Over half (53%) of public sector senior managers say their organisations have explored the use of automation technology in the past year to help transform services in the wake of increasing workloads and tightening budgets.
The research, conducted by iGov Survey on behalf of business outsourcing partner Arvato, revealed that 21% of respondents expect automation technology to be trialled within their department or authority over the next 12 months.
According to the survey of 134 decision makers across 118 public sector organisations, mounting financial challenges, major welfare reforms and growing pressure on citizen-facing services are behind the surge in interest in the technology.
The findings show that 73% of respondents have experienced rising work volumes in their departments over the last 12 months, with 68% reporting a reduction in the size of their team.
Those who have started experimenting with automation technology cited the potential to free-up employees to deliver business-critical services (89%) and reduce the burden of repetitive work (84%) as key to their decision. Improving citizen services by responding faster to enquiries was a driver for automation for 67% of respondents.
Earlier this year Enfield Council introduced a customer service robot with some success.
Debra Maxwell, CEO of CRM Solutions, UK & Ireland, Arvato, commented: “Automation has been widely embraced in the private sector and it’s encouraging to see that government bodies are becoming more receptive to this technology as a way to improve services for citizens and increase efficiencies. Fundamentally, it’s about enabling public sector employees to focus on what’s really important, and redirect resource away from mundane, repetitive tasks.
“At Sefton Council, one of the first local authorities to implement the technology, our RPA project has delivered impressive results, including reducing input times for Council Tax direct debit payments by 80%.
“With automation technology inevitably becoming more accessible to UK organisations, it has huge potential to deliver transformation in the public sector. We’re keen to work with government organisations to help them prepare for the changes that this kind of innovation will bring.”
The research, which surveyed senior staff across local councils, central government departments and non-departmental public bodies, found the top priority departments for delivering new efficiencies were customer services, IT and revenues and benefits.
However, the findings show barriers to implementation still exist. According to the research, of those workers who stated their organisations are not currently exploring robotic automation, 28% are unaware of the possible improvements that can be made with 23% stating that a mix of legacy and new IT systems is a problem in terms of choosing a solution.
The full survey findings can be found here.