Jay McKinney of ProfitStars, a Jack Henry & Associates Company, explains why investing in automation equals an investment in human capital.

JayMcKinney_ProfitStarsIt may seem counterintuitive to suggest that you can invest in human capital by investing in automation. Automation is a word that strikes fear in the hearts of many workers, immediately conjuring images of less work, or worse, unemployment.

On the surface, this reaction makes sense. After all, a major goal of automation is to reduce the amount of human labor required to execute tasks. And it does, dramatically, which is wonderful for the bottom-line. But labor savings does not present a complete picture of its effects.

The true value of automation is in how it elevates the quality of work—both in terms of product and in the actual functions people get to perform.  It is quality that increases employee engagement and satisfaction.

Consider the type of work that automation typically replaces: work that is repetitive, such as keying data into a computer program from a stack of invoices day in and day out, or manually sending notices to obligors over and over.  There are, in fact, hundreds of examples in commercial finance, all entirely necessary, yet basically simple. The work must be done, but it requires little thought.

For those charged with repetitive, “non-thinking” tasks, automation cuts drudgery out of the workday. The data from that stack of invoices is quickly scanned and imported with OCR software (or uploaded from a file), allowing staff to focus their attention on irregularities and problem-solving. Those notices are sent and recorded automatically with every transaction, leaving no doubt that the job was done and freeing staff to work on real issues.

While some people take pleasure in the rituals of process, many prefer more cerebral work that engages and challenges. For those who embrace automation, work becomes much more interesting and productive.

Automation can improve the efficiency of high-level processes, too. Complicated work, such as analyzing a portfolio, also has its share of tedious steps that can be done faster and more reliably. Consider the analyst hunched over hundreds of printed pages of a client’s A/R, reviewing it line by line with a ruler, calculator, and handful of colored pens.  This slow manual search for signs of danger is work that is prime for improvement through automation.

Using collateral management automation, that A/R data is input directly into a database, with the ineligibles automatically calculated in accordance with intelligent rule sets, causing the borrowing base to be immediately updated. The analyst can now focus on interpreting results. The automated process is so much faster, in fact, that the analyst can review the A/R on a much more frequent basis, further reducing risk. Automation gives analysts the tools and time to be more effective at what they do, which makes them happier and your business safer.

Making judgment calls on whether and when to extend credit based on the facts, engaging one-on-one with clients to solve their problems and win their business—this is the kind of work that gives real satisfaction to staff because it’s thoughtful, meaty, and meaningful. It’s also the kind of work that allows your employees to grow as professionals, turns your clients into fans, and unleashes your business to thrive. While some may choose to shortcut labor savings directly to the bottom line, true visionaries invariably choose to capitalize on the opportunity and redirect excess capacity into efficient growth.

Meaningful work takes time—quality time. And your staff is never going to get enough quality time to do the meaningful stuff if they’re constantly wading through low-level distractions. Automation frees employees from the tedium of repetitive manual tasks.

Investing in automation is the ultimate investment in human capital.

Author:

Jay McKinney is the Director, CADENCE Operations for the Lending Solutions division of ProfitStars, a Jack Henry & Associates company.  Jay has over 20 years of progressive experience in systems, support, and operations in various financial lending industries, including Insurance, Banking, and Finance. He can be reached at 205-972-8900 or jmckinney@profitstars.com.

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