When thinking about robotic process automation (RPA), one might imagine advanced robotics assuming job functions alongside Tony Stark (of Marvel Comics Iron Man fame) in a lab, but the National Science Foundation (NSF) wants agencies to think of RPA as more of a software management project.

Speaking at the ACT-IAC BOTS Forum today, Margaret Moon, Financial Analyst at NSF, suggested it was best to define and describe what RPA is, and that “communication is key” to that effort.  Both the public – and affected workforces – may be fearful of what they don’t know, so identifying RPA as a software management project can help with that understanding, she said.

Moon also spoke about how agencies can get automation technologies into production more quickly. She focused on three ways to help ensure faster production:

  • Setting up an agency’s technical environment so that when code is moved along, new problems won’t be discovered along the way;
  • Looking at a mix of attended and unattended automated functions because there are some processes that are “more suitable” for unattended RPA and some that need more interaction; and
  • Dedicating developers to projects, because only part-time effort is being put into an automation task when someone is only doing part-time work.

Alicia Saucedo, Supervisory Budget Analyst for the General Services Administration (GSA), said it’s also true that technology is not the biggest hurdle when implementing RPA.

“If you read RPA articles, they all say that technology will not be your biggest challenge in implementing RPA. People are, and it’s true,” Saucedo said. “You know, people in organizations really is the biggest challenge when it comes to implementing RPA projects, so I’d recommend that you really engage at multiple levels of the organization.” She also likened RPA projects to other big organizational changes, and said they should be treated in similar ways.

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Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith
Jordan Smith is a MeriTalk Senior Technology Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.