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Automation set to revamp public services

JudyGoldman

Guest post by Arthur Cole

Like in the business world, recent innovation in government IT is poised to radically transform the delivery of public services, and for the better. The same automation and orchestration technologies that are boosting economic performance around the world are allowing local, state, and national governments to streamline workflows and focus more intently on consumer-facing outcomes.

This is easier said than done, of course, and many government agencies, including those in advanced nations, suffer from aging infrastructure and processes that must be upgraded or replaced under tight budgetary confines and without disrupting service delivery.

Automation as a public service

If a recent report from process outsourcing firm Arvato is any guide, government officials are just as forward-leaning as their business counterparts when it comes to automating their workflows. More than half of all public sector managers have looked into the use of robotic process automation (RPA) to streamline their operations, and 21 percent are expecting field trials within the coming year. The key driver, though, isn't necessarily the need to cut costs, but to handle increased workloads with the resources they have at their disposal now. The report says 73 percent of agencies have seen increased work volumes in the past year, while 68 percent have already had their head counts trimmed.Automation_set_to_revamp_public_services.jpg

The problem is particularly acute in sensitive areas of the government where hiring and retaining qualified individuals is a challenge, says Bob Beck, vice president and general manager of IPsoft's Federal Region. The TSA, for example, is looking to hire 6,000 screeners, but only about one in 100 applicants makes it through the hiring process. By automating entry-level IT jobs, the agency could lighten the load on its human workforce and direct it toward functions that require higher levels of cognition. An agency like the IRS, meanwhile, could dramatically enhance its customer service operations, which at the moment responds to only about half of the 100 million inquiries it receives between January and April.

Unfortunately, automation can't simply be deployed as a platform atop legacy infrastructure. Instead, most agencies will first have to build a more virtualized, abstract data environment, particularly on the network layer, says Steve Wallow, chief solutions architect at Brocade Federal . The initial goal should be a high degree of "cross-domain integration," which enables functions to flow seamlessly from resource to resource—resulting in greater efficiency and faster resolution of issues. At the same time, agencies should embrace a DevOps-style of process management that supports a more agile, collaborative work environment and allows systems and people to become more productive.

Meeting user expectations

As the world becomes more mobile and more connected, this level of functionality isn't just desirable in government circles—it's necessary. As McKinsey's Andrew Grant noted on a recent podcast, today's consumer of government services is just as demanding as the consumer of business services, and this will force agencies in all levels of government to work together in new and innovative ways. This will impact both the delivery of direct services to citizens, such as aid distribution and document processing, to less tangible areas like reducing crime and improving education. And as automation becomes supplemented with artificial intelligence, machine learning and other advances, government leaders will gain the ability to reverse-engineer the delivery of services by defining an outcome first and then implementing the automated processes to achieve it.

As in other data-driven organizations these days, innovation in government IT is driven by the need to do more with less. Automating routine, repetitive tasks enables agencies to leverage their technological and human assets to their full potential, producing a more effective and responsive government in the bargain. And—to the delight of taxpayers everywhere—it should bring costs down as well.

Judy-Anne Goldman
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About the Author

JudyGoldman

My work with HPE's Enterprise.nxt team gives me a way to share my passion for emerging technology. I love connecting people to innovation, and sharing stories that help others engage with and understand the world around them. I'm a digital nomad, often found traveling with my micro companion KC, a 10-pound mini Dachshund.

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