Governments are the stewards of the citizens and have a hard task of delivering high quality services to citizens while managing tight budgets. Greater investments have been made in categories like education, public welfare and roadways – the Urban Institute reported that there has been a 172 percent increase in state and local expenditures over 39 years. Specifically, local and state governments spent $342 billion in 2017 on transportation and water infrastructure alone, according to a 2018 Congressional Budget Office report. Yet, the increase in spending has not contributed to an increase in citizen satisfaction or quality of the infrastructure. The American Society of Civil Engineers’ annual infrastructure report card graded water infrastructure and roadways with a “D” rating, consistent with the previous year’s rating.
How can governments bridge the gap?
A sense of urgency has taken hold of municipalities to correct this imbalance, and many seem to have found a solution. Automation is an incredibly valuable tool that can help elevate any municipality to meet the needs and expectations of its citizens while remaining efficient on costs. Here are some steps that municipalities are taking to maximize the use of automation in order to keep both personnel and citizens satisfied:
- Start with the most impactful departments – To realize benefits more quickly, it is important to figure out which departments would benefit the most from automation. According to a study by McKinsey, almost 80 percent of the processes in human resources, finance and application processing can be automated. Municipalities can automate a large percentage of the human resources onboarding processes as well as their monthly and year-end financial planning, budgeting and reporting analysis. Targeting the appropriate functions for automation can save drastically on costs – the same McKinsey study found that automating workflows in these three departments can reduce costs by 30 percent.
- Prioritize scalability – As new applications powered by AI and machine learning come online, tasks that used to take hours to complete will quickly condense down to minutes. Therefore, the workloads that systems will be able to accomplish will increase significantly. Municipalities that successfully deploy automation at scale, perform a thorough assessment of the end-state allocation of resources before they implement automation tools. This helps them scale up their operations without ballooning support costs.
- Engage the employees early in the process – This is by far the most important step when implementing automation into everyday workflows. Employees are a municipality’s most valuable resource, yet some employees fear that as technology advances, their skills will no longer be essential in the workforce – a national poll conducted by CNBC found that 27 percent of citizens fear automation will replace their jobs. Because automation serves to augment, not replace employees, people should not feel that their jobs are on the line when new automated technologies are implemented. The most successful IT leaders in the municipalities that adopt AI establish a continuous feedback loop with employees who will be interacting with the automated technology, or whose jobs run in tandem to the automated technology. This feedback loop ensures that employees give input on how the technology will simplify their lives, while providing them with reassurance on their job safety.
Municipalities that are embracing automation are reaping the benefits it is bringing to their workforce and their citizens. The savings in cost and time realized through automation allow government personnel to focus their skills on other more time-intensive projects that require creative and innovative solutions. Ultimately, not only this improves employee satisfaction and builds a stronger public workforce, but the services provided to citizens also improve.