The Department of Defense (DoD) is a massive operation — $2.2 trillion in assets, a proposed 2018 budget of $639 billion and more than 2.8 million military and civilian personnel around the world. It is imperative not only that the DoD keep track of these multiple resources, but that those records are able to stand up to the scrutiny of an independent auditor. That’s why, in 2010, Congress mandated the DoD become more “audit-ready” by strengthening its internal controls and improving its financial practices, processes and systems. While the DoD has made strides in the right direction towards this goal, there is still more work to be done.
The DoD’s data is spread out over hundreds of different departments, offices and organizations all over the globe, each with its own processes for keeping records. To properly keep track of these disparate resources and make it so that different systems can talk to each other and be easily cataloged and searched, some organizations have begun to utilize modern technology. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) — the automation of redundant, repeatable and rule-based human action using software bots — may be the answer.
Enabling RPA capabilities has the potential to greatly improve the speed, efficiency and accuracy of the processes organizations use to gather, enter and analyze data. With the ability to quickly integrate and reconcile data from a variety of different sources, RPA can help organizations get a better sense of the assets they have on hand and enable them to make better decisions regarding maintaining and deploying resources. By taking over mundane tasks, RPA can free up agents’ time so they can take on higher-value assignments and better focus on their individual missions.
Implementing such systems are not easy, however. It is critical that agents and organizations understand the context in which RPA works. Before RPA can carry out its tasks it must be told exactly what to do, which will be specific to each system. While almost every occupation has the potential for at least partial automation, RPA is not a one-size-fits-all solution. Further, many are skeptical of RPA due to fear of job loss, despite that not being the case. The use of RPA in the private sector has not led to significant job loss; often, analysts see their role expand into higher-level, more cognitive tasks. A successful rollout requires specific targets and well-communicated development. Unfortunately, in a recent poll only 50 percent of government workers surveyed that were in a position to utilize automation were aware it existed.
With the correct processes in place, however, RPA can enable government and military organizations to more confidently assess available resources, streamline processes so that they become more efficient and use collected information to make better, data-driven decisions.
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