DOL Emerging Technology Chief Says Engage Staff, Identify Key Process Automation Pain Points

Written by John Hewitt Jones

According to the Department of Labor’s emerging technology chief, engaging federal agency staff and gaining a deep understanding of their day-to-day challenges is key to responsible process automation.

Speaking to FedScoop on Tuesday, Krista Kinnard said early conversations are crucial to ensuring new attended automation systems are relevant.

“It starts with accountability — engaging with people and understanding what their challenge is before bringing technology to the table and making sure the technology actually solves the problem,” she said.

Kinnard spoke to FedScoop after receiving the Emerging Leaders Medal at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America Awards for her work automating repetitive administrative processes at the Department of Labor.

She won the accolade for overseeing the use of robotic process automation to reduce the time needed to format and organize staff performance reviews from 40 hours to less than three minutes.

“[The work] Started by talking to Ministry of Labor staff: what part of your job do you hate the most. What is the most tedious, repetitive and mundane thing? ,” Kinnard explained.

“How can we automate this so you can focus on the job you were trained to do? It requires that intelligence, that training, and that compassion that you have as a human being.

Under his leadership, the Department of Labor went from using robots to deploying more than 30 to allow federal personnel to focus on higher-value work.

Kinnard added that mentoring the implementation of new technologies is also essential, to ensure that agency employees are included in the development process, and stressed the importance of strong governance for the new technology.

“We certainly don’t want to build bots that replace people or hurt people or introduce any kind of bias.”

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