Like many organizations today, state and local governments struggle to build and retain the skilled workforce they need to keep delivering essential services to constituents. With skilled workers in short supply across the economy, tech-savvy professionals may not find the mobile and agile workplace they are looking for in government bureaucracy. However, it is possible to build the workplace of the future within the strictures of government.
“It’s no secret that the legacy technology that runs state and local governments is long past its use-by date,” shared Dale Smith, Director of Workforce and Unemployment Insurance Solutions at Tata Consultancy Services (TCS). “The pandemic was the impetus state and local government technology leaders needed to finally sunset legacy environments and start the process of wholesale transformation – with a twist. The twist is that agency technology leaders have also embraced a change in perspective, with a commitment to building an IT environment that is forever-modern.”
“In a workplace where automation takes care of the simple actions, you create more meaningful roles where workers are able to bring value by delivering exceptional customer experiences.”
Turning to automation solutions is one way agencies can build an appealing, agile, and mobile-friendly work environment. “Intelligent automation creates unlimited opportunities to improve workflows and employee morale,” Smith explained. “There are so many tasks that agency workers manage on a daily basis that are simple enough to be automated. Benefit eligibility assessment, assigning cases to social workers, and fraud detection are just three that spring to mind.”
Workers should not fear job losses or cuts by the introduction of intelligent automation solutions. “In a workplace where automation takes care of the simple actions, you create more meaningful roles where workers are able to bring value by delivering exceptional customer experiences,” said Smith. “Even if we weren’t in a situation where there’s a worker shortage, automation is a fundamental part of building the workplace of the future. Automation can help to improve timeliness of service, refine and streamline operations, help to clear backlogs, and allow government workers to ‘get their heads above water,’ when many people feel overwhelmed by repetitive administrative tasks and bureaucratic processes.”
Looking at his field of expertise—unemployment insurance—Smith quickly identified how automation could improve worker and user experience. “At the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, there was a sudden surge in applications for unemployment insurance (UI) that states needed to review, evaluate, and either approve or deny,” Smith explained. “States weren’t able to hire more staff to review this surge in applications, and as a result, applicants had to wait months to receive their UI payments. Fraud was rampant among this surge of applications because of the pressures of moving more work more quickly. Many fraud indicators were overlooked in the process; this created an opportunity for criminals who were ready to take advantage of this unique situation. Automation could have taken care of the initial eligibility assessments using a dynamic questionnaire. Bots could have gathered facts from the questionnaire, which workers then could have evaluated using a combination of human intelligence and data to make informed decisions about eligibility. With automation helping to streamline the eligibility process, workers would have had more time to investigate the red flags that indicate fraud.”
As state and local government agencies emerge from the pressures of the pandemic, the time is right for IT leaders to begin implementing automation solutions. “There’s no time like now to get going,” concluded Smith. “We have a breathing space right now between the pandemic and whatever the next shock or crisis will be. By prioritizing the automation of routine tasks, agencies are not only ensuring a better experience for constituents looking to use vital services but also building the workplace of the future where workers have purposeful and meaningful jobs.”