How GSA Is Helping the Government Embrace Automation

IR Stone/Shutterstock.com

The agency, which plans to have more than two dozen bots deployed by the end of the year, is standing up a community of practice around the technology.

The General Services Administration is doubling down on bots as a way to free employees from the more tedious aspects of their jobs, and it’s trying to help other agencies follow suit.

On Thursday, GSA officials announced they are creating an interagency community of practice for robotic process automation, an umbrella term for tools that automate repetitive administrative tasks. The group would bring together leaders from across government to share their experiences with RPA and increase adoption of the tech at their respective agencies, Ed Burrows, GSA’s RPA program manager, said in a blog post.

By reducing the time feds spend on manual tasks like searching databases and filling out forms, RPA could free up the workforce to focus on more interesting, human-centric work. And as many agencies grapple with shrinking workforces and tighter budgets, bots offer a cheap way to do more with less.

In its president’s management agenda, the Trump administration underscored RPA’s potential to make government more efficient and called on agencies to start exploring potential applications of the tech. Since GSA's announcement, 18 agencies have reached out asking to join the community of practice, GSA Press Secretary Pam Dixon told Nextgov.

“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,” said Burrows, who will chair the community of practice. “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 Badorreck and Technology Transformation Services Director Anil Cheriyan will serve as executive sponsors of the community of practice. In an interview with Nextgov last week, Cheriyan floated the idea of creating a new center of excellence focused on RPA.

While many agencies have begun experimenting with the tech, GSA has emerged as the de facto epicenter of federal RPA efforts. The agency, whose federal contracting work generates its fair share of repetitive tasks, has at least 10 bots deployed within various parts of the organization, and officials plan to double that figure by the end of the year.

“[RPA] is a technology that's proven itself to work and deliver results for us,” said Jeff Lau, a regional commissioner in the agency’s Federal Acquisition Service.

Recently, Lau spearheaded the launch of a bot that automatically reviews new contractors for the agency’s Multiple Award Schedules program. The process, which involves copying information from multiple databases and pasting it in an official document, takes contracting officers 15 minutes on average to complete, but the bot gets it done in seconds, Lau told Nextgov.

The bot, which officials named Truman after GSA’s founder, President Harry Truman, was deployed in the agency’s Northeast region last year, and today three more regional offices are testing the tech. Thus far, he said, the feedback from employees has been “very positive.”

“There's general consensus that there's a lot of work, the cutting and pasting, [officers] do today that they actually don't enjoy doing,” he said. With Truman, they have “an opportunity to do more challenging work.”

GSA still faces some internal obstacles to deploying Truman and similar bots—namely figuring out what systems each one should be allowed to access—but nothing beyond the growing pains typical of any new tech adoption, Lau said. Based on Truman’s reception in other offices, he said, GSA would continue improving the bot and offering it up to more contracting offices across the agency.

“If you look at traditional process improvement methodologies ... they can only get you so far,” Lau said. “As we're looking to create that acquisition workforce of the future, [RPA] creates some bandwidth where our workforce can actually focus on reskilling and ... becoming stronger contracting officers that can support agency missions and really deliver better service.”

Editor's note: This story was updated to include comments from GSA.

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.