The public sector is in a continuous turmoil, due to various challenges. Economic shifts and the corresponding pressing need to control costs, recurrent changes in the administration, or constantly fluctuating public priorities which makes the provision of effective service to citizens a difficult to attain target.
Just to get a concrete idea as to the cost issue, consider the fact that the global public debt is currently US$61 trillion and growing, while the annual global public-sector budget deficit reaches 5% of global GDP.
Data such as these can be taken as a call for action, and the private sector with its superior ability to provide adequate services can be used as a model for improvement. The adoption of robotic process automation in the public sector, for instance, is a step towards digital transformation which is likely to save government working hours, cut down costs, improve productivity, and temper citizens’ dissatisfaction by better addressing their oscillating demands.
A paper from the McKinsey Global Institute estimates that the automation potential of half the activities in the public sector is large.
What impact does this have on the Australian public sector?
It means that as much as US$76 billion can be saved by streamlining the processes by means of automation. This money could be used in an attempt to resolve problematic public services and to improve the budget.
Some examples of successful RPA deployment are NASA’s robot George Washington which speeds up funds distribution to a matter of hours instead of days. Another one is Truman, which can accurately complete pre-negotiation tasks in just a few seconds.
A recent Deloitte report refers to the use of RPA in the public sector as the ‘the new machinery of government’. The benefits it is likely to bring about are the main reason for this appreciative phrase.
Consider the reduction of staff’s time spent on routine, monotonous tasks and the consequential opportunities to allow more time to get involved in interactions with the public.
The positive outcome is twofold. For one, improved customer service, and second, more satisfied staff, with increased self-efficacy perception just because they know that their efforts do serve well their fellow human beings.
RPA can also lead to data improvement, and thereby support more effective management decision-making. Because RPA implementation is low cost, fast, and significantly less risky than other kinds of digital transformations, it’s a preferable solution to other proposals for dealing with the above mentioned challenges faced by the public service.
Use cases of robotic process automation in the public sector
Assuming that the brief argument from the benefits of RPA has rung a bell, we will go along with our pragmatically oriented approach to business and mention some application areas in the public sector.
Questions such as those that we mention here provide a general guideline for selecting the most appropriate processes to initiate the automation journey, e.g., processes that are high volume, repetitive, time sensitive, and have a high cost impact.
There are by and large five domains of the public sector where the outcomes of RPA deployment are simply unmissable: central and local government, policing, health, and education.
The use cases below, however, cannot be categorically divided between them, since the list of processes is far more versatile than a univocal perspective of the domain of applicability. The bottom line is that software robots can provide the necessary assistance to bypass more effectively departmental, procedural and technological silos, irrespective of the public sector domain where they may occur.
1. Document handling and validation
Such transactional tasks are crucial for proper functioning of the sector, yet a significant cause for migraines for the staff members who have to scrupulously carry them out. The good news is that, with a little help from your software friends that can work fatigue-free 24/7, the performance of the government program can be significantly improved.
A further consequence of RPA deployment for document handling and validation is the reduction of operational costs.
2. Reconciliation and reporting
The need for reconciliation processes is highly variable and so are the resource demands. Therefore a scalable workforce is what is needed for most efficient goal attainment when it comes to reconciliation and reporting.
Whether you have in mind reporting as a whole, general ledger reconciliation, or the activation of fixed assets, passing these tasks onto the shoulders of software robots results in efficient resource utilization, which automatically translates into significant cost reduction.