Intelligent automation mitigates Covid-19 impacts

Peter Ford, Government Sector Industry Principal for EMEA at Pegasystems discusses UK Government response to COVID-19 through Intelligent Automation, as part of techUK's Intelligent Automation Campaign

The last 9 months has been challenging for UK Government, but the response to Covid-19 by public servants has been very laudable. But should we rely on the heroic effort of these staff? They cannot be the primary solution to deal with increases in demand and different types of challenges for extended periods. Goodwill and loyalty can only go so far. Burn-out is a real concern. In any case, should highly skilled individuals occupy themselves with increases in service volume? I suggest not.

Public servants will always play a part in times of need. I suggest, though, that their unique skills and abilities should be supported to allow them to focus on where these can have most impact rather than focus on volume.

The pandemic has accelerated the adoption of technology to support public sector service operations and citizen engagement. Those that have struggled have usually had inflexible legacy IT solutions and an inability to change at pace to meet urgent emerging needs.

Intelligent automation has matured and, if the correct solution is selected, can offer real flexibility to meet emerging priorities rapidly. These solutions can triage where peaks in volume occur and meet call demand by using new digital channels to deliver efficient, personalised self-service and execute service cases. These solutions need to be scalable to evolve with wider digital transformation, always up to date, always easy to change, and always ready to deploy where needed.

Any intelligent automation platform needs to offer a low risk means of delivering digital transformation incrementally, whilst, at the same time, utilising existing investment in legacy solutions and data. Gone are the days of high-risk big bang solutions that all too often do not deliver on their promise. A central AI ‘brain’ is required to support decisioning. Business logic, integrations and channels should not locked-away in back-end solutions that are inflexible and difficult to change.

Components of end-to-end intelligent automation solutions include:

  • A unified low code platform;
  • Robotic process and desktop automation, and workforce intelligence;
  • Case and process management supported by a sophisticated rules engine;
  • Predictive and responsive analytics with AI to support decision making;

Two examples are given below: 

HMRC. Pega Intelligent Automation and Robotics solutions supported the Chancellor’s measures designed to help UK businesses and individuals during the pandemic. We mitigated against fraud and risk, with businesses and individuals applying for support.

The government programs aimed at job retentionsupporting income for the self-employed, support for the hospitality industry, and providing rebates for statutory sick pay, were all introduced earlier this year. The department was already using Pega Intelligent Automation case management solutions for 18 years to assist with customer service, fraud investigation, customs, and legal.

Pega extended the department’s existing compliance and enforcement application to mitigate against potential risk around each of the four COVID-19 plans. The new capabilities were configured, tested and deployed in just eight days. Pega Attended RPA™ was implemented as part of its intelligent automation strategy to automate the process of stopping payments where risk was identified – a project that was implemented from start to finish inside two weeks.

StepChange, a UK based charity that helps citizens with poor debt, has helped more than five million people get back on their financial feet and repaid £4 billion of their debts over the past 25 years. The charity already used the Pega Customer Service application as the backbone of their Pulse customer support system. Through this, they support customers needing free debt advice via online and telephone inquiries.

It is estimated that around two million people in the UK will be adversely affected by major debt due to income reduction, job losses, and the end of the government furlough initiative following the COVID-19 outbreak. To assist in the impending debt crisis, the organisation launched its Covid Payment Plan (CVPP), a new online service providing short-term assistance for those who qualify for up to a year. As well as Pega intelligent automation, CVPP leverages Pega Chat to support online conversations between applicant and StepChange experts. With demand expected to be high, the service can scale up to 10,000 concurrent users per hour. The new CVPP product is able to leverage components from the existing Pulse solution to help with the rapid creation of this new product.

Peter Ford is the Government Sector Industry Principal for EMEA at Pegasystems.