The federal government plays a crucial role as the service provider to society as we know it, housing an extensive network of 430 agencies and sub-agencies. These cater to the needs of over 400 million entities annually, from businesses to local governments, according to White House guidance on delivering a digital-first experience.

And every month, federal websites attract around two billion people, leading to some 80 million hours of user engagement.

A digital-first strategy has been necessary for a long time, as it provides agencies with the opportunity to innovate. That said, the methods used to become “digital” are legacy themselves and have not produced frictionless experiences for the public nor productivity gains for the government’s workforce.

To accelerate these efforts, the White House issued an executive order and policy guidance directing federal agencies to prioritize the public’s online experience and adopt user-centric, agile, data-driven and collaborative approaches to service delivery.

Federal agencies face an urgent and unprecedented challenge in the new paradigm of digitalization we are now in: how to implement a digital-first strategy that can:

— truly converge their technology portfolio around citizen and employee centric processes;

— enhance service delivery; and

— exceed the public’s shifting demands and expectations.

Advances in AI, business process automation and machine learning present new opportunities to improve public services and other government functions through digital-first strategies. According to Gartner, 75% of federal agencies will have at least three AI-powered automation initiatives deployed within their departments by 2024. With 2024 in full swing, many of these departments have surpassed Gartner’s predictions, deploying far more than three AI-powered automations, and that count is exponentially on the rise.

To excel in the digital age, it is crucial to fully utilize existing technologies, leveraging AI and automation as the foundation to accelerate time to valuable mission outcomes and exponentially simpler experiences for the federal employee and all citizens and stakeholders.

Evaluating capabilities

The right requirements deliver higher quality, 10 times faster.

Federal agencies will accomplish more and spend less with a clear alignment of their workforce, citizen and overall mission transformation strategies with automation and AI platforms that:

— leverage existing data and systems; don’t require data lock-in;

— truly deliver interoperability across agencies’ entire technology portfolios; and

— offer deployment methods that will maximize privacy, security, data processing and agencies’ overall total cost of ownership.

Government agencies have access to powerful data that they can tap into with AI-powered automation to modernize IT and digitize operations. By leveraging AI-powered automation, government agencies can deliver efficiency across all technologies and a single, unified and simple experience to their citizens and employees that accelerates mission outcomes.

Build a Digital Operations Center

As federal agencies face increasing pressure to modernize their operations, AI-powered automation and AI have emerged as transformative tools, providing agencies with an accelerated pathway to streamline processes, enhance operational efficiency and deliver superior public services. Establishing an AI and Automation Digital Operations Center should be a primary focus for agencies, no matter what phase of transformation they are in.

A shared Digital Operations Center creates a central hub for AI-powered automated processes across multiple functional areas and programs, encouraging knowledge sharing and standard methods. It can improve process efficiency, reduce turnaround times, streamline workflows and help agencies meet regulatory requirements by ensuring processes are consistently followed in the same way. Mainly, it delivers knowledge to government leaders about how work is accomplished digitally, what bottlenecks exist and the best path forward to produce the expected outcomes.

To successfully establish a Digital Operations Center, a comprehensive strategy should be developed in collaboration with key stakeholders from various federal agencies and partners. This strategy should include identifying potential AI and AI-powered automation use cases, selecting appropriate AI and automation models, designing employee training programs and establishing transparent governance and oversight mechanisms.

Showcase return on investment

Agency leaders should consider moving fast, being comfortable delivering bite-sized solutions, and empowering the workforce and service delivery tasks that can be easily automated, minimizing disruptions and demonstrating their efficiency, accuracy and cost savings, which is an important first step on any digital-first journey.

This approach generates tangible results that resonate with decision-makers and build additional momentum for producing even more impact in the future. Focusing on tasks with a clear ROI also helps gain support from government stakeholders and secure resources for future AI and software automation efforts.

Managing expectations is key here. Starting with simple tasks helps set realistic expectations for what AI and AI-powered automation can do, so no one is over-promised and everyone knows what the technology can and cannot do.

Prioritize user-centric, agile, data-driven and collaborative federal service delivery

Federal agencies should consider adopting user-centric, agile, data-driven and collaborative service delivery methodologies. These concepts include creating services based on user needs and preferences, encouraging experimentation, learning and cooperation, and using cloud, open source and commercial technologies for rapid and flexible deployment.

Agencies should consider data as a strategic asset that enables them to measure and explain the impact and value of their services, while also identifying gaps and opportunities for development.

Lastly, collaboration is key for agencies to provide services more effectively. Breaking down silos, creating trust, encouraging openness and teamwork, and connecting with users, partners and suppliers should all be part of this strategy.

Embrace emerging technologies to prioritize a digital-first approach

In today’s fast-paced world, where technological advancements are reshaping government, it is imperative for federal agencies to adapt and embrace digital transformation. AI and AI-powered automation offer a multitude of opportunities that can revolutionize the way governments operate. By leveraging these strategies and emerging technologies, federal agencies can transition toward a more digital-first approach, enhancing efficiency and citizen-centric services.

By Todd Schroeder, vice president of public sector at UiPath

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