Legacy systems and manual processes weren’t designed to withstand unexpected circumstances like a global pandemic. The public sector continually faces hurdles to parse through information and extract complete, high-quality data from claims forms to tax documents and passport applications. These challenges result in mounting backlogs, clerical errors and inefficiencies, and, worse, constituent and employee frustrations.
However, the good news is that technology has dramatically advanced over the last decade and we’re entering an exciting era where collaboration between humans and machines is outperforming legacy workflows. For government agencies, it is possible to reimagine the way things are being done to be more efficient, effective, and innovative.
So the question begs, how can today’s public agencies benefit from intelligent automation software?
Government Technology Insider (GTI): The pandemic created a backlog of tax returns, applications, unemployment claims, retirement account withdrawals, and now passport requests/renewal delays. What is your take on the state of these various situations?
Brendan MacCarthy (BM): When local, state, and federal agencies experience a surge in applications—as we see with passports now—the outdated, manual operations can’t keep pace with these unexpected peak times, making these bottlenecks more apparent as we attempt to emerge from the other side of the pandemic. The majority of processes across public entities are still largely paper-based, requiring more manual effort that is prone to clerical errors and resulting delays. This is particularly frustrating for individuals relying on timely assistance to get the service and support they need, and a driving motivation at Hyperscience as we help the public sector embrace more modern approaches to make sense of data and help create more frictionless experiences for constituents.
GTI: Emerging technologies, like automation, have long been feared. How exactly is this technology being used?
BM: Intelligent automation software merges humans, Artificial Intelligence, Machine Learning, and related automation technologies to help streamline complex processes and achieve greater efficiency. We see organizations across the public and private sector transform their back-office operations with Intelligent Document Processing (IDP), which is helping to parse through vast amounts of unstructured data, reducing administrative burden, expediting outcomes, and freeing up resources for enhanced decision-making and improved constituent relations. More importantly, solutions that leverage cutting-edge technology with human-in-the-loop functionality do so with higher degrees of reliability and accuracy so that organizations can be sure that the information they’re acting upon is correct.
GTI: What’s the difference between intelligent automation software and robotic process automation, for example?
BM: Predominantly, Robotic Process Automation (RPA) software performs the same structured, well-defined task repeatedly. Since it’s a more rules-based approach, there is very little room for variation, impeding the ability to automate large, dynamic, document-centric workflows in a meaningful and scalable way. Handwritten forms or unstructured document formats like images, for example, are traditionally outside of the strengths of RPA solutions, frequently trapping necessary data in those documents and creating costly delays and inaccurate information extraction.
Organizations solve this by seeking new solutions that extract and structure information for downstream usage or, more times than not, temporarily fix the growing problem by adding additional RPA on top of the existing. To that point, according to a 2019 Government Accountability Office report, the federal government applied a staggering 80 percent of its $90 billion IT budget on maintaining existing technology and aging legacy systems, which are more costly to maintain, more exposed to cybersecurity risks and less effective in meeting its intended purpose. To truly realize the benefits of modernization, the IT budgets should be applied to more sophisticated emerging technologies that can help the public sector upgrade and streamline their workflows—today and into the future.
GIT: How is the government benefiting from automation and other technology?
BM: Automation technology can accelerate even the slowest, most dated document-heavy processes, so the benefits are plentiful. Automation is helping to reduce data backlogs, for example, and digitize current or archival records, resulting in significant cost, time and service benefits for agencies and constituents alike. The passport processing delays mentioned earlier are upwards of four months and could be reduced to weeks or even days with intelligent automation software. There are countless other federal or state & local assistance programs ripe for efficiency gains, such as the SNAP Food Supplement program that have experienced an influx of applications, yet lack the ability to process efficiently and effectively, which could greatly impact the well-being of others and their ability to provide food for their loved ones.
Real lives are affected by these backlogs with many waiting for critical support to pay bills and their livelihood. This is where intelligent automation can streamline data classification and extract information from a diverse set of documents—improving both resource allocation and response times.
GTI: Looking ahead, where do you see the biggest opportunities?
BM: The beauty of intelligent automation is that it’s constantly learning and improving. The opportunity created by improved data extraction and digitization of workflows will enable the public sector to make better-informed decisions, more quickly and with a higher degree of equity. I can’t wait to see more organizations and departments adopt this technology and live up to their true potential to serve their constituents better.