Automation must be at the forefront of IT modernization efforts if the federal government is to succeed in improving public service delivery, customer service and employee onboarding.
Improving citizen interactions with government websites, services and employees must be a top priority for federal executives, as well as creating positive employee onboarding experiences. Yet achieving these goals in government remains a persistent barrier for many federal executives. However, one technology is already helping federal leaders overcome these barriers.
According to the 2020 GSA RPA Playbook, various federal agencies have already successfully deployed robotic process automation (RPA) technology, which uses software robots to automate digital tasks typically handled by humans. From automating payments to installing chatbots to answer citizen inquiries, opportunities to improve federal customer service and employee onboarding are numerous and practical, particularly when deploying automation combined with other emerging technologies, such as artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML). This makes RPA a beneficial tool for citizens and employees.
Here are four ways federal executives can use automation as a catalyst to improve federal customer service and employee onboarding:
1. Upskill employees to deliver personalized customer service
Deploying RPA will put the federal workforce on the path to success where software robots work alongside employees, helping them to complete rote, repetitive administrative tasks. However, RPA will not replace the federal workforce. Implementing RPA frees employees’ time to allow them to work on strategic projects and dedicate more time toward building new skills. With advanced skills and increased availability enabled by RPA implementation, employees can better serve the public by resolving complex problems for citizens more efficiently while providing more personalized service.
2. Process applications, forms and other data sources for faster service delivery
Citizens who interact with government websites and services want a fast, convenient experience. They also want quick responses to their requests. Automation can be used to expedite text extraction from applications and other online forms and data sources without human intervention–saving employee time and taxpayer dollars. This speeds up access to critical human services such as child adoption paperwork, housing assistance requests and federal food benefits applications. Recently, the Veterans Benefits Administration (VBA) deployed automation to deliver faster, more transparent services to veterans. In this instance, automation technology provided VBA adjudicators with a tool to intelligently index records and accurately expedite decisions on service benefits.
3. Protect against cyber threats
With daily cyber threats against the U.S. government and critical infrastructure, security is of the utmost importance when protecting citizen data. One of the requirements outlined in the TMF fund and various OMB and White House cybersecurity agendas is the deployment of secure technology to protect citizen data across agency and vendor networks. Federal chief information security officers (CISOs) should consider deploying RPA solutions that maintain compliance with federal data security regulations and allow agencies to act immediately once a data breach occurs. Integrating RPA technology with AI and ML is also more dependable regarding cyber threat intelligence and monitoring. Furthermore, it supports identifying network threats faster and more efficiently than humans.
4. Streamline employee recruitment and onboarding
On average, it takes agencies 98 days to onboard new talent—more than double the time it takes in the private sector, according to the Partnership for Public Service 2021-2022 Impact Report. RPA can help simplify and automate many manual tasks associated with employee onboarding, freeing up human resource (HR) employees to focus on proactive hiring and recruiting tasks. RPA can also enhance the employee’s onboarding experience. For instance, RPA can help track new employees’ tasks while identifying incomplete or overdue items, such as required I-9 form verifications. RPA can notify both the HR department and the employee, which helps agencies stay aligned with federal compliance requirements. Additionally, if an onboarding system is not yet integrated with an agency’s payroll system, software robots can be used to read forms on an onboarding screen and enter the necessary information into agencies’ payroll systems.
Putting the public and employees first
Automation must be at the forefront of IT modernization efforts if the federal government is to succeed in improving public service delivery, customer service and employee onboarding. Automation is a transformational technology that enables better customer services, expedited outcomes and improved work experiences for civil servants. Federal Chief Information Officer and TMF Board Chair Clare Martorana outlined her vision in an OMB press release: “The American people deserve a Government that puts people at the center of everything it does.”
Automation, alongside other emerging technologies, is the technological foundation that will help the federal government achieve this vision.
Jerrod McBride is vice president of public sector at UiPath