Cabinet Office plans robotic process automation push

Department aims to build awareness of the technology’s potential and set up a development channel for central government

The Cabinet Office is laying the ground for an education campaign and development process to spread the awareness of what robotics process automation (RPA) can do for central government.

Robotic hands on computer keyboardIt has begun a procurement to find one or two partners to run the campaign, which will involve helping departments and agencies to build applications of the technology.

Its summing up of a question and answer session with potential suppliers indicates that there could be a wider commercial potential for the partner: if it is successful the partnership is expected to be the most attractive channel for developing and implementing RPA applications.

The document also emphasises that the emphasis will be on automation rather than process redesign.

“We don’t want to automate bad process, but the main aim is automation, not process engineering,” it says. “If there’s small change we can do in advance, we will try to incorporate, but if we want heavyweight business process re-engineering we’ll buy it differently.”

The original prior information notice also included the possibility of the creation of a centre of excellence to act as a testbed and showcase facility.

Payment flexibility

There is also some flexibility around payment for the services, with the partner to be paid for development and deployment or out of benefits. The deal is set to last up to three years and is valued at about £4 million.

The Cabinet Office has also indicated that, while there is no cross-government strategy for the use of RPA, it is included in the strategies of most government departments, and an interest group has been set up.

It marks another early step in the use of RPA in government, although the reported applications so far have been at a local level. North Tyneside Council has used the technology in processing benefits claims, and Abertawe Bro Morgannwg University Health Board has used it in its finance function.

An increasing number of public sector organisations are looking at the technology as a big costs saver in automating high volume, less complex processes that are currently handled manually.

RPA will be on the agenda, along with machine learning and artificial intelligency, at UKAuthority’s follow-up to its successful conference on the subject. Return of the Bots is scheduled to take place on 14 November 2017 in central London. It is free to attend for public sector employees. You can learn more and register for the event here.

Image by Gwydion M Williams, CC BY 2.0 through flickr