Erica Thomas, a robotic process automation (RPA) Program Manager at the Department of Defense (DoD), said Oct. 21 that efforts to deploy RPA technologies in financial accounting systems are providing a boost in the morale of agency employees who are being freed from performing repetitive tasks.

Speaking at the ACT-IAC Imagine Nation 2019 conference, Thomas said the agency wanted to deploy RPA technology that will help pull documentation from enterprise-wide accounting systems. That effort and others – helped by the establishment of an RPA Center of Excellence and an RPA IT platform – are aimed at improving data accuracy, compliance, efficiency, and cutting costs.

But RPA implementation has also turned out to be “a real employee morale booster,” she said. “The things we are automating are things that people don’t enjoy doing,” Thomas said.

“We have to do a better job at explaining the benefits of RPA,” she continued. Part of that message is explaining the “true value” of RPA, but also being careful to not count labor savings into the total. RPA has not reduced employee head count, rather it has provided more capacity to tackle higher-value work, she said.

Thomas also advised that RPA work “doesn’t have to start with something massive … We had to get our feet wet first.”

Reza Rashidi, IRS Executive Lead for Robotics Process and Intelligent Automation at the Internal Revenue Service, agreed in remarks at the same conference session. “There is a tremendous value to starting small,” and accumulating RPA deployment proficiency quickly on lower-profile projects, Rashidi said. “Start small and execute fast” on RPA pilot projects, he advised.

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John Curran
John Curran
John Curran is MeriTalk's Managing Editor covering the intersection of government and technology.