The use of intelligent automation solutions has been on the rise across the Federal sector over the last several years as Federal agency leaders look for ways to automate repetitive, rule-based processes and tackle inefficiencies, enabling existing staff to focus on higher value actions and work. Several agencies that make up the Department of Health and Human Services have been leaders in the adoption and utilization of RPA solutions. A recent announcement out of HHS details an upcoming requirement to acquire contractor services to develop and implement RPA solutions to streamline processes involving various administrative functions and lines of business. 

HHS’ Program Support Center (PSC) recently formed a new Federal Robotic Process Automation team and they are in the process of conducting market research using via multiple channels as they seek input on an upcoming requirement to acquire contractor services to develop and implement RPA solutions for processes involving various administrative functions and lines of business. You can expect that any proposed solution will include both “bots” and a range of other automation tools that “reduce or replace the need for employees to perform mundane, error-prone tasks such as copying and pasting data, analyzing large volumes of data, and/or aggregating data”, while initially targeting processes that offer the highest potential for a return on investment.  

For those not familiar with HHS PSC, this is a unique fee-for-service basis unit within HHS that provides a range of shared services to both HHS and other federal agencies in areas such as financial management, IT, facilities, badging, and occupational health services. Given its broad cross-agency reach, this upcoming requirement is naturally attracting a lot of attention from industry.   

Late last week, OS AI spoke with several Federal RPA leaders, to include Will Rohde, an established RPA SME and the President and CEO of Quantahub Squared, about the state of RPA in the Federal sector and HHS. Will noted that the market research states the current PSC environment includes a FedRAMP cloud based Appian BPM environment coupled with an on-premises Blue Prism2 RPA environment.  

“As background, in 2020 Appian acquired an RPA platform from Novayre Solutions SL called Jidoka RPA. Prior to the acquisition Appian consumers used Blue Prism (BP) RPA as the tool of choice. The acquisition and integration have not gone as well as expected and there are limitations to the Appian RPA offering as compared to other pure RPA offerings, so BP seems to be a good choice for seamless integration with Appian. BP does not use public APIs to connect to Appian as do other RPA tools, but instead uses an import process from Appian into BP for a more secure integration through a drag-and-drop interface. For a shared services environment I think this is a good selling point to PSC’s consumers of their offering.” 

Providing some advice to those pursuing this and/or other similar contracts, Rohde went on to say: “Appian does have a FedRAMP cloud offering while BP does not have a FedRAMP offering. The BP deployment would have to be an on-premises solution which incurs an extra cost for infrastructure and maintenance, as well as needing an ATO if this has not already been achieved at HHS. There are some large SIs such as Accenture that offer BP as a service within their FedRAMP cloud offering, but that would limit the competition to using a potential competitor’s environment. All of these items should be taken into consideration when bidding on this effort.”  

“As QuantaHub Squared is an experienced BP services firm, we feel bidders need to focus on how important the BP Robotic Operating Model (ROM) is for success when deploying a shared services offering. Each RPA vendor has its own Center of Excellence (CoE) concept and in practice they are necessary for enterprise offerings. The BP ROM had been continuously evolving prior to its acquisition of the PE firm SS&C. It consists of strategic frameworks composed of standards, principles, and templates providing an end-to-end view and methodology on how to implement the BP solution. This is a great starting point for firms new to BP implementations, but experience shows that you have to tailor the process to meet your clients’ budgets and requirements. For example, BP suggests a variety of 6 roles to support its ROM, but many budgets don’t support that level of investment, therefore, there are a variety of roles that can be combined to still achieve success within budget and make your bid more competitive.” 

While the announcement of this requirement out of PSC signifies an increased focus on RPA in the years ahead, it should be noted that this is just a continuation of ongoing efforts for HHS PSC, as they signed a 4-year deal for Appian/Blue Prism Software Licenses in 2019. This work also builds on prior contracts awarded out of PSC to a NetImpact Solutions led JV and Groundswell (formerly CollabraLink), to streamline and automate PSC Business Office (PBO) budget & financial management activities. 

How, when and where any upcoming RFP will be competed is still being determined, but what we do know is that you can expect small business leaders to be making the case that this should be competed as a small business set-aside action and who can blame them? Beyond the aforementioned QuantaHub Squared (Q2) (noted as a BP partner), Federal leaders have been leaning on a number of established small business intelligent automation leaders to drive high-profile RPA initiatives across the Federal sector, with VerticalApps and major Federal RPA and low-code no-code leader Anika Systems serving as prime examples of small firms delivering on significant RPA contracts in support of HHS today.  With a cadre of capable small business bidders already performing for the agency, coupled with the announced upcoming SBA rule related to the “Rule of Two”, which states that agencies are required to set-aside contracts if there is a “reasonable expectation” that two small businesses will submit offers at fair market prices, HHS may be hard pressed to make a case to keep this unrestricted.  

Are you pursuing this contract? If you are a small or large business with capabilities and socio-economic status that might support this effort, comment below.

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  1. Ryan R

    Will this get more action than the IAAI IDIQ PSC awarded a few years back?!

  2. H Robbins

    Blue Prism has a great commercial offering, but a very small footprint in the Federal sector. It is a very good solution for the integration of Appian, but it will not come without small hiccups and delays along the journey as there will be some growing pains on implementations that have not surfaced yet due to the low footprint in the federal market.