Robotic Process Automation Provides Universities Stability in a Time of Uncertainty


By Anthony Fung, CEO, Amplitude9, LLC and former Deputy Secretary of Technology for Virginia

Software can help higher education institutions thrive during dramatic market upheaval.


Like many sectors, higher education is facing substantial uncertainty in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. Universities were already feeling pressure from declining enrollments and rising expenses. Now, institutions are under tremendous pressure to adjust their offerings, keep students and staff safe, and curb expenses. They need new tools and business processes, and Robotic Process Automation (RPA) is emerging as a potential anchor during this difficult transition.


Higher education has become an increasingly competitive market because of decreasing admissions. The US fall 2019 semester’s enrollments fell below 18 million students, a decline of more than 2 million pupils since its peak in 2011. Those numbers are expected to be even lower this year as students rethink their educational plans until the health and economic crises subside. In this complex, competitive, volatile market innovative approaches are needed to meet the needs of students, faculty and staff.


Higher education institutions are facing many new demands, starting with ensuring a safe learning environment. COVID-19 testing procedures and policies must be enacted. In many cases, schools are shifting half or more of their courses from ground to online, which represents significant investments in computer hardware, collaboration software, and network infrastructure. All of these changes are occurring as budgets are tightening. As a result, universities must find ways to do more with less.


What is Robotic Process Automation?

RPA is a software genre that supports organizational change by streamlining repetitive tasks using Artificial Intelligence. RPA automates processes like creating documents, granting approvals, filing forms, or generating reports. These types of tasks are often conducted by a variety of individuals across many departments in large institutions, like universities. Using RPA to automate select parts of a business process frees up staff hours and allows government employees to spend their time on more strategic projects.

RPA has been used in the private sector for years and is emerging as an important solution for the public sector.


RPA Use Cases

RPA can be used in any department with any application. To better understand some of its many use cases, click RPA Public Sector Use Cases. RPA deployments often begin with financial systems, as they are typically process- and form-intensive departments.


RPA can be used for:

  • Invoicing & Reconciliations
  • Auditing & SOX Compliance
  • Payroll Management
  • Leave/Travel Approvals
  • Expense Reporting
  • Credit Card Reconciliation
  • Staff Expenses Management
  • Financial Reporting (Monthly and EOY)


Possible department benefactors include:

  • Academics
  • Admissions
  • Athletics
  • Information Technology
  • Procurement
  • Student Services and Financial Aid


What Next?

RPA is a solution that has been gaining traction in many areas in many organizations. In fact, Gartner named it the fastest-growing category of enterprise software. The reason? “The ability to integrate legacy systems is the key driver for RPA projects. By using this technology, organizations can quickly accelerate their digital transformation initiatives, while unlocking the value associated with past technology investments,” explained Fabrizio Biscotti, research vice president at Gartner.

Currently, higher educational institutions are struggling to meet high demands during a dynamic and dramatic time. RPA offers them the potential to do more with less, so it is a category of technology worth examining.


Anthony Fung has more than 17 years of experience in Information Technology management, strategic planning, and operations management. He served as Deputy Secretary of Technology for the Commonwealth of Virginia; was the CEO of a professional consulting firm, with Federal clients, such as DoD, HHS, DHS, and GS; and served as a SCORE counselor, providing advice to small business. Anthony received the Washington Business Journal’s Award and was named one of SmartCEO’s Top 100 CEOs and Top 40 Under 40 Business Leaders.

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