GSA creates community of practice to drive federal bot adoption

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The General Services Administration wants to make sure agencies are ready to take advantage of a new wave of robotic process automation (RPA) tools that are becoming available to the federal government.

The agency this week announced the launch of an RPA community of practice that “will allow federal government leaders to explore opportunities, share ideas, and collaborate on how RPA can be effectively implemented in their respective agencies.”

RPA is the use of automated processes, essentially bots, to replace manual and burdensome tasks, freeing personnel to focus on higher value work.

“With the advancements in emerging technology, it’s important for the federal government to capitalize on technological solutions in order to obtain the benefits of cost-effectively automating manual, repetitive, and rule-based operations,” Ed Burrows, GSA’s lead for RPA and chair of the new group, wrote in an agency blog post. “Many agencies are currently piloting RPA or already have bots in production, but so much more can be learned, accomplished, and shared with the collective efforts of industry and government.”

GSA Chief Financial Officer Gerard Badorrek and GSA Technology Transformation Services Director Anil Cheriyan are executive sponsors of the community of practice.

The hope is that the effort will streamline efforts amongst agencies and reduce duplication, letting those with a late start adopting RPA benefit from teams around government that have been at the forefront of using the technology.

“The CoP will mobilize federal RPA leaders to share information, define technical options, and outline best practices for implementation in order to accelerate operational achievements and the benefits of RPA,” Burrows says.

Burrows has helped the General Services Administration become the de-facto government leader in RPA,  standing up 12 bots over the past year, with plans to double that number by the end of September. In the past, Burrows has spoken about agencies’ desire to adopt RPA tools but how their efforts haven’t always been fruitful when it comes to investing in them.

“I don’t think the government is quite there yet in terms of readiness to invest,” he said. “Many agencies are at the pilot phase. I think we need a number of home runs.”

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Anil Cheriyan, Ed Burrows, emerging technology, General Services Administration (GSA), Gerard Badorrek, robotic process automation (RPA)