The agency kicked off its innovation competition with new RPA initiatives.
Automation technology is more advanced than ever – now the big question for government is how best to integrate it. The FBI, inspired by the entrepreneurial reality show, chose to launch its own Robotic Processing Automation Shark Tank season.
The FBI identified RPA as a target technology and opted for the Shark Tank model in an effort to reach every corner of the agency. Deputy Budget Director Matthew Kleber worked on the program in his former role as senior innovation adviser to the director and explained that the Shark Tank plays into the agency’s larger goal of fostering a culture of accountability. agency-wide innovation.
“These types of innovation events are part of our strategy to inspire and increase innovation across the organization,” Kleber said at ACT-IAC’s Federal Insight Exchange on January 12. “A big part of our goal is to involve employees from all positions, from all geographic locations, from all levels of the organizational hierarchy.”
Communication was key to the success of the program. The FBI issued an open call for automation presentations, and the FBI Director himself promoted the program at an all-bureau meeting. The organizers offered office hours so that employees who had never heard of RPA could come and discuss the manual processes they manage.
“One thing that was really important to us was making sure we gave ourselves the ability to automate all kinds of processes,” Kleber said. “We didn’t want to be particularly narrow and just focus on the well-known fruits and within easy reach of processing vouchers and things like that. We also wanted to give ourselves a chance to automate a lot of the mission.
The FBI received 22 submissions, all of which underwent technical and commercial review. A technical team awarded points to describe factors such as the complexity of the manual process to be automated and the complexity of the applications that would be connected to the bot. The sales team performed a cost-benefit analysis that included factors such as ROI data, number of hours to be saved, and the accuracy and quality of output the bot would produce.
“Any time you’re able to take human hands off the keyboard and introduce bots into processing a particular task, you have the opportunity to really improve accuracy and quality,” Kleber said. “A lot of our agencies have what is more or less a fail-safe mission. Accuracy and quality are extremely important – sometimes just as important, if not more so, than time.
The pitch groups pitched their idea before the “sharks” and had 10 minutes to describe their manual process and why they thought RPA could help automate it. Pitch groups were also asked to give value impact statements explaining what they would do with their recovered time.
“One thing that we explicitly made everyone say during their presentation is, ‘Okay, you’re going to save so much time, that’s great. What are you going to do instead? Are you going to spend less time dealing with a spreadsheet and therefore actually doing analysis?” Kleber said. “It was part of everyone’s talk. It wasn’t just the recovered time, it was, ‘What are you going to do now that you weren’t able to do before?'”
Five assistant directors played the role of sharks, including the FBI’s chief financial officer, the IT director, and a special agent. In the end, of the 13 throws that preceded the Sharks, five processes were selected to move forward, and two runners-up were chosen in case there was extra time or in case a winner failed.
Kleber said he was thrilled with the finalists.
“We had everything from a once manual process to ingest data as part of our counterintelligence mission that was selected,” Kleber said. “We also picked out some very traditional RPA-like elements around supplier payments and travel request payments. The variety of what we’ve chosen to move forward is exciting to me because it really makes the case for RPA as an enterprise solution that we can run for a long time. »
The FBI is not the first government agency to use this Shark Tank model. At the Department of Health and Human Services, the CTO office once housed Start days, inviting companies to pitch their technology ideas. The NIHs Rapid Acceleration of Diagnostics (RADx) applied the Shark Tank model to produce innovative, accessible and scalable COVID-19 tests. And federal employee idea funding is the entire premise of the 10x arm of the General Services Administration.
Kleber said he anticipates RPA’s efforts to move from the Shark Tank to a standalone program. Meanwhile, the second season of FBI Shark Tank has already launched with a global mobility theme.
“Hopefully we’ve learned some smart lessons from dealing with this with RPA and can address a wide variety of things that people want to try to make FBI employees more effective when they’re not in their cubicles. “, said Kleber. “I think we’ve seen that with a pandemic and everything, it becomes more and more a part of how we have to operate.