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What’s Next in Intelligent Automation at Federal Agencies

Scott Dulman
February 12, 2020

Introducing Intelligent Automation to Government Agencies

Intelligent automation combines Artificial Intelligence (AI), Robotic Process Automation (RPA), and Robotic Workforce Management (RWM) with workflow and low-code development to quickly deliver results. In the federal government, IT and program executives are using intelligent automation to modernize and transform programs and services. By adding the power of AI and RPA to their applications, agencies can dramatically improve operational efficiency, citizen experience, and staff engagement.

Today more agencies are implementing RPA. RPA provides software "bots" to automate high-volume, repeatable tasks within legacy processes and applications. RPA helps to eliminate redundant data entry, improve data quality, and reduce errors. RPA also automates repetitive tasks, such as cutting and pasting data across systems, answering routine phone calls, and responding to common web queries and email requests.

Agencies can reduce the costs involved with managing routine correspondence with citizens, businesses, employees, and other agencies with RPA. Combining case management and workflow with RPA drives better decision-making and increases productivity. In addition, process automation gives team members more time to focus on high-value initiatives and increases staff satisfaction.

Intelligent Automation Insights from the Appian CTO

Mike Beckley, Appian co-founder and chief technology officer, recently discussed intelligent automation trends, challenges, and opportunities with Federal News Network. He shared ways federal agencies can implement intelligent automation. Because every agency will have a unique grouping of data sets and system requirements, no single automated process will work for every situation, he explained. Federal leaders will need to assume diverse workflows, apply human insight to the robotic automation equation, and choose the appropriate tools for the specific application at hand.

Beckley suggested intelligent automation can automate tasks that are predetermined and do self-learning. Automating the mundane tasks associated with testing is one example which can free up expensive software developer resources. "What you do is model out how work needs to be done at any scale, and then automation techniques like robotic process automation can allow you to immediately add bots to process higher amounts of workload," Beckley said.

Listen to Beckley's interview on Federal News Network and read an article by host John Gilroy about what's next for intelligent automation and the federal government.

Growing Adoption of RPA in the Federal Government

Many agencies implemented RPA and launched pilot programs in 2019. The FDA Center for Drug Evaluation and Research, for example, has seven RPA projects in development including one that automates drug intake forms, freeing up the time of pharmaceutical and medical staff for the agency's core science mission. Bots determine where to route new drug, investigation and master file submissions across hundreds of workflows, delivering reviewers and project managers their assignments.

In 2019, the Defense Logistics Agency completed a first-of-its-kind proof of concept in government that allowed unattended bots to work around the clock. The Navy also completed intelligent automation pilot projects to improve their acquisition management processes.

The General Services Administration launched an RPA community of practice in 2019 that encourages agency collaboration on the development of software that mimics the keystrokes and mouse actions of employees to automate repetitive, manual tasks to save money, reduce errors, and improve services. One of the many agencies participating in the RPA community of practice, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, plans to use RPA to improve its permitting application operations.

You can learn more about the innovative ways federal agencies are using intelligent automation to transform their processes and systems from the Low-Code and Intelligent Automation Strategy at Department of Transportation webinar hosted by FCW.

What's Next: Robotic Workforce Management

Federal agencies must manage a changing workforce of RPA bots, AI, and people. Deloitte estimated there were more than 1,000 bots in use across the federal government but found agencies aren't rushing to scale these bots vertically because that requires putting controls in place for reskilling and performance measurement. Instead, agencies were more likely to scale RPA horizontally into additional, controlled use cases.

The Appian platform orchestrates the new, blended workforce of people, systems, and bots for federal IT leaders who want to leverage low-code automation in their mission application and core system processes. The platform also brings the best available native AI services from Google, Amazon, and Microsoft with no-code integration. Appian Robotic Workforce Manager (RWM) orchestrates the robotic workforce and solves four important RPA challenges:

    • GestiÛn del ciclo de vida de los robots

    • Case management para excepciones

    • PlanificaciÛn de robots

    • Expanded controls and reporting

Appian CTO Mike Beckley recommends, "Before you begin to automate, you should figure out how humans do the work and model that as its own human workflow and use workflow technology, process automation technology, to get the most out of your humans, and then supplement them with the right automated technique where appropriate."

Learn more about intelligent automation for federal agencies