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RPA at USDA in Numbers and Why RPA Operations and Maintenance Service Is One of The Key Factors

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The U.S. Department of Agriculture’s RPA Branch expects to grow its number of automations in fiscal 2022 with 29 more in development, according to Branch Chief Lattrice Goldsby. Goldsby estimates the automations will achieve close to $2.5 million in cost avoidance and save about 78,000 work hours annually starting in the first quarter. That’s in addition to the 66 automations already in production — representing $5.37 million in cost avoidance and about 156,000 work hours saved annually — fast becoming a key piece of USDA‘s digital transformation. That’s why it is vital to keep all the bots up and running even when something goes wrong. A common criticism of RPA automations is they break easily.

“We did find that if something moves on a website, or a URL is changed, that a bot will break of course, so the way we are dealing with that is we have an RPA operations and maintenance service that we provide our customers that they can sign up for. We monitor their automations on a daily basis for any breaks, and if their automation does break, we automatically get a notification sent to my team’s remedy mailbox, where we’ll pick up that ticket and begin looking at where the error came from.”

Lattrice Goldsby, RPA CoE and Branch Manager, USDA

The department’s one-year-old operations and maintenance (O&M) service can usually fix a break within a couple of hours, test and redeploy the automation. Major changes to an interface break RPA in ways that take longer to fix because they require working with the process and application owners.

An O&M service was absolutely needed with so many automations going into production, and the service has added professional service hours to add code to automations. Still, there’s no better fix than getting things right the first time.

“What we always do mainly is to build a good RPA, to begin with, so they don’t fail. If an RPA does fail, it’s primarily due to something being changed within the application that it’s integrated with, and definitely, the benefits outweigh not automating a business process.”

Lattrice Goldsby, RPA CoE and Branch Manager, USDA


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