RPA and Intelligent Automation: The key to Public Sector Post-COVID recovery
SummaryUnder ‘normal’ circumstances, citizens already hope to deal with the public sector in the same seamless and convenient way that they shop online for groceries. However, during large-scale crises – like, but not limited to the ongoing pandemic, rather than downsizing staff within public services, they are having to work harder than ever before.
In current times, businesses and citizens are seeking more reassurance and proactive support from the public sector than ever before, as they weather the remaining storm of COVID-19. In turn, those working in the public are dealing with a long list of challenges every single day to meet new needs and requirements.
Under ‘normal’ circumstances, citizens already hope to deal with the public sector in the same seamless and convenient way that they shop online for groceries. However, during large-scale crises – like, but not limited to the ongoing pandemic, rather than downsizing staff within public services, they are having to work harder than ever before.
If there’s one thing in all this that has held the public sector back it is manual, inefficient, and time-consuming backend processes. No longer merely a tactical tool to streamline mundane back office processes, intelligent automation (IA) has become an indispensable catalyst for digital transformation. As a result, many public sector IT departments have a new charter: save time, money, and resources, while improving the overall level of operations. Could RPA and intelligent automation be the answer?
First, a Public Sector Mindset Shift
For years, companies have invested in digital innovation enabled by intelligent automation and cloud computing. Businesses reap the rewards in terms of business agility, efficiency, cost savings, staff being freed up to do more meaningful tasks, and improved customer experiences. This has now raised the expectations of citizens as ‘consumers’ of the public sector. People no longer differentiate between whether they are dealing with a financial services institution, an e-commerce platform, or a government agency. They now expect fast and frictionless interactions, every single time. This means that the decision makers in the public sector need to respond accordingly to avoid damaging negative user experiences.
COVID-19 exposed existing gaps in the health sector as the NHS waiting list back log continues to spiral out of control, the Government has said this is going to take years to clear with over 5.7 million people on the waiting list. Now is a crucial moment to prioritise automation. As appointments went online to ensure only high priority patients were entering hospitals, the NHS rolled out Microsoft teams to 1.2 million employees in a few weeks enabling them to commute remotely with colleagues and patients. Not all organisations are well-equipped for a technology-charged future.
Exploring New Possibilities in Health Care
Intelligent automation improves citizen and patient experience with greater efficiency and security. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) can handle administrative tasks around the clock, allowing staff to focus on pressing tasks that require decision making and leadership skills. Intelligent automation in healthcare will be instrumental in the development of the NHS. The rapid pace of the pandemic has left little time to streamline internal processes. Therefore, the use of spread sheets and other manual processes proliferated purely to keep up with the extreme workload. These inflexible processes are outdated and prone to human error. They must be replaced with a long-term solution that is underpinned by automation. In addition, leaving the more mundane roles to RPA, allows NHS staff to apply attention to the more fulfilling tasks and carry out patient care.
The pandemic has put a huge strain on healthcare facilities globally and amid this storm, we are seeing the NHS continuing to struggle to balance short term pressures of staff shortages and technical errors. This makes the long term digital transformational goals of the NHS Long Term Plan appear a lifetime away. Every NHS trust should be examining processes to prioritise what can be automated and taken off over stretched human workers. This is how we begin to tackle the extreme waiting list.
Balancing the future needs while meeting today’s demands
Whilst the pandemic has created huge challenges for the public sector, it has forced businesses to become more agile and transform as speed. While public services have felt a strain, they will be able to offer a more user-centric service through technology.
At the end of the day, top-ranked digital governments tend to have centrally driven digital transformation mandates, coupled with evolutionary steps taken to strengthen and fulfil that mandate year-on-year. Within this equation, the benefit of unattended and intelligent automation is its interoperability with existing systems and its scalability. That means that any government agency and business can access an extensive toolbox of cutting-edge technologies, such as artificial intelligence or machine learning algorithms, and can easily deploy them on top of systems enabled by digital workers.
Through lessons enforced by the pandemic about insufficient or overworked employees, digital workers could very well be what public sector needs as the complex organisations within it move forward. After all, the ability to deliver modern services and provide a sense of solace and reassurance to the citizens using them which is the ultimate marker of public sector success.