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This is the first part of a three-part series. Part 1 covers the impact that spreadsheets can have on an organisation becoming data driven in its approach to risk management. In Part 3, we examine why having actionable risk and compliance data is essential for transitioning into a data-driven firm.

“Suppose each time you ran low on an item in your kitchen — olive oil, bananas, napkins — your instinctive response was to drop everything and race to the store. How much time would you lose? How much money would you squander on gas? What would happen to your productivity?” writes Ron Friedman, a psychologist and author of The Best Place to Work: The Art and Science of Creating an Extraordinary Workplace, in a Harvard Business Review article that examines the “cognitive price” of shifting our focus from one task to another during a workday. “We all recognise the inefficiency of this approach. And yet surprisingly, we often work in ways that are equally wasteful.” 

To help make his case, Friedman cites two studies that show the impacts that even brief interruptions can have on our ability to return to tasks. The first, a University of California, Irvine study, found that “regaining our initial momentum following an interruption can take, on average, upwards of 20 minutes,” states Friedman. The other, a University of London study of 1,100 Britons, showed that participants lost as many as 10 IQ points when allowing “work to be interrupted by seemingly benign distractions like emails and text messages.” 

Interesting, you may be thinking to yourself. But what does this have to do with members of my team or the risk owners and claims adjusters within our firm?  

 The following may sound all too familiar: You or a member of your team stops working on a critical report to remind a risk owner that an assigned assessment is due. Similar requests and follow-up emails or calls must then be sent to other risk owners. Each of these disruptions comes with a switching cost in terms of the time it takes to return to the work at hand. 

How Can Automation Help? 

Every organisation stands to benefit from using automation technology to cut down on switching costs and repetitive, time-consuming administrative tasks. The following are just a few examples of basic workflow automations available to firms that have moved from spreadsheets to an integrated risk, compliance, and claims administration software solution: 

Customised notifications – Eliminate "one-off" composition of emails by using email templates and custom notifications triggered by events such as the assignment of a risk assessment or the approach of (or missing) a due date.  

Document merges – Generate custom letters pre-filled with specified information stored in the system, then make any changes necessary before sending. 

Reports and Dashboards – Rather than manually running and sending one-off reports, custom reports can be automatically generated and emailed to stakeholders. 

Approvals and payments – For firms administer claims, automation can be employed to generate automated routing for escalation and approval.  

More than simply cutting down on distractions, speeding up a process, or getting people to work faster, automating administrative tasks yields results by freeing up those across your firm — whether your team members, risk owners, claims adjusters, or others — to focus on higher-value areas of their job. 

The Importance of Right Approach to Automation Approach 

Firms need to be smart about where and how they put automation to work. Organisations can run into issues by rushing to reduce costs and improve productivity through automating processes without first evaluating their effectiveness and necessity. So where does one begin? In some cases, the answers to what should be automated may be obvious; however, there is additional value — and return on the technology investment — by focusing on managers.   

Companies Are Overlooking a Primary Area for Growth and Efficiency: Their Managers draws from the results of a survey, conducted by business and technology consulting firm West Monroe Partners, in which 500 U.S.-based managers were asked to name hurdles they face in contributing to their organisation’s growth, profitability, or cost reduction. 

A majority of managers responding to the survey indicated that they were too overloaded with administrative tasks to give their teams sufficient levels of direction and feedback. With more than 40% indicating this contributes to feeling overwhelmed at work, the article highlights the importance of providing managers with tools and training that can streamline these processes and free up time for focusing on the effective management of both people and operations. 

“While it’s reasonable to assume some administrative tasks are inherent in any role,” write the authors of the article, “many executives are turning to automation technology – whether that be systems or robotic process automation – to cut down on repetitive, mindless tasks.” However, the article points out that simply putting automation technology in place doesn’t always solve for the problem of overburdened managers. “Despite [the fact] that 65 percent of companies have adopted some form of automation technology, 24 percent of managers at these companies still spend five or more hours on administrative tasks a day.” 

 The benefits of automating repeatable, administrative tasks can also be lost if automation technology is too difficult to use. The result? Time that could be used performing more high-value activities winds up spent managing software. 

The Importance of Right Automation Technology 

Rather than automation simply for the sake of automating, firms should scrutinise and refine the processes under consideration. This includes discussion about the roles that stand to benefit the most — for example, risk owners, claims adjusters, and manager. 

Equally important is choosing technology with the right fit. This not only means a solution that is highly configurable and capable of handling even the most complex processes, but also one which is straightforward and fit for use on a day-in, day-out basis. 

Automation shouldn’t add to the workload of your team. Without the right approach and the right tools, automation can quickly become yet another time-consuming administrative task. A smarter approach can help. So can smarter tools. 

 To learn more about the ways in which Origami Risk can help your firm automate risk management, compliance, and claims administration processes contact us to begin a discussion.