Digital transformation is top of mind for government agencies, yet according to a recent Gartner report, digital maturity in the government remains low. In fact, based on data from the Gartner report over 80 percent of government organizations report that their digital ventures are in the initial and developing stages. Burdened by limited resources, restrictive budgets, and red tape-laden compliance, agencies are shying away from digital initiatives. However, one agency, the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) is turning to an innovative technology – Robotic Process Automation (RPA.) – to break down these barriers.
“Automation is increasingly gaining acceptance in the public sector, so the use of robotics is a natural next step for the government to automate tedious, repetitive tasks for a variety of benefits,” said Chris Townsend, Vice President of Federal Sales at UiPath.
RPA is accelerating digital transformation, streamlining processes, and empowering employees, shared Meikle Paschal, Program Manager for Robotic Process Automation, USCIS. Paschal built the RPA program at the USCIS from the ground up with the goal of data management standardization, for which he recently won a Government innovation Rising Star Award. “I saw an opportunity in the first year to use RPA to change the way we handle data,” he shared in an interview with Government Technology Insider. “We have a lot of different systems and as we look at these systems, we are realizing we have data that is the same. We needed to make sure there is a way to process this constantly.”
And that’s where RPA came in to play.
“USCIS has a broad, enterprise-wide vision for how RPA can support their digital transformation efforts,” said Will Choi, Founder & CEO of VerticalApps. “This automation-first mindset is how USCIS is able to be so successful so quickly with RPA. Their approach can help other agencies reach this level of proficiency and expand modernization efforts across the government.”
In the same way that USCIS implemented RPA to build a standard infrastructure, all government agencies can use the technology to power digital transformation efforts. “Digital transformation really is front and center to replace and standardize manual processes. You can go through very expensive risk updates to figure out how all these systems interconnect with each other, but RPA is a very risk-averse way to bring in this modernization approach,” shared Paschal.
The USCIS have been able to cut costs, decrease risk, and improve efficiency across the agency by “making repeatable tasks consistent across the board. If these tasks can be automated and can reduce your processing time from hours to minutes, RPA reduces risk and saves valuable time,” he said. The USCIS, under Paschal’s guidance, began implementing RPA for back-office operations and mission support including HR and accounting, but there is much more that RPA can do.
“I’m hoping that as we start to scale out, we can implement unattended bots where they can be executed on a schedule. Everything would be set up so the bots could have tasks complete with no human direction,” Paschal explained. This will become more important as the USCIS broadens their footprint and adds more call centers, he added. “RPA enables digital transformation and allows people to focus on higher-level tasks. The robot will automatically complete tasks and it’s lessening the burden on employees.”
With this growth coming, Paschal and the USCIS are focusing on retraining and rescaling with the creation of a robotic service team. “The idea is to take an enterprise approach to this. You want everyone using this technology to make their life easier and by putting this tool in as many hands as possible while also having somewhere at the top that they can come back to, it helps with implementation,” he shared.
For the USCIS, RPA has brought value to employees and leadership. “Automatic and consistent data processes provide information quickly to staff and streamline tasks so our breadth of work with data quality and integrity is greater,” he concluded. Government agencies need to tackle backlogs and do more with the staff they already have. RPA doesn’t replace people. Rather, RPA increases the productivity of the personnel you already have.
“The amount of time they are saving, the efficiencies they are gaining, and the amount of dollars they are saving is unparalleled,” said Jim Walker, Federal CTO, and Director, Public Sector Marketing at UiPath in a recent Government Technology Insider podcast.
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