Robotic process automation (RPA) is perhaps the most visible aspect of intelligent automation right now. It stands to transform agency operations by freeing up employees or contractors from repetitious tasks such as paying invoices, filing documents or managing human resources records. By giving those tasks over to software robots, an organization gains greater accuracy, faster processing and reduced errors, while enabling its human workforce to focus on high-value, mission-enhancing work.
But RPA also is a novel enough concept that agencies can often be unsure how to get started. Across the federal government, while we know of 25 agencies that are testing RPA right now; many who have not yet started are asking us how they should begin.
Luckily, getting started with RPA is not as hard as it might look. To get a general idea of what RPA can―and importantly, cannot―do, a good way to begin is to see some demonstrations. (CGI Federal’s Innovation Center in Arlington, Virginia, is a great place for this.) This insight will help you as you take stock of your own organization and choose which processes to automate.
Your ultimate goal should be to integrate RPA into a larger digital transformation strategy rather than approaching it piecemeal. While it is an effective strategy in some instances, it is not suitable for everything. Planning ahead helps ensure you are using it effectively and not misapplying it to processes where another solution would be a better fit.
As my colleague Andy Krohg recently wrote in his blog (Is the federal government ready for RPA?), RPA offers an opportunity to reengineer business processes. Don’t think of it as just a way to do better what you already do; it also can enable you to rethink what you do and refocus your efforts on today’s priorities.
Here are a few tips for getting started:
- Start small. A low-risk project of limited scope will give you some real-world experience and measureable return on investment, while minimizing the potential for harm. This will make it easier later to move into larger RPA implementations.
- Assess your organization for automation opportunities. Processes that are suitable for RPA are those that are rules-based and repetitious. These are processes that will rarely or never need a human judgment call. You can hold a process automation workshop to assess processes and choose your starting point.
- Build your business case. Prioritize which processes to automate and develop a business case to analyze where value can be derived. Focus on the value of increasing the speed and accuracy of the tasks you want to automate, and the resulting cost savings. You can also use this as an opportunity to gain stakeholder support by servicing multiple internal groups with RPA pilots.
- Determine the right operating model. Assess stakeholders and impact and select the right governance plan and operating model. Because the robots involved in RPA are software-based, they are not required to be in any specific location. They can be delivered in the same ways as any other software: into your own data center, via the cloud or as a service, for example.
- Identify your RPA partners. Don’t try to go it alone, especially not at first. Companies like CGI have amassed significant experience in planning, executing and assessing RPA across a wide variety of settings. Leverage your partner’s experience and skills to your advantage.
- Plan the strategic automation roadmap. Your first RPA projects may be tentative and experimental, but with success, you will be ready to plan a larger initiative. Return to the assessment phase and take a close look at your whole universe of processes.
CGI’s federal’s RPA services are specifically designed for government agencies and their unique needs. We can help you realize the benefits of automation without added complexity or risk.
Learn more about our RPA offerings and other Intelligent Automation capabilities in our white paper, "Intelligent Automation Opportunities in the Federal Government."
About this author
Vice President, Consulting Services
Kevin leads the Management Consulting and Business Systems Shared Services practices within CGI Federal. He is responsible for development of the business plan and growth in the management consulting area and manages Business Systems Shared Services offerings for back-office and mission systems. Kevin has a ...