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Best Practices / Digital Transformation

Cloud RPA as a Foundation for Transformational Digital Government

Cloud RPA as a Foundation for Transformational Digital Government

The theory is there is no silver bullet in IT, but actually there are common requirements that manifest repeatedly across all types of organizations and that can be addressed that way.

CRM isn’t this approach, it’s a specific functionality for a specific business scenario. In contrast ‘RPA‘ – Robotic Process Automation, is such a general purpose solution, as the term suggests it automates any and all kinds of processes.

RPA – Robotic Process Automation

FinTech Futures explores the potential for automation financial compliance procedures for example.

The huge potential it offers can be fully realized when considered within a context of outsourcing, from Cloud through traditional, large scale BPM outsources.

Furthermore this context and these deals can be further scrutinized through a microscope of Digital Transformation – How did they enable the organization to bring new digital services and capabilities to market? For the public sector today this is Goal #1.

However these deals are notorious for expensive and poor delivery success stories (e.g. Edinburgh City) and one of the primary causes of this is a failure to achieve a more advanced, better optimized IT platform. In short they simply transfer the entire estate often including all the people, to the outsourcer, with the theory being the outsourcer will then realized multiple customer economies of scale and deliver better IT for all of them at a shared cost rate.

This logic ultimately leads you to Cloud computing, it’s the full conclusion to that principle on a global scale, but it also highlights the root challenge: Legacy IT. For example simply “lifting and shifting” your app as is to an IaaS environment won’t deliver transformational benefit either. If you don’t also modernize the app itself and the tools and methods used to enhance it (DevOps et al), then the business benefits of Cloud Migration will be minimal and all technical in nature.

The same principle applies to outsourcing. If you ‘lift and shift’ your IBM mainframe to be run entirely by IBM, then yes it’s in a safe pair of hands and off your plate, but the root problem itself has simply been moved from one place to another. Indeed what customers often find is that once the services team are behind change control procedures, technology dynamism is entirely lost, their IT has become a black box that works fine but can’t easily be altered or extended, the fundamental activity of Digital Transformation.

Hence why many senior executives often find themselves surprised, that this partnering with a tech leader doesn’t result in cool new tech advances for their business, but rather cements them in place with the legacy platform they already had, and with the added complexity of outsourcing procedures has become more cumbersome not less, and critically, fails to realize any efficiency and cost savings.

Cloud RPA – The Cloud as Smart Middleware

Actually outsourcing is somewhat of a red herring. As this UKA news highlights the same issues cause the same effect even when IT is run in-house, with this locked in nature also being the reason for not adopting new, innovative technologies. Organizations are hard coded to their data centres, whether they run them in-house or outsource them, and this resistance is the main reason why Cloud adoption on a large wholescale has yet to happen.

However the outsourcing dynamic is key, because how you adopt the Cloud is the critical factor. Thinking about Cloud only in Lift and Shift terms is the wrong perspective, because you’re only considering a scope of technology that you already have and a migration that won’t expand its’ capability in any meaningful business way.

In contrast sourcing a new technology capability is a very powerful advance, and is especially so when it is used in such a way as to augment and enhance the value of the existing IT. Think of adopting the Cloud as applying an “overlay” across your existing IT, a new surrounding layer not just a place to host what you already have.

RPA is a perfect example – An advanced technology that is best adopted As A Service and that can automate the integration between multiple existing legacy systems. This type of system integration to enable streamlined BPM is again one of those scenarios that is a major pain point for every and all IT implementations, hence the point about it being a generalized solution.

Digital Government Transformation

Vendors like Thoughtonomy offer an entirely new paradigm for solving this thorn in the foot issue – A ‘Virtual Worker’ approach.

Some organizations solve the challenge through ‘swivel chair integration’ – They simply hire staff to re-key data from one system to another, offering easy insights into how legacy IT costs balloon. Virtual Workers are simply the automation of that manual labour, what technology is ideal for and how it delivers cost efficiency benefits.

It also highlights the realities of Digital Government projects today. The ‘GDS Cult’ has somewhat positioned Agile software development as the hammer for every nail, with a consequence being they are excellent at digitizing a few big processes, but the reality of every government agency is that they are a maze of these swivel chair integrations and manual procedures.

You might be able to complete one part of a government procedure via a super whizzy web front end app, but then later to complete it in full you have to print out and post back a hard copy form. Or you have to send an email to someone who is currently on vacation, or phone a call centre who knows nothing about this first digital service, and so on.

It’s difficult to automate these types of lots of little interactions via software development, but it’s what RPA is ideal for. No need to reinvent the wheel each time, just automate it appropriately using pre-developed and proven modules for that task.

Building this capability into outsourcing/Cloud deals is therefore what designs in the ability to deliver what senior executives want from them – Cost savings resulting from efficiencies that are passed on to the customer, and improve digital capabilities. Identifying areas where they incur excessive manual bureaucracy and automating those areas, as a standard activity of the outsource, will realize both.


The main tools of government procurement today: In-house, outsourcing or G-Cloud, bring some but not all pieces of the jigsaw for what’s needed to truly achieve Digital Transformation in the public sector, given the scale and complexity of this manual procedure landscape.

Software dev can digitize key processes, Cloud migration and outsourcing provides the core IT infrastructure capacities, but neither addresses this long tail of manual process, meaning by definition it’s not end to end and thus not fully digitally transformed.

RPA is the category of technology that maps entirely to this category of unaddressed scope, hence it’s silver bullet nature. It’s an example of how adopting Cloud today can deliver transformational impact and in a way that fixes rather than is stymied by the issue of legacy app complexity.

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Neil is a Cloud computing entrepreneur, specializing in cutting edge digital transformation and disruptive innovation, building teams and startups and helping clients of any size successfully exploit a variety of technologies.

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