The desire to make the employees of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) more efficient in their work led to the creation of a Robotics Process Automation Center of Excellence, explained Pam Dempsey, the center’s lead.

“People were having their employees doing transactional, routine, rule-based tasks,” said Dempsey, “not the strategic thinking, high-value work that they should be doing.”

Dempsey, speaking today at the ServiceNow Federal Forum, said the center now has clients in logistics, finance, travel, and IT. The CIA’s center uses the ServiceNow platform to interact with clients.

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Robotics became the solution to the common problem of needing to remove low-value, repetitive work. Dempsey called the work that the bots perform “digital labor.” Training CIA staff on what tasks a bot can and cannot do is a critical step, Dempsey said. Subject matter experts at the CIA can share their processes with the center’s developers.

“From that linked process map, we can pick out discrete tasks that can then be automated,” Dempsey explained.

After the CIA’s developers build a bot, customers test the prototype and changes are made on the ServiceNow platform until the customer is satisfied with the product.

In order to see what the bot is doing, the ServiceNow platform uses visuals to show what tasks the bot has completed.

The Robotics Process Automation Center of Excellence is a step towards artificial intelligence (AI) and machine learning (ML) at the agency.

“There are some efforts across the CIA to go that arena,” Dempsey said. “To get to AI and ML, you have to your data accessible.”

Tagging and aggregating old data is a step towards accessibility.

“We are in the process of getting it [accessible],” said Dempsey, “so we get can to the AI and ML arena.”

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Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten
Dwight Weingarten is a MeriTalk Staff Reporter covering the intersection of government and technology.