Federal RPA CoP (Federal Robotic Process Automation Community of Practice) has published a report named ‘The State of Federal RPA’ where they analyzed the adoption and outcomes of RPA technology in the federal government.
The report assesses RPA’s impact for federal government projects, identifies implementation trends, and highlights best practices for future deployment.
In this article we will give a brief overview of the key findings and draw up some conclusions based on the report outcomes.
What is RPA (by Federal RPA CoP)
Here is how the term is defined by Federal RPA CoP:
Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is a low- to no-code Commercial Off the Shelf (COTS) technology that can automate repetitive, rules-based tasks. All RPA technologies emulate human actions, enabling process owners or staff with appropriate training to rapidly design, test, and deploy automation.
Key findings of the survey
The maturity assessment survey by the Federal RPA CoP covers 23 government RPA programs and evaluates 6 areas of RPA program maturity:
- Automations in production
- Annualized hours of workload reduction
- Process improvement capabilities
- Program impact
- Opportunity identification
Below is a quick overview of the 8 key findings within the assessment.
Finding 1. RPA program maturity increased by 70% during 2020
According to the assessment, an average RPA Program Maturity increased from 1.3 in FY19 to 2.2 in FY20. A 70% increase this year is explained by the limited success in implementing actual automation in 2019.
The end of FY20 showed positive dynamics for some aspects, i.e. increased capabilities, deployed automation, and workload reduction hours, which affected significant gains in maturity levels.
Finding 2: RPA programs are deploying more complex automations across functions
In 2020 RPA programs have been deployed at a faster rate, at diverse functions, and tend to be more complex compared to 2019.
The number of automations deployed in 23 programs has increased from 219 in 2019 to 460 in 2020, which is a 110% annual gain.
Below you could see RPA Use Cases across various functions in CoP Use Case Inventory:
Finding 3: RPA Programs are deploying process improvement capabilities
The Federal RPA CoP’s Program Playbook notes that mature automation requires re-evaluation and improvement of the existing processes.
As proof of the statement, they provide clear statistics – only 5 of 23 programs assessed report no process improvement capabilities. The majority of the programs have implemented process reengineering and implementation of compliance control measures.
Finding 4. RPA programs have revealed strong demand for automation
The assessment of the level of interest in RPA adoption from the stakeholders and the business process owners has shown the following results:
- The customer demand for RPA is sustainable, and the larger the scale of the RPA project the bigger the ROI
- Long term workforce planning should become an integral part of any RPA program, and the choice between full-time federal employees and contractors should be made.
- The demand within 23 programs is similar across government, the same issues are met within various departments
Finding 5: RPA programs have had limited success in implementing IA technologies
The assessment has concluded that agencies need to be deliberate while incorporating advanced technologies:
- Have a clear AI implementation strategy
- Address security concerns
- Consider legal and ethical considerations with regards to data management
Finding 6: RPA programs are increasingly adopting a COE
Implementation of the Center of Excellence results in the consolidation of RPA spend within an agency and stimulates RPA-in-scale projects.
The figure below reflects RPA Program Impact by Organization Type:
Finding 7: RPA programs are overcoming barriers related to IT approvals
IT approval challenges were a major constraint for RPA agencies in 2019. Basically, it included 3 aspects:
- IT security approvals
- Automation credentialing
- Data privacy controls
The mentioned challenges have been met by incorporating multiple measures, such as the deployment of fully unattended automation due to issuing NPE account credentials.
Finding 8: RPA programs are adopting smarter technology platforms
As the majority of the programs are using a virtual desktop infrastructure or enterprise on-prem production environment the following aspects should be considered:
- The enterprise production environment (both on-prem and cloud) provides performance optimization increasing consistency, security, and scalability
- The federal procurement cycle and IT approvals can cause delays in RPA implementation
The figure below represents RPA Program Production Environment Maturity Levels based on the report findings:
Here is how Gerard Badorrek, GSA CFO, CAP Goal 6 Co-Lead and Federal RPA CoP Sponsor, describes the current demand of RPA across federal sector:
The CoP promotes using standardized metrics within all federal RPA programs to provide accurate broad-scale statements of RPA impact and outcomes. This report furthers both of those CoP goals. It clearly conveys that RPA is having a significant impact across the federal sector. Demand for RPA solutions is strong and growing.
Following this quote and based on the findings outlined above, a key to success for federal government RPA projects in terms of scalability and sustainability is taking relevant measures to achieve executive buy-in, deploy Center of Excellence, and implement quality program management for continuous improvement.
Apart from the findings, the State-Federal report includes showcases from various fields including the U.S Department of Agriculture, General Services Administration (Office of the Chief Financial Officer), U.S. Department of the Treasury (Bureau of the Fiscal Service), and even National Aeronautics and Space Administration (National Shared Service Center).
All these programs achieved tangible success and rapid growth in RPA adoption in comparison with FY2019. For some of the programs annual workload savings reached more than 300%.
Download the Federal RPA Community of Practice Report to find more insights on RPA adoption in federal government. The report is available via the link below.