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FEMA’s Acquisition Office Aims to Embrace More Bots and Automation

The chief procurement office within America’s emergency management agency is looking to deepen early, ongoing adoption of robotics process automation, or RPA.

In a request for information and corresponding matrix issued this week, the FEMA office lists a range of processes, workflows and procedures that are automated, semi-automated, or need to be automated—and brief proposals for how bots and technology might improve them.

“FEMA [Office of the Chief Procurement Officer] requires assistance with the identification of the RPA software application, program management/support, installation and configuration of RPA software, establishing a methodology for RPA process selection, development of intake procedures, documentation of processes to be automated, development of automations, testing, training, lessons learned, and implementation of automations,” the RFI reads.

Federal RPA adoption is on the rise and varies across agencies, but a variety have started to see how such bots, digital assistants and artificial intelligence-based tools can help complete repetitive, tedious and manual actions or business processes. 

According to FEMA’s process automation matrix, the agency has two active RPA piloting efforts presently being tested by the offices of the chief financial officer and chief information officer. It notes that FEMA is awaiting completion of those to “determine feasibility of [the procurement office] testing and applying RPA.” The box in the spreadsheet adds that, right now, the office uses Microsoft products to support its analytical capabilities and OCPO Dashboard, and it’s “pursuing Microsoft Power BI (Business Intelligence) Pro/Premium (Cloud) to enhance analysis, reporting, and visualization capability.” The matrix notes that the office “will continue to improve business processes by adopting new solutions using” AI and RPA, going forward.

The matrix also outlines semi-automated processes, including the one it has in place for Committee on Foreign Investment in the U.S., or CFIUS cases. FEMA would like a bot to complete more elements of those tasks.

Further, the agency points to multiple manual processes and systems that are time-consuming and make sense for RPA applications, such as one that could support tracking requests from its procurement quality review team.  

FEMA poses 16 questions to inform its pursuits, including insight around applicable, existing commercial off-the-self RPA options, difficulties that might emerge as it tackles these plans, industry best practices learned through similar efforts and more.

Responses are due Feb. 16. 

source: NextGov