Millions of hours are wasted on administrative functions in the federal government each year. Those hours could be put to better use than handling manual, time-consuming and often repetitive tasks. But these tasks are essential to meeting specific federal agency requirements. Fortunately, the advent of intelligent process automation (IPA) enables agencies to ensure proper administrative compliance while also freeing up employees’ time.
At a high level, IPA combines digital and robotic process automation with artificial intelligence to orchestrate the flow of information within and across federal agencies. As importantly, the proper system can accommodate both legacy and modern digital and mobile systems, providing a bridge for agencies pursuing digital transformation. Automating these manual processes allows employees to focus on higher priority initiatives, eliminates the inefficiencies and wasted time associated with a purely manual approach, and ultimately speeds the completion of administrative tasks.
Improve compliance requirements with automation
A prime example of the benefit this automation brings to federal agencies is streamlining compliance requirements. Program managers have better use for their time than spending countless hours reviewing the endless forms for ethics filings, non-disclosure agreements, U.S. Office of Government Ethics (OGE) Form 450s, and Information Assurance training certificates they are required to fill out each year.
Beyond time savings, there’s also a benefit in bringing order to the compliance process. It’s safe to say most agencies tend to approach these requirements in an ad-hoc fashion. It’s a messy combination of PDFs, paper documents and online tools that are not easily trackable. What’s more, each of these documents requires different methods to accomplish similar tasks, forcing supervisors, team leaders and employees to access multiple systems or locations. This approach is inefficient, time-consuming and frustrating for employees who could instead focus on other essential tasks.
There must be a better way.
Intelligent process automation can merge all of these documents and tools into one unified workflow that both improves efficiency and compliance. For instance, IPA enables agency leaders to set automatic start dates with timed reminders for various compliance requirements. This capability streamlines compliance procedures, creates an efficient completion-approval-storage process for these documents, and allows supervisors and managers to monitor status and completion metrics easily.
Additionally, the system can be configured to process and ensure compliance with requests for reasonable accommodation, vacation leave, family medical leave, and parental leave for new parents. As an added benefit, this is all accomplished in one unified workflow that protects employees’ confidentiality while also ensuring timely processing, storage, and tracking for management.
Streamline federal executive requests with automated tracking
Another example of the value of automation is the challenge federal organizations face in coordinating information requests across multiple entities. As with compliance requirements, these requests are often handled in an ad-hoc fashion – with various methods and systems making it difficult to track. While there may be monitoring tools at the department level, this almost certainly will not link internal staff to the task. It also does not allow Congress or the Executive Branch to monitor the status of a request.
IPA can remake this cumbersome process, providing a single, unified and flexible approach that allows for the routing and tracking of these tasks across the various levels in government. Consider, for instance, a typical congressional query involving a specific agency. IPA both ensures timely, consistent routing of the requests and provides the originating congressional office with complete visibility into progress.
Let’s say the query involved the U.S. Department of Agriculture. First, the request will be entered into the routing system and automatically forwarded to USDA’s primary point of contact. The department liaison then reviews the query and recognizes that two additional internal agencies must answer the constituent request: The Food Safety and Inspection Service and the Farm Service Agency. With a simple click, the task is then routed by the IPA system to both agencies and, if appropriate, to internal branches and divisions to identify the right expert to respond.
Once submitted, the proposed response is then automatically routed back through the appropriate general counsel, public affairs and leadership chain of command at both the department and agency levels before releasing it to the congressperson. Without process automation, that entire routing sequence is handled manually, with all the resulting opportunities for error, delay and lack of transparency.
While most of these tasks are considered routine or mundane, they fulfill an essential governance task addressing legislation, regulations and federal executive requests. Untold hours each year are swallowed up by these and similar tasks. It should be imperative that agencies adopt automation to streamline these processes, and ultimately eliminate associated waste.
Drew Jaehnig is the public sector practice leader at business process management platform developer Bizagi.