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Robotic Process Automation Roadshow

  • Published
  • By Dan Butterfield
  • 150th Special Operations Wing

KIRTLAND AIR FORCE BASE, N.M. -- Team Kirtland hosted a four-day Robotic Process Automation Roadshow here July 18-21 with the goal of educating front-line users on using automation to help alleviate some repetitive tasks. The idea is with Airmen getting time back, they can concentrate on more pressing and vital work.

The roadshow is an initiative pushed by the Department of the Air Force’s Chief Data and Intelligence Office.  

“The plan this week is, and DAFBOT (Department of the Air Force Bot Operations Team) really believes, that you can push software developers at a problem, but a lot of the times the reason why software updates fail is we don't understand the user requirements,” said Madeline Herbst, Senior Developer at the DAFBOT Operations Team. “A big part of what makes DAFBOT different is we believe that the citizen developers understand the pain points of their job. By educating them on how they can automate their job, they can take back their time. They you create a bot that's going to do part of your job.”

There have already been dozens of RPA roadshows around the country. This one at Kirtland was the largest with 45 attendees, including members of all three wings – active-duty Air Force, Air National Guard Airmen, Space Force Guardians – and civilians.

“This roadshow is a little different because it's a lot more people than we normally have,” said Chaz Jenkins, Senior Automation Developer, Invoke, Inc. “I think for me the goal is to have people walk away with functional automations, but not just for themselves. The key is the automation has to be big impact for their team. You really want to have something that kind of fits 80-percent of what people are doing, versus ‘Hey, this works for me.’”

Another goal of the roadshow is not just to learn how to create automations but to put them to use in work centers immediately.

“So, if you build a bot and don’t manipulate any data within an already approved system, say you’re pulling reports, then you can implement it today,” said Master Sgt. Justin Kendall, Innovation Lead, 150th Special Operations Wing, New Mexico Air National Guard, and roadshow facilitator. “If you are manipulating data, there is a further requirement that you would have to get with the DAFBOT team to implement. Most of the products that are going to come out today (Wednesday) are going to be implemented Friday.”

There will be more workshops in the future and current attendees encourage everyone to participate if the opportunity is there, regardless of your job, work center, or your proficiency with computers and programming.

“I've never coded before, and the program has little functions we use,” said Senior Master Sgt. Neil Beach, 250th Intelligence Squadron Operations Superintendent, NMANG. “I'm able to tell it to click on this part of the website, do the following actions and then save it into a spreadsheet. For me, it's great being able to do this with no coding experience.”

“There's a lot of repetitive administrative work that this can be applied to, and with all tools, it's just going to be slowly using it at first and then, eventually, I'll see new applications and want to share it with my coworkers, and they could say, ‘Hey, here's how this could apply to me,’” Beach said.