Reinventing business process automation in the public sector

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Digital transformation, in the form of business automation, is responsible for the current jump in working process efficiency. The end result will be workflows that are both flexible and stable, ready for whatever the future holds.

However, is the public sector ready for business automation? Based on the experience of the private sector – where only 12% of companies have a plan for achieving business automation according to the latest IBM Institute for Business Value report “The evolution of process automation”– it is fair to say that there is still a lot of work to do.


Why does the public sector need automation?

Business processes are at the heart of every organisation, mostly invisible and unnoticed until they are disrupted. And it’s only when a process becomes visible that it begins to be valued as it should be.

Manual processes and the COVID-19 pandemic

Prior to the start of the COVID-19 pandemic, the vast majority of processes were done manually. Staff would activate the next step of the workflow by contacting a colleague. The pandemic caused everything to change. Instead of working mostly in the office with frequent and easy daily contact with colleagues, staff are now working remotely. While most companies have invested in the infrastructure to enable remote working such as online conferencing systems and VPNs, this digital transformation hasn’t spread to their business processes, especially in the public sector. This is causing delays and bottlenecks for services that the population relies upon.

“Processes have always been there,” says Joao Ferreira, Innovation Specialist – Cognitive Process Transformation, “but as they haven’t been visible, they haven’t been valued until now. The COVID-19 pandemic has highlighted the role manual systems take place without us noticing them – workflows that usually only continue after a phone call or an email, but just aren’t working as they should due to the increase in remote working.”

“The public sector is a lot more complex than the private sector which weakens the situation further,” continues Joao. “as most (if not all) services still need to continue whatever the situation. This is especially relevant for services for the population, including our most vulnerable citizens such as the elderly and the homeless.”

Pressure on public sector processes

The uncertainty and constant policy changes due to COVID-19 have put additional pressure on public sector processes.

“Governments and local authorities make frequent announcements that need to quickly, efficiently and correctly implemented,” says Davor Brajanoski, Cognitive Process Automation Practice Leader BeLux. “Without process automation, it isn’t easy to put these new workflows into practice in a structured, consistent way that avoids adverse consequences at a later date.”

“There are two further sources of pressure on public sector processes,” explains Davor. “Firstly, there are currently fewer resources available, exasperated by the high turnover rate of staff in the public sector. Secondly, citizens are used to the quality of service offered by the private sector which leads them to expect a similar level of speed, accuracy and digital efficiency from the public sector.”

Automating workflows: adding value to public sector processes

“Process automation is the backbone to digital transformation,” says Yannis Nakos, Digital Business Automation – Enterprise Segment Leader. “It empowers different people in different locations and different timeframes to contribute to a specific workflow to ensure the right processes are done in the right way.”

“It’s important to ensure automated processes are robust, complete and scalable,” continues Yannis, “so they are able to continue smoothly even when there are fewer people available, peak demands on the process, or staff working remotely. This is the kind of flexibility we use Artificial Intelligence and robotic process automation (RPA) for. By using automation to augment business task owners where relevant or possible, it empowers people focus on where they can make the difference. This is also why IBM just announced the acquisition of WDG Automation, a vendor of RPA and Digital Assistants .”


Looking to the future

A year ago, our current working situation would have been almost unimaginable. Going forward, we recognise that businesses need to be prepared for any kind of disruption. This will require us to proactively plan new ways to organise our work, keep pace with changing regulations and interact with citizens regardless of their level of digital knowledge and abilities. Are you ready to change processes quickly and efficiently to overcome any obstacles in your way?


Implementing process automation in the public sector

Process automation requires four elements: 1/ skills, talent and expertise from the public sector supported by IBM; 2/ processes that state who needs to take which action and when; 3/ technology that digitalises the process, uses data as fuel for the process, understands the context, and ensures uncompromising security; and 4/ data that is accurate, compliant with legislation, securely stored and responsibly used in function of the process outcomes required. If one of these elements is missing or weak, the digital transformation won’t be complete, and the process won’t flow smoothly (if at all).


IBM and process automation

IBM offers a Solution Stack, a one-stop-shop for process automation that adds value at every step. The Solution Stack includes the IBM technologies and expertise the public sector needs, reducing their investment, maximising their ROI and empowering them to add more services and functionalities as their requirements change in the future.


Discover more

Interested in finding out how business process automation can help the public sector? Read the Forrester white paper ‘Reinventing Workflows – Power your Digital Transformation and Drive Greater Impact by Modernizing Processes’ or contact IBM.




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