What is hyperautomation and why does it matter in federal IT?

By Kyle Tuberson
Jan 28, 2021
5 MIN. READ
How can agencies take advantage of automation tools and technologies to provide better and more timely services—at scale?

Hyperautomation—or the automation of as many IT and business processes as possible—is the buzzword du jour in IT circles. Topping Gartner’s Top 10 Strategic Technology Trends for 2020 list (and reappearing in its 2021 round-up), the idea is gaining purchase because, for the first time in history, we have the right collection of tools (AI, machine learning, robotic process automation, etc.) to solve the speed, talent, and data quality problems that have challenged federal agencies in the past.

But the automation of everything is hard to wrap your head around, and not the most helpful way to think about these artificial intelligence applications in practice. Where should you start? How do you scope the bounds? As federal agencies continue to define their missions through the lens of technology, it’s important to understand how to apply hyperautomation to your specific organizational context. In doing so, you can make strategic investments that improve service and unlock new value—focusing your efforts where it makes business sense instead of chasing after tech for tech’s sake.

But first, a definition.

What is hyperautomation?

Hyperautomation describes a set of automation tools working together to transform business processes. A product of business and IT collaboration, hyperautomation takes advantage of technologies such as intelligent business management software (iBPMS), robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, and AI decisioning tools—all assembled on a low-code platform—to streamline the steps in a process and help agencies provide better and more timely outcomes. 

The journey toward hyperautomation lies on a spectrum: 

The journey toward hyperautomation lies on a spectrum.

It is a series of automation activities that build on each other:

  • Macros and scripts - The basic automation of structured data that occurs within single applications or programs, such as spreadsheets.
  • Business Process Automation (BPA) - The recreation of existing business processes with software. BPA takes the isolated data spreadsheets from macros and scripts and automates them so their data flows from one program to the next. BPA allows you to visualize reports or reformat the data automatically without the use of macros.
  • Robotic Process Automation (RPA) - RPA looks for manual tasks from the BPA stage to automate. Tasks that are repetitive, labor-intensive, and occur across multiple systems are prime candidates for RPA, allowing organizations to create further efficiencies through physical or virtual “robots” that can support human-led functions.
  • Intelligent Process Automation (IPA) - With the introduction of AI and machine learning, intelligent process automation becomes possible. IPA features both supervised and unsupervised machine learning as well as data and domain expertise to generate predictive insights. Think of a chatbot that actively learns from its own experiences in order to deliver an incrementally-better service each time.
  • Hyperautomation - The combination of these technologies applied to a specific business process with the goal of increasingly AI-driven decision making. Hyperautomation requires collaboration between business and IT teams and improves the speed, scale, and delivery of mission outcomes.

What does hyperautomation look like in practice?

Uber is a private company that embodies hyperautomation in its everyday operations. There is no human involvement in its customer-facing business process—everything is done through the app. Car requests, destination information, payments, and feedback or tips are handled within the app environment for both riders and drivers.

For a federal agency example, imagine a highly manual call center with three tiers of human analysts and a number of labor-intensive information gathering and routing steps. Hyperautomation applied to this workflow might use chatbots to ask callers specific questions at the start, autofill the necessary intake forms in the background, and route callers to the appropriate human agents. All the while, the routing model learns from every interaction and combs the internet for supplementary data about the request to further perfect and predict future matches and resolutions. With these business process enhancements, a task that used to take 4-8 months on average to finish could be completed within only minutes. This is the promise and potential of hyperautomation to change the way the government delivers work.

Applying hyperautomation to your specific organizational context

While the industry is barreling toward hyperautomation, the journey is different for every organization. What makes sense for some will not make sense for others (which is why we recommend a pragmatic approach to IT modernization that allows you to start small and add value right away). For example, if you run a key business process on a legacy technology that you will not be able to adequately upgrade or maintain in the future, then you may want to focus your efforts there as a first step. It’s also important to know which tools to apply where. Robotic process automation is purpose-built for highly-intensive, arcane, and manual tasks. Low-value data entry tasks and routinized processes that are too expensive to change can benefit from RPA.

This is why domain expertise is critical to successful hyperautomation efforts. By knowing what is possible from a technology standpoint, you can start to understand the opportunities that exist on the business side. What gains can you achieve by introducing hyperautomation to your call center or knowledge base? Where can you score quick wins and add efficiencies? IT and program teams need to collaborate to fully bring about the benefits of hyperautomation.

How to get started—or progress—on your hyperautomation journey

For all its benefits, hyperautomation is far from a quick fix. You will need to quantify your processes in order to keep track of improvements, ROI, and cost savings; take an honest look at your legacy systems, measuring them against each other to see what to tackle first; and define and enforce security and privacy levels for sensitive data along the way.

Where does your program fall on the automation spectrum, and how might hyperautomation improve your operations? Here are some considerations to bear in mind as you assess your readiness:

  • Are your business leaders asking you to deliver value faster?
  • Do you have a cloud-based infrastructure in place to support your mission, or are you relying primarily on legacy systems?
  • Do you have an environment where teams can experiment with small use cases to show value quickly?
  • Are you up against an IT skills shortage?

By bringing program and IT leaders together to explore the potential applications of hyperautomation within your agency context, you can feel confident that your modernization efforts will bear fruit—solving business problems and providing better and more timely services to citizens. 

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By Kyle Tuberson