Robotic Process Automation (RPA), as defined by the Federal RPA Community of Practice (CoP) in their Report “The State of Federal RPA” (Version 2.0, Published by the Federal RPA Community of Practice (CoP), December 29, 2021) is “a low to no-cost commercial off-the-shelf technology used to automate repetitive, rules-based tasks.” The Federal RPA CoP notes that RPA does more than reduce staff workload, as “it can increase data quality, reduce human error, increase compliance, strengthen controls environment, and add new services to an organization’s portfolio.“
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While the government spends nearly $100 billion annually on IT systems, strategic spending is difficult. Public funds are often tied to purposes, making it harder to invest in IT and then directly allocate the spending, savings, and benefit of the investment to the mission, especially long-term benefits (A Roadmap for IT Modernization in Government, IBM Center for The Business of Government, Dr. Gregory Dawson, 2018).
The agency Chief Financial Officer (CFO) can help Chief Information Officers (CIOs) and program leaders obtain funding for their IT modernization and data transformation projects, but every CFO needs to understand the potential Return On Investment (ROI) and risks.
Traditionally, Federal agency CFO’s prepared budgets that demonstrate what each dollar will be used for (programs, staffing, technology, etc.). This does not ensure that the dollars appropriated will produce program or mission goals. Performance-based budgeting is critical for agencies to comply with regulations, ensure the proper stewardship of taxpayer dollars, and drive mission success. In theory, it makes sense. However, CFOs and their team struggle with performance-based budgeting due to many challenges.
Given the proliferation of important transformational initiatives in the federal sector, as well as the continued challenges associated with uncertain budgetary resources, increasing workloads with less staff, and a rapidly changing operating environment, it is vital for agencies to employ savvy financial management approaches to ensure program performance is optimized and aligned with mission goals. Yet, many agencies continue to struggle with managing complex, large, and important programs.