How Federal Agencies Can Turn Automation into Reality

The federal government is so close to automation and yet, as the song goes, so far away. That may sound cliché, but a new survey released today underscores this truth.

Agencies are on the precipice of a massive digital transformation, as the new administration picks up where the last administration left off to push IT policy forward. IT modernization is arguably one of the few bipartisan efforts left in Washington, with both sides coming together to support the Modernizing Government Technology (MGT) Act.

From my conversations with federal leaders, they almost universally express their desire to move from legacy IT to new technologies, such as ServiceNow. They understand spending 80% and upward of IT federal budgets on just maintaining outdated tech is no longer feasible.

That’s why we conducted a survey of federal decision-makers to evaluate their views and adoption of intelligent automation such as machine learning software, and see how pervasive manual processes were in their day-to-day work.

What we found is that Federal agencies are knee deep in time-wasting manual tasks, such as emailing requests or updating spreadsheets. One in 3 say they still hand-deliver­ paper files to co-workers – and I bet that number is even higher if it wasn’t so embarrassing to admit! Maintaining legacy technologies is the # 1 factor preventing Federal agencies from adopting intelligent automation, which they desperately need to get work done.

So how do federal agencies make the jump from their current, outdated processes to intelligent automation, such as machine learning? Here’s a roadmap for any federal agency leader:

  • 1. Start Small
    Our survey found 65 percent of respondents said their agency is currently using or considering an intelligent automation solution, but a quarter (24 percent) are not sure of the timeframe. This is an issue of trying to initially implement an enterprise-wide solution. For agencies to be successful, they need to start small with pilot projects, so any missteps are contained and quickly addressed and success can be built upon. Start with a project that is manageable such as predicting IT outages or routing incoming requests.
  • 2. Modernize the IT Infrastructure
    Without a modern IT infrastructure, automation is not feasible. Estimates on the number of agencies that have moved to cloud vary, but it falls far short of the private sector. If Congress passes the MGT Act, it would give agencies the much-needed funding to modernize their legacy IT and create a solid foundation from which to deliver services.
  • 3. Transform Service Delivery Metrics Across the Organization
    When our survey asked which processes are automated today, resolving customer issues came in dead last. That’s not a good sign for improving the experience for citizens when they interact with the government. Why can’t citizen-facing process, such as issuing passports as an example, become better automated?
  • 4. Target Workflows to Apply Intelligent Automation
    Our survey found that 77 percent of respondents spend more than a quarter of their day on manual tasks. Think about all the hours that are wasted in a given week on tasks such as emailing approvals. By developing and automating workflows, you allow federal employees to spend their work day on value-added tasks that benefit the entire agency.
  • 5. Get Quick Wins
    Who doesn’t like a victory? There are a multitude of processes that could be automated with the help of ServiceNow. When those processes are automated, agency heads and employee are able to quickly realize the value, whether that’s fewer human errors, or reduced cost.

If federal agencies follow this roadmap, their success will show other agencies the value of automation and have them seriously consider this technology as a cornerstone in their modernization efforts.

Related Content:
Cloud Adoption in the Public Sector: Why As-a-Service Can Offer Huge Business Benefits
Learn more about Government and ServiceNow 

Bob Osborn
Robert (Bob) Osborn is Chief Technology Officer for Service Now (Federal). Bob is an accomplished senior executive who has held many high level IT leadership positions, including Director of Logistics IT for the U.S. Army G4, Deputy J6/CIO for U.S. Transportation Command, and CIO of the National Nuclear Security Administration where he was responsible for the Nation’s nuclear weapons design and manufacturing information. He has led major IT and organizational transformations throughout his career and is an acknowledged thought leader recognized across the public sector market. As a user of ServiceNow, Bob led ITIL based Enterprise Service Management standardization within the Federal Government. Bob also served as a United States Marine Corps officer for 27 years.

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