DOL emerging tech chief says engaging staff, identifying pain points key to process automation

Sammies emerging leader award-winner Krista Kinnard discusses best practices for using technology to streamline back-office processes at federal agencies.
WASHINGTON D.C., Sept. 20 - Department of Labor emerging tech chief Krista Kinnard accepts the emerging leader award at the Samuel J. Heyman Service to America awards. (Image credit: Partnership for Public Service / Joshua Roberts.)

Engaging federal agency staff and gaining an in-depth understanding of their daily challenges are key to responsible process automation, according to the Department of Labor’s emerging technology chief.

Speaking with FedScoop Tuesday, Krista Kinnard said early conversations are crucial to ensure that new attended automation systems are relevant.

“It starts with responsibility – engaging with people and understanding what it is their challenge is before bringing technology to the table, and ensuring that the technology is actually solving the problem,” she said.

Kinnard spoke with 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 slash the time needed to format and organize personnel performance reviews from 40 hours to under three minutes.

“[The work] started by engaging with Department of Labor staff: what is the part of your job that you hate the most. What is the most tedious, repetitive, mundane thing?,” Kinnard explained.

“How can we automate that so you can focus on the work that you’re trained to do? That requires that intelligence and training and compassion that you have as a human.”

Under her leadership the Department of Labor has gone from using bots to deploying more than 30 to allow federal staff to focus on more high-value work.

Kinnard added that the framing of new tech implementation is also key, to ensure agency employees are included in the development process, and emphasized the importance of strong governance for the new technology.


“We certainly don’t want to be building bots that are replacing people or hurting people or introducing any kind of bias.”

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