18 Nov 2022

Emerging technology

A guest blog submitted by MuleSoft for #DigitalJusticeWeek2022

Automation has been a popular term among business leaders for decades, but actually putting it into action across the entire business operation has only more recently gained steam. In fact, a global survey in 2020 by McKinsey & Co. found 66% of business leaders from a wide swath of industries and verticals reported piloting solutions to automate at least one business process. This number jumped nearly 10 percentage points from their previous survey two years prior.

There are a number of factors contributing to the intensified focus on automation. Some organisational leaders see it as a strategic imperative, aligning it with their overall business strategy, whereas others see it as a way to improve their cost base over time, keep pace with competitors, or address operational efficiency issues.

The automation trend has become more accessible thanks to application programming interfaces (APIs) and platforms that enable connectivity between systems. Business and IT leaders now see it as core to digital transformation. A recent report found 30% of IT leaders agree automation is a key business initiative tied to digital transformation. How do you achieve successful business process automation?

APIs as the driving force for successful automation

There are two driving forces that have proven conducive to automation success over the long term: business process management and API strategy. Before embarking on the automation journey, undergoing business process management practices help organisations avoid simply applying automation to flawed or unnecessary manual processes. It’s the practice of unearthing all current processes, documenting them and identifying where there might be redundancies or opportunities to eliminate certain steps altogether.

Another primary issue that has traditionally stymied successful automation efforts is integrating systems through point-to-point connections. This, over time, leads to a tangled cacophony of connection points which often results in data silos. With automation, it is imperative to create visibility with real-time access to data, this is where APIs come in.

The State of the API Report by Postman found for those working on digital transformation initiatives, 84.5% agreed that APIs are playing a significant role in those initiatives. Particularly in scenarios where it’s not possible to upend legacy systems, APIs enable the preservation of those systems while allowing new apps and solutions to be integrated to create a more modern structure. This has been especially transformative to organisations and agencies operating in the public sector.

Transforming the public sector with APIs

The Industrial Commission of Arizona (ICA), an agency that manages worker’s compensation regulations for the state, had a need to transition from their ageing legacy system to a cloud solution that would enable them to work with customers and constituents more efficiently. They were midway through their lean process initiatives and had identified where they could tighten up processes and systems. This set the foundation for building a more scalable and agile cloud-based solution providing agency-wide visibility, delivering an improved experience to customers and constituents.

The challenge

As the agency grew, the legacy systems they were using were becoming more strained. They couldn’t quickly and easily make updates or changes, or even fix issues within the system. They also lacked integrations with other agency systems, making processing claims a very manual process – typically involving at least seven manual steps to process one document. Much of the process was paper-based with back-and-forth communication taking place via hard-copy documents sent by mail. Automation would not only quicken turnaround times, it would also eliminate requirements for paper copies, reduce errors, and free the team of rote tasks which inhibit innovation. The challenge was operating within complex business rules and a number of legacy inputs.

The solution

To modernise ICA’s systems and maintain the integrity of legacy inputs, they turned to MuleSoft’s Anypoint Platform. This was used to integrate multiple systems using APIs, freeing them from manual data entry and paper handling. Salesforce Service Cloud was integrated to automate claims intake, workflows, tasks, and outbound notifications to stakeholders such as insurance carriers, employers, attorneys, and claimants. MuleSoft APIs also enabled them to integrate a printing solution with Service Cloud to automate the printing and enveloping of documents.

APIs empowered the ICA to automate previously manual workflows while enhancing the stakeholder experience. They increased efficiency and reduced errors, particularly with the ability to quickly and accurately match claims. The manual steps for inbound documents reduced from seven human touches to zero for all electronically received documents, enabling them to process worker’s compensation claims faster, which led to improved customer satisfaction.

As automation becomes a key part of the overall business strategy, organisations will need to turn to APIs to create connected systems to avoid data silos. APIs will prove essential in driving business automation and helping organisations thrive. Download our whitepaper to learn how to accelerate government IT innovation with APIs and microservices.