Rising demand, strict budgets and shortage of time are all challenges you may face every day in the public sector. Add COVID-19 into the mix and there are now more constraints and issues to overcome than ever before. That’s where Robotic Process Automation (RPA) comes in.
RPA can save you time, money and resources, as well as create greater resilience in the face of COVID-19 uncertainty. Keep reading to find out more about RPA, its benefits and future challenges in the public sector.
What Is Robotic Process Automation?
Coined as the virtual workforce, RPA is a software tool that can automate processes, while maintaining accuracy and speed.
RPA has the ability to automate many tasks, from something simple such as generating responses to emails, to automating thousands of jobs all at the same time. Not only does it save employees time, but it also reduces the likelihood of human error.
RPA Uses to Consider In the Public Sector
RPA can create massive savings, both in terms of money and time. It’s estimated that RPA can generate a 25-50% cost saving, thanks to its ability to automate repetitive tasks, while also improving accuracy and auditability.
The uses of RPA can span across all areas of the public sector from central government to local government, as well as policing, health and education.
The key theme here is that RPA quickly completes repetitive tasks you can easily automate. We’re going to look into some of the key ways the public sector can use RPA, focusing on:
- Document Processing and Validation
- Data Management
- HR Processes
- Financial Management and Audit Trails
- Public Sentiment Analysis
- Data Logging
Document Processing and Validation
Document processing and validation is a simple and often mundane task that takes up many public sector employees’ time. By harnessing the powers of RPA to tackle this task, it can free up a lot of time they can better spend on more valuable tasks that require human input and are more rewarding.
Optical Character Recognition (OCR) gives RPA the ability to read and extract text from different sources into a digital format without carrying out this process manually.
RPA can also read, interpret and action data through the power of AI and machine learning.
Data management is one of the areas where public sector organisations can benefit from RPA the most. As with most processes you can automate through RPA, data management is a repetitive process that takes up human resources teams can use elsewhere.
The public sector can use RPA for efficient data management through data input, storage, migration, combination, reporting, and to avoid any inaccuracies or duplication. Having an effective, clean and automated database enabled through RPA can lead to many other efficiencies throughout your organisation.
Public sector organisations can also use RPA for several HR processes, including payroll, admin, employee experience, talent acquisition, and learning and development. This can free up your HR professionals’ time and allow them to focus more on human-centric relations, such as wellbeing and career progression.
Financial Management and Audit Trails
One of the main benefits of using RPA in financial management and audit trails is that using programmed bots reduces the chance of human error and inaccuracies. In the long run, this saves valuable time that could end up going on fixing human errors caused by oversight.
However, it’s essential to consider the risk of coding errors or unintentional changes produced by RPA, showing it isn’t always a fail-safe solution.
Public Sentiment Analysis
When paired together, RPA and sentiment analysis can gauge public opinion and whether the sentiment is positive or negative. RPA can gather textual data from various sources for the sentiment analysis to then gather data on.
This allows organisations like yours to gather feedback and act on it to better understand and improve your processes and relationships with the public.
Automating the data logging and analysis process can be particularly beneficial for the public sector, allowing you to quickly and effectively analyse data and draw conclusions. Public bodies, such as the Office for National Statistics (ONS), could massively benefit from automation generated by RPA.
Future Challenges of RPA In the Public Sector
Although using RPA in the public sector has many benefits, it doesn’t come without its challenges or reservations.
Concerns About the Abuse of Bots
One of the critical concerns that frequently arises when talking about automated processes and AI is the use of bots and how they can replace human need and interaction. In theory, this could lead to redundancies.
Although this is an understandable worry, particularly for those working within the public sector, the increasing use of RPA and bots does not necessarily mean fewer job roles. Instead, it means you can utilise human skills in other, more valuable areas.
Plus, the argument favouring RPA is that not every task can be carried out by automated processes such as RPA. RPA can take over mundane, repetitive tasks, in turn freeing up time for employees — that they may not currently have — to spend on higher-value and relationship-building functions that require human interaction.
Concerns About Third-Party Data Access
With the increased use of bots comes the increased concern of the risk of third-party data access. However, RPA can help companies be safer with their data. RPA can ensure that GDPR is implemented, implied, create data anonymity and produce audit logs.
Lack of Knowledge About RPA Capabilities
There are so many capabilities of RPA that it would be nearly impossible to use them all at one time. The possibilities are so vast that many don’t realise the extent of RPA’s capabilities and how it can benefit public sector organisations.
RPA can transform how your organisation operates with the right aims, rules and processes in place.
An RPA Overview
Adopting RPA can also future-proof your systems. The use of AI and automation will only increase, so the earlier you adopt, the more ready you’ll be to proceed with what the future presents, particularly in a post-pandemic world.
RPA also has the opportunity to empower your colleagues, giving them back their time to spend on more fulfilling tasks, rather than spending time on processes you can easily automate.
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