Recently, I had an experience that illustrates the futility of partially automated processes. I was selling my car and buying another. On the selling end, I had to return an inspection form that I was able to download and file online, but I still had to print out my car registration so I could scan it and send it in with the form. Because I don’t have a printer at home, I had to get in my car and drive to an office store and stand in line — during a pandemic — all to print one piece of paper that’s already in the system.
Contrast that to what happened a few nights later. I was having a drink with my wife when I received an email about our car loan. I signed it online and we toasted to our new car. I didn’t have to handle paper. I wasn’t at my desk. I was simply living my life.
If you had a choice between doing business with a company that offered fully automated processes and one that required you to manually print and complete forms, which would you choose?
Although the answer is obvious, a surprising number of organizations still rely on paper-based forms and manual signatures, which is more than just an inconvenience. For organizations, manual processes or partially automated processes are also inefficient, costly, wasteful, time-consuming and a potential security risk.
One solution, multiple uses
Fully automated processes can provide streamlined solutions in many different industries. Take, for example, a mortgage broker. Before COVID-19, mortgage brokers typically worked out in the field where they filled out long paper applications with their customers. Then, they had to travel back to their office to input the customer’s data into a system that ran on legacy applications. The procedure resulted in a time lag and left massive room for errors, mistakes that may never have been identified, possibly jeopardizing the legality of the mortgage — or any other legally binding document.
But what if the mortgage broker could fill out the form with the customer on a digital device with the assistance of bots that “live” back at the office on the on-prem application? These bots could be called from anywhere in the world, greatly benefiting traveling mortgage brokers — or a workforce dispersed due to COVID-19.
Now the customer receives a digital copy of their completed application in real time while a bot executes the next stage in the process and the broker drives to the next appointment. How much time has been saved with that one transaction?
Let’s take it a step further. Using that person’s salary, we can calculate how much money we can save with the automated process application before we actually build it. So you get the ability to compare cycle costs with each other and know exactly how much money will be saved by implementing a fully automated process. But the benefits go beyond financials because you also have improved employee sentiment and a better customer experience.
Perhaps even more crucial, you now have the ability to break down your data silos. Process automation doesn’t necessarily eliminate various legacy applications but consolidates them to create one source of truth from which all other documents are created.
The last piece of the puzzle is reporting. You’ve digitally transformed the form, you’ve added all the validations and the prefills. If your workflow is working well, it’s getting the approvals done, it’s generating documents, it’s going into the systems, but if you don’t report on that entire process, you’ve wasted all that effort.
Without analytics on the process, you have no performance benchmark, and you can’t address gaps. With reporting, you can see details such as how many times you’ve run the process, how long it takes, and how long each employee takes to complete tasks.
And that’s where you can start to drill down to identify the discrepancies and find solutions. Maybe John has an outdated phone that doesn’t support the form, and a new device would save him valuable time. Analytics allows us to make improvements on the process.
The COVID-19 pandemic forced companies to quickly adapt to working remotely, often with outdated or partially automated processes. Most companies’ responses were reactive, but as we prepare for a post-pandemic world, we have the opportunity to be proactive.
This is the time to fully embrace digital transformation and to realize that manual procedures should be jettisoned, just like my old car.