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The Future is Now: Robotic Process Automation and the Federal Acquisition Service

| Jeff Lau, Region 2 Regional Commissioner
Post filed in: Technology

Think of a task you routinely do at work. Does that task require keyboard strokes, mouse clicks, reconciling data sets or pulling data from various sources? Do you have coworkers who do that as well?

Congratulations! You may have just found a candidate for automation!

Over the past three years, I’ve led efforts at GSA’s Federal Acquisition Service (FAS) to leverage Robotic Process Automation (RPA) to help streamline our internal acquisition processes. RPA is a software technology that’s great at automating highly repetitive and manual processes.

As a former contracting officer, I know that the guidelines, policies and regulations governing federal procurement are safeguards for the acquisition workforce as well as the American taxpayer.

At the same time, those safeguards extend the lead time of federal procurement. That slows down the time it takes to get critical products and services to our agency partners so they can  support their respective missions.

RPA can close that gap and help the acquisition workforce by:

  • Reducing administrative burden, 
  • Decreasing the time to market for our industry partners, and 
  • Ensuring timely access to quality products and services to our federal agency partners.

GSA’s early adoption of RPA has led multiple agencies to connect with us for knowledge-sharing as they began their own RPA journeys.

Truman Bot

In Q2 of FY 2020, FAS officially launched its first enterprise-wide automation, aptly named Truman in honor of the president who established GSA in 1949.

Truman Blog Image

Truman’s goal is to allow the workforce to focus on negotiations, market research, customer and industry engagement. It helps the acquisition workforce to review new offer submissions under the agency’s flagship Multiple Award Schedule (MAS) program and helps us in two main ways. First, it pre-populates internal pre-negotiation and price-negotiation memorandums with information from vendor packages. Secondly, it conducts compliance checks with external databases.

Since it started, Truman has reviewed over 4,000 new MAS offers and saved over 5,000 hours!

Process Automation Center

In Q1 of FY2021, GSA created the FAS Process Automation Center where I serve as the executive sponsor. We look for opportunities to use technology in new ways to save time for the acquisition workforce, our agency, and industry partners. 

In the six months since we’ve started, we have achieved the following:

  • Launched an automation supporting FAS’ industrial operations analysts to complete  contractor assessments;
  • Begun testing a catalog management automation helping the workforce review vendor-submitted GSA Advantage files; and
  • Started to explore more automations to support our stakeholders.

Want to know more?

If you are with a federal agency and want to know more about how the federal government is using RPA, join the RPA Community of Practice. Let us help bring RPA to you.

Also, listen to our GSA FAS Focus podcast where I explain how RPA is helping FAS meet its strategic goals.