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  • Writer's pictureJens Pistorius

Public Sector Innovation through RPA

Robotic Process Automation (RPA) has been around for a few years now and in the corporate world it is more often than not the preferred solution option, particularly when the strategic focus is on productivity improvements.

But even beyond efficiency gains, Robotic Process Automation has enabled the transformation of many different types of business processes which has often led to enhanced customer experiences. Yet, contrary to what many business leaders and executives were made to believe, RPA is not the panacea for every poorly performing business process, nor is RPA an off-the-shelf solution which you simply unpack and start using. Without the right guidance and governance, businesses have and will continue to miss out on leveraging the full potential of Robotic Process Automation.

Like with many disruptive technologies, also with RPA it’s the startups and corporates that pioneer the space and help to mature the technology through a fail-and-learn approach. In contrast, the public sector appears to take, for various reasons, a more conservative approach when it comes to innovation. However, several precursors seem to suggest that the public sector is now ready for RPA prime-time.

In various public sector service domains, it appears that internal as well as customer facing processes have achieved a certain maturity level which is one of the pre-conditions for successful RPA implementations. The RPA technology itself, while still improving, has also overcome its teething troubles and consultants in this space have acquired a significant body of knowledge in regards to the success factors and potential pitfalls of Robotic Process Automation. This has led us to the conclusion that:

“The public sector, as well as the RPA industry are ready to join forces, which will improve business processes and deliver better service experiences to the people of Australia!”

The corporate world and the public sector may serve different purposes and may use different business models; however, they are surprisingly similar when it comes to business processes and technology. The vast majority of business process can be seen as a succession of several discrete activities. These activities can be categorised into four different activity classes: Data Entry, Data Processing, Decision Making and Data Management. Data Processing and Data Management are activities that are already performed predominantly by computing systems. Whereas Data Entry and Decision-Making activities are mostly performed by humans. As most business processes involve activities of every class, it comes to an interplay between human activities and system activities as shown in the diagram.

Robotic Process Automation mimics human activities and as such it performs the task not only faster but also in the same consistent high quality. However, the true and probably less obvious benefit of automated activities is not the time saving compared to a human performing the activity, but the enablement of straight-through-processing (STP). From an end-to-end business process perspective, the biggest time waster is not the human or the computing system, it is actually the periods when the process is idle.

This idle time can easily consume up to 80 per cent of the total process cycle time. It is typically the interplay or the required hand-shake between human activities and system activities that is causing unnecessary delays in end-to-end business processes.

The biggest improvements we have seen is when Robotic Process Automation is not only used to automate human activities but in addition is working in conjunction with workflow management systems to create fully integrated business processes where systems, bots and humans work frictionless hand-in-hand. Ultimately, in the corporate world as well as in the public sector, it is the customer which should benefit from new technologies, and Robotic Process Automation has clearly the potential to deliver these improved customer experiences.

Running an effective Robotic Process Automation program requires more than just RPA developers. There are a number of reasons why RPA initiatives fail to deliver the expected benefits: selecting the wrong process, not bringing IT and Security on board, underestimating operational and maintenance cost, lack of governance and poor change management are some of the common mistakes. In order to avoid the pitfalls of RPA it is highly recommended to seek professional advice from those who have experienced both sides of the story.

Depending on where you are on your RPA Journey your organisation will have different needs and different objectives. The RPA Maturity Model provides a proven framework for your RPA initiatives regardless of size and current progress. In their quest to improve productivity some large organisations have used shortcuts on their RPA journey but learned the hard way that a full scale and sustainable RPA capability cannot be achieved without passing a number of milestones.


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