Study: How Robotic Automation Will Make Public Sector Agencies Faster, More Efficient, and Cost-Effective

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David Rehr: ‘Acceleration of use will make our government work even better…’

A new study shows how an innovative software technology—Robotic Process Automation (RPA)—can reduce mundane and repetitive tasks at all levels of public sector organizations. Adoption of RPA, the research reveals, streamlines business processes, reduces costs, and allows employees to focus on higher-value labor while improving morale.

The report, The Promise of RPA for the Public Sector, is the first from the Robotic Process Automation Initiative at the Center for Business Civic Engagement (CBCE) at George Mason University’s Schar School of Policy and Government. The study provides a comprehensive outline of emerging RPA technology for non-information technology experts. The report also illustrates RPA’s history and details how it is being adopted for use in the private sector.

"This is the first comprehensive explanation for RPA technology and how it can be used to make the public sector more effective, efficient, and better serve stakeholders," said David Rehr, co-author of the study and CBCE director. "We want to give people a better understanding of the everyday opportunities and practicalities of using RPA at all levels of government."

Co-author Dorin Munteanu, principal researcher, noted "innovative public sector employees are using RPA technology to reduce mundane repetitive tasks so they can focus on higher-value uses of their time. We see studies finding the employees have higher work satisfaction, optimistic morale, and a better quality of life when RPA is applied.”

“Implementation costs vary,” Rehr said, “but the Government Accounting Office is using RPA and estimates it is saving more than 200,000 labor hours, and employees are available to work on other, more valuable GAO issues.”

Key recommendations from the research include:

  • Ensure there are budget resources available to fully implement RPA technology across the public sector to prioritize effectiveness and efficiency.
  • Support investments to educate more public sector employees on the positive benefits of RPA on their program activities and work duties.
  • Research and inform public sector organizations on "best practices" for successful RPA implementation.
  • Prioritize training and education for students and workers to meet and fill the demand for RPA employment positions across the public sector.
  • Publicize RPA implementations in the public sector, including impact on program activities, estimated labor hours saved, and return on investment so stakeholders can observe good stewardship. 
  • Encourage continued agency cross-fertilization of RPA practices through increased engagement with and use of RPA Federal Community of Practice publications across the public sector.
  • Eliminate any restrictions on the use or implementation of RPA based on outdated regulations and policies while protecting security procedures.
  • Explore how public policy impacts RPA adoption and suggest any proposals for improvement.
  • Support continued research and development of artificial intelligence, machine learning, and RPA.
  • Continue to support the long-standing policy of government digitalization.

"We have shared findings from the research with public sector leaders and have urged them to share with appropriate staff to generate more ideas and practices to maximize use for good of this tremendous technology," Rehr said. "Acceleration of use will make our government work even better, use resources efficiently, and improve constituent trust of public sector institutions."