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Friday, 09 July 2021 14:52

Automation creates modern government that puts people first

By Andy Mellor, Kofax
Andy Mellor , Kofax Andy Mellor , Kofax

GUEST OPINION by Andy Mellor, regional vice president ANZ at Kofax: If you’ve ever gritted your teeth while listening to bad hold music, or cursed as you completed forms by hand, you don’t need to be told that sometimes, government process can be inefficient, complex and slow.

With the $200m MyGov overhaul announced in this year’s budget and the shift to online services in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic, it’s a timely reminder that federal, state and local governments, along with the various agencies, need to make sure their digital services are easy to use.

After all, government agencies need to remember: the Australian people are your customers. As such, they expect a modern customer experience – one that’s frictionless and efficient. They want to submit forms online, get answers in real-time via chat and have information auto-populated based on past submissions. Yet, there are also instances when they still want to pick up the phone and talk to a human.

Meeting this demand for flexibility and convenience, quality and speed, while keeping an eye on the bottom line, can be achieved through digital and automated business processes. Many have started this transformation with robotic process automation (RPA), which uses software “bots” to automate repetitive, manual tasks. While this is an excellent starting point, it’s just the beginning.

A recent study found 98 percent of decision-makers reported challenges due to an unintegrated “point solution” approach to integration. Simply put, even a few legacy paper-based and manual processes can create bottlenecks, backlogs, and errors in existing systems. People get frustrated (and start rage tweeting), while staff feel tired and disappointed from mundane work and customer ire. As we saw during the pandemic, the situation gets even worse during times of peak demand as agency websites crash in the rush to receive services, overtaxing the system.

To truly modernise complex delivery service operations, government agencies need a unified platform that provides end-to-end automation through various workflow automation capabilities. Implementation should be simple, and the system must be scalable and easily maintained by existing operations and IT resources.

‘Hyperautomation’ with a unified platform

Ninety-nine percent of decision-makers see considerable value in working with a single automation vendor. A unified platform that natively combines complementary capabilities such as paper document capture, mobile-enabled digital processing, unstructured data extraction and classification, and automated workflows enabling government agencies to reach a state of “hyperautomation” across functional and process silos.

However, government services can be complex, involving data validation and requiring action from multiple offices, departments and even other agencies. Oftentimes, users or a third party have to supply additional information. The ensuing back-and-forth is slow, costly, and frustrating when done with traditional mail, email and – can you believe it? – fax. An innovative intelligent automation platform includes the right mix of tools and technology to transform service delivery. Address updates, loan processing and other actions that used to take four to six weeks to complete can be shaved down to a simple, five-minute mobile transaction.

An end-to-end approach to automation benefits agencies and constituents in many ways, including:

  • Faster application approval times
  • Reduced processing costs and program churn
  • Improved data quality
  • Fewer errors
  • Flexibility in how people interact
  • Faster access to services
  • Optimised back-end paperwork processes
  • Real-time support for constituents

The components for success

Every agency’s needs are unique, so there isn’t one perfect approach for all. But native integration on a single platform of all the technologies government agencies might need to modernise services offers numerous advantages. It meets a wide array of use cases and works for all levels of government and agencies. Most automation companies offer specific products for certain processes. However, the real world requires holistic solutions not one product. Failure to partner with a company that provides a unified platform leads to several vendors, licensing and contract negotiations as well as arduous manual integrations and maintenance.

Key automation technologies to look for in a unified platform include:

  • Robotic process automation (RPA): Automate labour-intensive, repetitive tasks across systems and data sources at scale.
  • Process orchestration: Coordinate workflows involving multiple people, actions, software robots, policies and systems to drive successful outcomes.
  • AI-enabled cognitive capture: Ingest and understand structured and unstructured content, regardless of format or channel, through the power of Artificial Intelligence (AI) and natural language processing (NLP).
  • Advanced Analytics: Leverage the data captured to gain visibility and actionable insight into agencies, robots and constituents.
  • Mobility and engagement: Provide efficient, effective and secure means for interactions and transactions through such capabilities as e-signature, facial recognition and on-demand communications.

When these complementary technologies work together as part of a unified platform, government agencies can create automated workflows, perform dynamic case management, and automate tasks across any system or application – including commercial off-the-shelf (COTS), government off-the-shelf (GOTS), and military off-the-shelf (MOTS) products. No longer siloed, the information becomes actionable. Employees have more time to meaningfully assist the public rather than processing papers – leading to higher employee satisfaction. And let’s not forget about the benefits for us. With the freedom to select their preferred channel of communication, ease-of-use and speed-of-services, the average person’s experience is as seamless as it is on Amazon.

Now’s the time for government agencies to implement an end-to-end unified automation solution. They’ll save time and money while matching the levels of speed and service the public have come to expect on consumer services. A unified platform equipped with a comprehensive set of intelligent automation technologies catapults agencies into the modern world and delivers the benefits that come along with it. It also finally means an end to those “listening to instrumental Billy Joel covers on hold” moments.

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