Automation yielding dividends, officials say — FCW

AI & Automation

Automation yielding dividends, officials say

automation (Wright Studio/ 

Federal agencies are reporting benefits from automation technologies, in the form of reduced processing backlogs and labor hours saved.

Officials and vendors at ACT-IAC’s Jan. 22 Intelligent Automation and Artificial Forum touted the successes from leveraging automation and in particular using an ACT-IAC playbook and guide released last October.

Ed Burrows, the vice president of intelligent solutions at Brillient Corporation, announced that the General Services Administration has “has made the return on investment very clear… [with] 33 automations, achieving 70,000 labor hours of capacity generated for them.”

Harry Lee, GSA’s assistant commissioner for Technology Transformation Services, touted the success of an email notification bot for accounts payable services.

“The bot automates email notifications for outstanding invoices pending a receiving report. Another [example] is a bot that retrieves information on micro-purchases to create a purchase card log,” he said in his keynote speech at the forum. The new automations are publicly available in repositories on GitHub.

The Treasury Department is looking to robotics process automation to help direct information seekers to the right resources.

“There are 21 call centers across the U.S., which receive over 4 million calls, emails and faxes year,” Jennifer Hill, a management and program analyst at Treasury, said in a presentation, adding that “75% of those calls are misdirected, which is a huge pain point.”

More that 80,000 work hours are spent each year navigating misdirected calls.

“What we learned is that AI technology and other technologies as well as RPA can also play a role here … and not just helping a user find the form that they need,” she said. “It can also help [the user] reach that form [they need] with their information [inputted], and help them get it completed and submitted, so they never have to make a phone call.”

GSA’s website is using a chatbot to answer common questions about potential fraud.

“People say, ‘I got this letter,’ or ‘I got this call, is this a legitimate situation or is it a fraud,'” Marietta Jelks, the research lead for, said at the event. “We decided that this was an opportunity to try to use automation to answer these questions about scams and frauds. Scams are consistently one of the top topics for our call centers.”

Beginning last February, the team engaged with users, interviewing 33 consumers about their experiences with navigating scams and whether they were able to get their money back. Since then, some 45,000 people have used the chat bot feature to report or inquire about fraud and scam questions, with a 75% success rate. Success is measured by whether a person received an answer to their question, Jelks added.

ACT-IAC is hoping to stimulate similar successes with artificial intelligence. The group released its AI Playbook at the event, the product of collaboration among private sector companies, academics, and federal agencies and departments aimed at helping government implement technologies that would help them better serve their customers and mitigate risks associated with human operation.

About the Author

Lia Russell is a staff writer and associate editor at FCW covering the federal workforce. Before joining FCW, she worked as a freelance labor reporter in San Francisco for outlets such SF Weekly, The American Prospect and The Baffler. Russell graduated with a bachelor’s degree from Bard College.

Contact Lia at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @LiaOffLeash.

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