Soaring costs are hitting the public sector hard, squeezing budgets and making it difficult to deliver vital services at a time when many are in high demand. Government departments were told they need to ‘identify savings to manage pressures from higher inflation’ in last year’s Autumn Statement – but how can this be done when, as the Institute for Government put it, there is ‘no fat left to trim’?
The Prime Minister’s u-turn on reducing headcount is welcome news for civil servants, who’re already struggling to recruit and retain top talent and may still be trying to deal with backlogs caused by Covid.
These challenges only make a case for digitisation stronger and this is where we have cause to be optimistic. There’s a growing appetite across government departments and the public sector to use technology to drive efficiencies – specifically, sharing data and using automation to make smarter decisions and speed up the most labour-intensive tasks.
One such capability is hyperautomation, which we’ve been exploring across several industries in our blog series. To recap, this is robotic process automation (RPA) and artificial intelligence (AI) convergence to streamline processes and improve decision-making. It can enhance service delivery and engagement in the public sector and build trust by reducing error and identifying fraud (e.g., benefits or tax) more effectively.
Another significant benefit is that teams don’t need to be able to write code or rely on their tech teams to make the most of the technology. They can apply it to their processes in a way that helps them achieve their objectives using low-code/no-code tools.
Hyperautomation can be used across a wide range of frontline and back-office functions, but here are just a few examples of where it could make a real difference.
With more than 5.5 million businesses, ensuring compliance is neither quick nor easy, no matter how experienced and skilled the teams are.
Transactional risk analysis is the first step in automatically alerting taxpayers that their submission falls outside the expected thresholds. It saves compliance teams from manually checking and rejecting expenses on a tax return.
However, by applying hyperautomation, they can take relevant data from the vast amount submitted and quickly and accurately validate it, file the return, match payments, complete reconciliation and identify any anomalies.
The technology is also a key weapon in the fight against tax evasion – for example, risk scoring and analysis of discrepancies between an employer and employee’s tax declarations allows investigators to prioritise the most severe cases first.
An efficient benefits system
The Department for Work & Pensions (DWP) has to strike a careful balance between ensuring that benefits are paid out promptly to those in genuine need without opening themselves up to fraud and error. The government recorded its highest overpayment rate of 4% in FY2022 – the equivalent of £8.6 billion and almost the same as FY2021’s figure.
Hyperautomation could drastically reduce overpayment and result in substantial savings for the taxpayer while also reducing the costs of processing claims in the first place.
Recognising the challenges, DWP has already leveraged robotic process automation (RPA) to speed up claims processing – the next step is to use hyperautomation to classify and validate information, automatically flagging potential issues. Similarly, the ability to use natural language processing (NLP) – a type of AI that helps make sense of complex human language – means that thousands of hand-written documents and forms can be searched, removing the need for information to be keyed in again.
With more efficient and less error-prone processes, claimants should receive a fast and frictionless service that provides what they’re entitled to.
HR and other back-office processes
Two years ago, the government unveiled its Shared Services Strategy – and data and process convergence form a crucial part of its vision for streamlining services delivered by civil servants. Data convergence will ‘enable insight-driven decisions from accurate and accessible corporate data (HR, Finance, and Commercial) for the whole civil service, while process convergence will ‘enable automation, interoperability, and improvements.’
Hyperautomation can go a long way in helping the government to realise its goal because it automates resource-heavy processes.
Take recruitment, for example. HR teams might already use optical character recognition (OCR) methods to pull out information about a candidate.
However, hyperautomation uses deep learning, which allows them to intelligently and proactively scrape recruitment websites to identify the most suitable people for a role, generating a suitability score and detecting potentially fraudulent information. Automating this time-consuming process gives HR time to focus on strategic and human-centred activities, like employee engagement, while improving due diligence.
Hyperautomation can also transform public engagement with conversational AI chatbots that use NLP to understand even complex cases and point people to the right service first time.
Download our free ebook, Supercharge Citizen Services, to learn how hyperautomation could help drive efficiencies in your department.