GSA has also organized and runs the Federal RPA Community of Practice, bringing together around 800 government employees to share their RPA best practices. In addition, the RPA CoP has produced a playbook that details: lessons learned, how to build a robotic operation center, how to define RPA, etc. It is a useful government-to-government document. Government employees interested in joining only need to email to join, email FedRPAfirstname.lastname@example.org with Subscribe RPA in the subject.
RPA tasks at HHS include identifying when employees are ready for within-grade pay increase or have exceeded allotted number of hours. Unattended robots can fill out and process forms in 1-2 hours when it might take busy employees a day or more to complete the task. HHS robots are now uploading thousands of documents and extracting information from pdfs in 2-3 hours when the process previously could take days. Excited by their initial success, HHS organized a center that helps to build bots and share expertise across the organization. A common story around RPA is that of government employees learning of RPA and leveraging the internet learning on their own. Many agencies tell the story of the single employee that recognized the solution to their tedious problem and took action. HHS employees are doing the same. Finding the UiPath free and online Academy (academy.uipath.com) they completed the training and produced pilot bots to improve the work of their agency. RPA is democratizing software one process at a time.
“It was super cool to create this bot. I had a really good time. And it took about three hours.” - Paula Kinnard, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services
The first process this office automated was data entry for reimbursements of miscellaneous obligations. It could take 80 steps and 8-10 minutes for a staff member to process one form. With a yearly volume of around 1000 transactions, it was costing NIH approximately $785K a year to process the forms. It took the staff three hours to create a bot that now takes less than a minute and only requires two steps from staff members. How many 80 step processes, automated in three hours or three days that save almost $1M are there across the government? No idea but NIH realizing the power of UiPath has created an RPA Community of Practice of its own. Sharing ideas and sharing software the team hopes to bring more robots to bear on NIH most repetitive and mundane work.
USDA created a Robotics Operations Center (ROC), a governance team to handle the pipeline of ideas and manage the RPA process once it is underway. The USDA federated model is making it possible for the 50 employees retrained and reskilled through the agencies RPA Academy to accelerate and sustain one of the government’s largest RPA programs. Additionally, the USDA’s server-based deployment easily allows for rapid expansion of the automation program. USDA finds robots can work 15x faster than humans and at 300% the capacity while operating 24/7. The agency’s first RPA task was processing thousands of requests for direct and reimbursable funds. Each request could take up to 15 minutes for an employee to process, but the robot takes approximately one minute. USDA’s ROI will expand exponentially as RPA scales across enterprise; they expect that automation will save them $70 million next year. Visit www.usda.gov/rpa to learn more about the USDA’s exciting program.
“Adding robotics has given USDA digital personnel who work 24/7, don’t need lunchbreaks, and don’t take vacations. They’re not taking away jobs. They’re freeing analysts up to do more analytical work.” - Ron Woody, USDA
The Exchange provides goods and services to Army and Air Force personnel and their families all over the world. Profits from these sales sustain AAFES as it receives no funding from Congress. More importantly once it pays for itself AAFES rolls proceeds back to the military installation for upkeep of gyms, child care facilities, and other morale and welfare operations. AAFES went from start to 100% in just a year creating an RPA Center of Excellence with eight retrained and reskilled employees. Their mission was to create robots, focusing on projects that would save millions of dollars. The first year they expected to save $1.4M but in short order realized a savings of $8M. Their first bot and the subsequent other 45 perform simple steps yet when combined they save AAFES millions. Consider the following bots, easy but powerful tacking on serious work for AAFES. Like so many agencies when the first robot is show others want their own robot. Click here to see yet another AFPC robot developed and trained by Airmen.
“Once citizen developers are certified in how to make bots, they can work with their teams and identify what processes they want to automate next. You don’t have to reinvent the wheel every time.” - Debra Zarsk, VP Business Solutions, Army Air Force Exchange Service
The Exchange has already saved $8 million in their first year and they expect to save $40 million in their second year.
The military moves on orders. AFPC has 2,500 people performing this mundane, repetitive and rework prone process. The Digital Airman Project automated the permanent change of station (PCS) process at a cost of less than $5K and with less than 20 hours of work. So far it has saved the office 15,000 FTE hours. The AFPC estimates they have 700 processes ripe for automation; if they developed 10 bots a month, they could save 1.8 million FTE hours and $7.2 million annually—as well as freeing up 616 staff members to handle higher level tasks. In addition, automating these processes will speed order production, help personnel get paid faster, and eliminate human error.
“Our initial RPA proof of concept saved the Air Force 15,000 man hours and cost under $5,000 to create with about 20 hours of work. If we deployed ten of these bots a month, we could save 1.8 million man hours and liberate 616 airmen from doing antiquated, repetitive processes.” - Captain Melinda Monahan, U.S. Air Force
Since the first UiPath joined the federal workforce in 2017 agencies have moved from a “toe in the water” approach to “waist deep” approach. Seventy-nine agencies now using UiPath have evaluated the security and fitness of the hyperautomation platform for their networks. In each case the software is approved, and the bots are operating with the same security credentials as you or I on a government network. The narrative that RPA is fast and easy to integrate into the IT infrastructure is proven. Whether it is the 90 day standup on an AZURE cloud at the Defense Logistics Agency or the use of the multi-tenant Orchestrator at the Pentagon or standing up 300 robot during the worst of the New York COVID-19 pandemic to eradicate the hundreds of thousand unemployment insurance claims – RPA works.
Now is the time for “everyone in the pool”. In March we had to flatten the curve of COVID-19. Agencies at every level of government now have to flatten the curve of work. Mountains of backlog combined with tremendous disruption to the workplace and exacerbated by declining budgets and revenue from fees all have a vaccine: UiPath.
This is not the time for employees to be stuck behind a keyboard droning away entering data and reworking mistakes. Agencies have a proven and secure solution with RPA to move employees from necessary and lower-valued work to the human to human more higher-valued work.