Phil Vincenzes serves as IntelliDyne’s Senior Vice President and Chief Analytics Officer. He spearheads IntelliDyne’s efforts to deliver advanced analytics and knowledge-based solutions such as DashBlox performance management products that provide real-time visibility into enterprise IT operations and the programmatic execution of contract requirements. We asked Phil a few questions about artificial intelligence in defense agencies.
Are government agencies embracing automation?
We are seeing more and more government agencies adopting automation practices to modernize operations, reduce human error, and improve compliance with contracting protocols and financial analysis and reporting. GSA is leading the implementation of Robotic Process Automation, or RPA, across the government with the creation of an RPA Community of Practice (CoP). The President’s 2020 budget plan called out RPA as a tool agencies should consider to help with budget and staffing issues while improving service to the public. The OMB memorandum 18-23 (M-18-23) also suggested the use of RPA to “develop and implement strategies for shifting resources to high-value activities.”1 I discuss this in more detail in a previous post — Preparing Federal Agencies’ Embrace of Automation Technology.
If RPA's the next big thing, why haven't we heard more about it?
You may have heard of it by other names. RPA is part of the wider field of artificial intelligence and is defined as a human-centered partnership of people and AI working together to enhance performance. RPA in particular is augmented intelligence applied to the long-standing field of process automation to reduce costs, improve speed, and improve accuracy.
What are some common ways RPA is being used now?
There are really four key ways that government agencies are using RPA:
- Improve operational efficiency and integrate legacy systems with new enterprise applications and digital business.
- Automate high-volume, transactional tasks related to document handling and validation.
- Dramatically reduce costs by supplementing office workers with digital workers, keeping process management in-house.
- Deliver on government mandates and improve government program performance.
Do you have any lessons learned that show the need for automation?
In our experience, automation is applicable to virtually any aspect of government IT, from data entry and data extraction, to file transfer and content migration, to enterprise application integration and reporting. Government agencies are turning to automation for a results-oriented solution to automate repetitive, data-heavy, time-consuming processes and to streamline integration between business departments and the IT division.
An example is Cerner’s health care IT team, which needed to streamline data integration from different applications into a single medical records application for clients. Automation eliminated the manual steps, increased productivity, and accelerated bringing new clinics online.2
Automated robots, or bots as they’re called, can work independently, or by having a person start, run and stop the bot. As the Defense Logistics Agency (DLA) learned, having secure digital identities is equally as important for bots as it is for people. DLA needed secure access for independent bots, so the team issued each one a common access card (CAC) credential, which are issued to all Pentagon employees.3 You can learn more in our Got Bots blog.
Can RPA improve IT systems management in any field?
Absolutely. RPA has proven to reduce costs, increase speed, improve accuracy and improve compliance, which can benefit any field or industry. For instance, healthcare providers are embracing RPA to manage inventory, digitize patient files, optimize appointment scheduling, and execute billing and claims processing.4 DLA recognized that any structured activity with well-defined business rules is a potential candidate for RPA, from imaging laptops and configuring servers to onboarding employees and password resets to improving the agency’s demand planning efforts. Other processes ripe for automating include evidentiary matter gathering, form DD-1425 approvals, NATO Commercial and Government Entity codes and IDOC error fixes.5 Our white paper, Embrace the Future of Work, discusses this in detail.
Which processes should I consider automating with RPA?
RPA’s best candidates are processes that involve high repetition of tasks, such as:
See the tip sheet, here.
How does RPA affect IT and DevOps?
RPA empowers IT and DevOps teams by offering robust, governable technology that promises faster and less expensive value creation. Because the bots interact with applications through the existing application’s user interface, no coding is required and there’s little change needed to existing manual processes. Also, an RPA solution can be implemented in a matter of days or weeks compared to months or years for traditional development projects. The need for fewer development resources and faster implementation is what helps RPA solutions deliver a rapid ROI and ongoing cost savings.6
Will RPA replace outsourcing?
No, outsourcing will continue to be a viable, cost-effective option for voice-based jobs that require a human touch. It would be more accurate to consider RPA as a complement to outsourcing. In fact, outsourcing companies are becoming some of the biggest users of RPA technologies, because RPA shifts dependency away from tasks to an extent that those people can focus on other more important areas.