Home Bots & Bullets US Defense Finance and Accounting Service expands RPA program

US Defense Finance and Accounting Service expands RPA program

by Marco van der Hoeven

This year the Defense Finance and Accounting Service expands RPA program saw a shift from delivering simple automations to more value added automations for the Agency. The first twelve bots the Robotics team implemented in 2020 12 were this year joined by additional bots.

The focus of the Defense Finance and Accounting Service robotics program is creating bots perform certain tasks, improving customer service and creating efficiencies around the Agency. These bots work with employees to enhance their ability to accomplish tasks by conducting searches based on human entered information. Bots, however, do not interpret the information, thus the continued need for employees interfacing with the tasks.

DFAS began Robotics Process Automation in January 2019. The goal for the DFAS robotics program is to automate manual processes. Specifically the aim is to improve performance and quality; increase effectiveness; and leverage technology to help us continue to provide the best possible service and lowest costs to our customers.

Reduce manual efforts

The initial focus was to reduce manual efforts, tighten internal controls, improve efficiencies, build integrity and creditability and allow time for developers to learn the new software. While the option was there to outsource the RPA processes, DFAS chose to use sources within several departments to stand up the RPA program. ESS Enterprise Systems and Information Technology worked to integrate the software into our systems environment and put the necessary controls in place for effective governance. Once that was complete, the necessary software and servers needed were acquired to support the effort.

This year the focus shifted from delivering simple automations to more value added automations for the Agency. For a bot to be successful there are three elements that must be present in the proposed process: Processes must be manual in nature, for example inputting data from one system to another or copying data from a form into a system. Documented processes enable bot developers to know every click the bot is expected to perform; Processes must be consistent, with very few deviations because bots are limited in the decisions they can make; Finally, the environment must be stable, because if a system undergoes a change every six months, the bot is likely to break.

Assist humans

The use of these bots will expand to monitoring, receiving and sending email; screen scraping documents or web pages; and accessing systems, retrieving and entering information, and running reports. David Cottengim, the Agency Robotic Program manager, “Bots are not intended to replace humans, but to assist them in the performance of their duties. DFAS has committed to its union partners that under no circumstance will an employee lose their job as a result of a bot. Given the hype around robots it’s understandable why the union is concerned about the bot efforts.”

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