Business Systems UK’s Will Davenport explains why software designed to automate routine operations could be a real help for a cash-starved UK public sector
There’s no doubt that the British public sector is, after nine years of austerity, under more pressure than it’s ever been to cut costs.
As a result, according to a recent report from Bertelsman, 68% of public sector organisations say they have seen staff levels fall, while 73% saw volumes of work increase. Not surprisingly, 60% of organisations say they are actively exploring all options for boosting efficiency, and so it is time to take one of these options, Robotic Process Automation (RPA), seriously.
Reduced operating costs
That’s because automation has become a critical tool for local authorities, NHS and emergency service organisations looking to squeeze the most out of their revenues and deliver the best value for money possible to taxpayers. IT analyst trendline watchers Gartner maintains that global take-up of RPA solutions grew by a phenomenal 63% last year.
But that’s no surprise – why wouldn’t you embrace RPA if it helps speed up organisational digital transformation? It can also be applied to complex and time-consuming processes, and it has the power to streamline and enhance service delivery, there’s an unquestioned bottom-line benefit in replacing some staff time with a robot worker.
According to a Softomotive’s survey of why commercial sector organisations like RPA, 44% identified reduced operating costs as a main benefit. As well as being more time and cost-efficient than people, this new class of robot worker can also significantly improve workflows, as they can work through monotonous tasks on a 24/7 basis, 365 days a year, requiring no breaks or holidays.
There is also a great reduction in errors. We find that any RPA failures that occur are almost always due to human error, rather than the technology. This fact allows public sector bodies to learn from past mistakes. The Bertelsmann report cited highlights the fact that improved accuracy supports compliance and quality control, for example, with automated processes being fully auditable.
RPA also helps staff morale, because it can free up your hard-pressed staff from doing mundane and repetitive jobs, and allows them to focus on core missions and on working closer to people in the community.
This can add enormous value to operations, and as we all know, the human touch is critical in serving the public in a whole host of local and central government roles – from the emergency services to social work, health and caregiving services. That same Bertelsmann report found that 96% of respondents looked to automation to free up staff time for more critical tasks, for instance.
What’s more, RPA can enhance members of the public’s satisfaction generally – the faster and more efficiently teams can complete tasks, the better the overall quality of service. Increased accuracy also supports service delivery.
Crack the backlog
Finally, RPA’s ability to pull together diverse systems is one of its unique attributes. Take, for example, one national tax collecting authority which was losing the equivalent of nearly $2.7bn in tax fraud annually. As part of its efforts to tackle this, the administration in question was using a vendor to contact customers to validate and update personal information. The problem was, due to security restrictions, the partner here had no access to the authority’s own records.
In the end, the backlog of updates that needed to be made on the authority’s own systems would have required the hiring of 600 extra members of staff to get through. Luckily, that extra investment was avoided, as it instead introduced an RPA solution. That meant 150 robots were able to process up to 25,000 updates requested by the supplier each day, working around the clock to tackle the backlog and then starting the hard work of processing change requests in real time.
This saved the authority the equivalent of $13 million, achieved 100% accuracy in updating records and put it in a better position to tackle the fraud deficit. So, the beauty of RPA for the public sector is that it can be applied to customer enquiries directly, as well as to information flow in the organisation itself.
Summing up, working with RPA can dramatically improve the customer experience and provide a faster, more seamless overall service — so take advantage of the robot assistance your tight budget can really benefit from, today.
The author is a Director at Business Systems (UK) Ltd, a UK software house that’s been specialist for 30 years in providing call recording and workforce optimisation solutions.
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