5 minute read 28 Jan 2021
Robot finger about to touch human finger

How is intelligent automation disrupting the public sector

Authors
Brad Duncan

Ernst & Young LLP US Government & Public Sector State Local & Education Leader

Assisting governments in enhancing the citizen experience and building effective teams. And, enjoy being on the water with my family, grilling or traveling.

Chris Estes

Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) US State, Local & Education Market | Finance, Operations & Technology Leader

Orchestrating EY capabilities that accelerate growth and innovation for governments and helping to enhance citizen interaction with emerging technologies. In my free time I enjoy slalom water skiing.

5 minute read 28 Jan 2021

In today’s disruptive environment, work in the public sector has a new normal: intelligent automation (IA).

Workers in the government and public sector, who range from pockets of millennials to the clear majority — those nearing retirement — perform many responsibilities and tasks that could easily be automated, and, as of the early 2000s, should be automated.

Whether you are a small agency or at the enterprise level, how effectively and efficiently you operate is fundamental to your success

Organizations achieve greater efficiency by using automation to do things differently. But they will achieve breakthrough performance by using intelligent automation to do different things. The bar has been raised for IA; let’s look at how high.

Solutions and the market

The virtual worker

  • Entering data into systems
  • Processing data in Excel
  • Sending emails
  • Comparing data sets

Example: Robotic process automation (RPA)

The virtual reader

  • Keyword-based recognition
  • Text summarization
  • Unstructured-to-structured translation

Example: Document intelligence (DI), natural language processing (NLP)

The virtual talker

  • Communication focused
  • Predictive behavior
  • Text and voice

Example: Chatbots

The virtual thinker

  • Algorithm-driven insights
  • Machine learning
  • Predictive analytics
  • Big data focused

Example: machine learning (ML), computer vision (CV)

Most organizations start with RPA, mainly because it impacts the greatest number of business processes (on average 60% to 70%). It is considered inexpensive and is regarded as nonintrusive technology. RPA is often referred to as modern-day “surface integration” or “screen scraping.”

Business process management (BPM)

Forrester recently analyzed the top 15 RPA providers and identified UiPath, Automation Anywhere, Blue Prism and EdgeVerve as leaders (as of Q4 2019).

These RPA vendors not only dominate the market share but continue to explore new functionality and to push the intelligent automation envelope. RPA, no longer an experimental proof of concept, is a multibillion-dollar industry.

Gartner recently shared that 60% of organizations over $1 billion in annual revenues “have begun their automation journey.”

By 2022, IA adoption, in some form, will have reached 85%.

Adopting and embracing IA isn’t a matter of “if” — it’s a matter of “when.” For organizations to be productive and competitive, IA must be incorporated into multiple front- and back-office functions as well as citizen self-service outlets.

Why is it important to me?

Many states are adopting a movement to reduce manual activities and make more sense of data by rolling out digital strategy initiatives. In a recent US survey conducted by Ernst & Young LLP, more than half of the respondents confirmed that paper is used for 41% to 60% of business processes to capture ink signatures, complete workflow or store general information. Intelligent automation supports and further enables this active movement, as many organizations are finding ways to transfer paper-based processes or steps to IA and are realizing significant returns through speed of processing, tighter controls, improved audit records, increased visibility, and enhanced data analytics and insights.

Significant returns of IA

The new normal

Several factors indicate an increasingly important role for IA.

  • Research indicates that on average, about 20% of dedicated employees across many states are eligible to retire today. That number is projected to reach 30% in many states in the next five years.
  • We see many organizations making strategic moves or evaluating their budget and staffing pool to plan for the next recession.
  • There is a need to attract and retain young talent and make working in the government and public sector more stimulating for millennials.

Budget-constrained agencies are seeking outlets to do more with the same or do more with less. In today’s environment, tremendous energy is expended on essential administrative work. Another recent survey indicates that, by far, manually intensive work consumes most of the exposed manual effort in this sector:

Which jobs are most exposed to automation technology?

With its hundreds of processes, the government and public sector lends itself particularly well to intelligent automation. IA enables transformational change that can help an organization deliver timely, leading-edge services. The major driver is the iterative, outcome-oriented approach that leverages the existing infrastructure, processes and underlying data.

An intelligent automation strategy

The rollout and adoption of an intelligent automation strategy should address current business issues and fit within the cultural pace of your people’s agenda. If you are on your first IA frontier, you may start with a pilot, wrap a governance model around those capabilities, build out a pipeline of opportunities ripe for IA, educate yourself on the technologies, and use new solutions to realize scale and eventually stable consumption. Organizations experiencing the greatest success have a balanced approach in their first six months across strategy, governance and technology.

  1. IA strategy is the arms and legs of the program. It feeds the overall model, creating awareness and delivering a pipeline of data-driven practical automation candidates. The active pipeline and backlog are critical to ramping up a program, allowing for team members of all skill levels to get involved and contribute ideas to feel part of a broader purpose and program.
  2. Establishing an operating model has considerable importance in this sector. Governance that ties purpose, outcomes, roles and responsibilities, organizational readiness, process, technology, and production support is the most important workstream required to grow a program. Decisions made early on should have the longer-term program in mind. In a complex environment, it is particularly important that ownership and decision-making be transparent and simple.
  3. Automation delivery and IT enablement are focused on building the solutions. This process often follows systems development life cycle (SDLC) methodology, but some organizations find a hybrid between agile and traditional waterfall standards. Although many standards, templates and policies already exist, some new policies are required for the digital workforce.

Read the full report to know more.

There is a well-known adage that advises, “Stop spending so much time and effort getting to the what and instead worry about the why.” The use of IA is well ingrained within the walls of many commercial companies. To them it is business as usual and necessary for survival. However, citizens are waking up and wondering, why not in the government and public sector? Your time is now.

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Summary

In today’s disruptive environment, work in the government and public sector has a new normal: intelligent automation. Organizations achieve greater efficiency by using automation to do things differently. But they will achieve breakthrough performance by using intelligent automation.

About this article

Authors
Brad Duncan

Ernst & Young LLP US Government & Public Sector State Local & Education Leader

Assisting governments in enhancing the citizen experience and building effective teams. And, enjoy being on the water with my family, grilling or traveling.

Chris Estes

Ernst & Young LLP (EY US) US State, Local & Education Market | Finance, Operations & Technology Leader

Orchestrating EY capabilities that accelerate growth and innovation for governments and helping to enhance citizen interaction with emerging technologies. In my free time I enjoy slalom water skiing.