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Submission #26

Submission information
Submitted by Michael Howell
Fri, 06/08/2018 - 3:11pm

Hot Tech Topics – Robotic Process Automation (RPA)

What is Robotic Process Automation?

Robotic Process Automation is simply the use of software ‘robots’ to perform repetitive operational activities. This all started out as Y2K (remember Y2K?) screen-scrapers. Over time these applications have evolved to the point they can eliminate the need for people to perform clerical processes. Like screen-scrapers, robotic process automation products typically interact directly with the user interface of an existing application. This is similar to the way chatbots like Siri/Alexa/Cortana interact with browsers and websites so you don’t have to. Robotic process automation could streamline many government processes, freeing up personnel for higher valued work.

Why is Robotic Process Automation such a hot tech topic for government?

There are a handful of successful vendors that offer COTS (Commercial Off The Shelf) software for operational processes ranging from ERP to F&A to HR to SCM. Regardless of the vendor/process combination, they all share a pair of common characteristics – their workflows are difficult to change programmatically and their major upgrades are difficult to implement. And yet…ever changing operational environments create the need to change those workflows regularly and with short lead times. The mismatch between characteristics (supply) and environment (demand) can “tie the organization into knots”.

RPA cuts through the knots with an elegant approach. Business users, with a deep understanding of the process, train the RPA tool. The RPA tool uses the existing user interfaces. The results include: cost reductions of 50-70% for high frequency tasks; improved service quality contributing to higher public trust; increased personnel morale and productivity, as staff are freed from repetitive work and reassigned to activities that improve service to citizens.

Caveat Emptor

One size does not fit all…seriously. 

Michael Conlin, Institute for Innovation, Innovators Circle Initiative Leader, DXC Technology

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