Applying RPA to insurance practices isn’t intuitive, but it is important. The implementation allows carriers to achieve more productive activities from its workforce.
“In the Beginning, There Was Data Entry.” – Bob Hunter
Keying data into a computer all day long feels unexceptional. I have coded a lot of software in my career, and my least favorite task was the actual typing of the code. I found my enjoyment came in the problem-solving and design aspects of programming. Speaking from experience, I can safely say data entry doesn’t lead to high levels of employee satisfaction. We all know insurance carriers have many associates doing this type of mundane work, and they want them to do it more efficiently and with a higher degree of data quality. So, what’s the solution?
Insurance and RPA
The insurance industry, being risk-averse by nature, is slower, historically, to adopt newer data management technologies. Carriers also remain painfully aware of the significant investments required to update systems for policy, claims, underwriting, and other functional areas.
The size and scope of these projects often require years of effort and millions of dollars. Even then, gaps requiring manual entry of data still exist. Robotic Process Automation (RPA) provides an opportunity for carriers to quickly reduce cost, gain efficiencies, and increase associate satisfaction.
To get a sense of where RPA is most effective, let’s view the insurance industry as an information business. We require accurate information to be effective and successful. Data comes in all shapes and sizes (fax, web forms, email, paper, and more) and flows into a carrier from agents, customers, vendors, regulatory agencies, and other sources.
Companies need to apply data to specific locations to drive and route new business, claims, underwriting, billing, and servicing to be most valuable. Information is the primary driver across the insurance value chain.
Insurance Value Chain
How does RPA work?
RPA is a software technology that captures, interprets, and replicates the actions of humans. It is a pretty simple concept, like the screen scraping applications of old, but those older technologies were challenging to create and maintain and had minimal functionality.
Today’s generation of RPA software can support or supplement human employees in processing transactions, manipulating data, triggering responses, and communicating with other systems. It’s especially valuable to organizations that use people for knowledge-process work that is:
The RPA application, or “bot,” performs a variety of tasks, from a simple one-task process to a complex multi-step process, depending on need. Unattended bots sit and wait for work to appear and then process it, while we program attended bots for humans to initiate the bot to perform a particular set of tasks. Ultimately, RPA offers a lot of problem-solving flexibility.
Understanding what RPA is not is essential to understanding what it does. RPA offers a bridge between systems but is not the entire journey. It’s not a way to reduce headcount. It is a way for employees to add value to their workflow, which increases their job satisfaction. This improvement allows a carrier to achieve more productive activities from its workforce.
Also, RPA is not synonymous with Machine Learning (ML) or Artificial Intelligence (AI), but it is usable in conjunction with these technologies. We’ll address this differentiation in another blog on another day, as we believe the impact of these combined technologies can provide profound benefits.
How do we get started?
Today’s leading RPA vendors (e.g., UiPath, Automation Anywhere, BluePrism) made the creation, installation, and maintenance of bots cost-effective and straightforward. The RPA toolsets typically offer a visual development environment and do not require a technical background. We recommend, though, developers have a certain degree of technical acumen and design experience. This experience assists in creating more efficient and scalable bots for your companies’ environment.
The Centric RPA Factory
At Centric Consulting, we successfully combined a Center of Excellence (COE) for Automation with a high-velocity development staff. This staff may include elements of on-site, near-shore, and off-shore development. Clients gain flexibility in controlling costs and throughput for development efforts.
The COE functions as an intake facility. RPA requests, and there will be many, come into a central point of control. We review these requests for business function, cost-benefit, and priority. If a request passes the initial review, we do an estimate and create a benefit case. The benefit case is critical in the process, as it determines the actual return on investment for the bot over time.
Bots come in all shapes and sizes and provide different levels of return. In some cases, a straightforward bot that takes a few weeks to develop could offer a substantial return, whereas a more sophisticated bot may not provide the same type of benefit. A business case considers non-tangible benefits as well, such as risk avoidance and compliance. The business case, then, drives prioritization.
The COE maintains a backlog of bot requests which includes the detailed functional requirements for the developers to use. We recommend a steering committee to provide oversight and guidance to the COE as the team works through the intake and prioritization process.
Once we prioritize the requests and the requirements are complete, the COE hands off the request to the development team to perform the design, development, and unit testing. Upon the completion of all phases of testing and signoff by the project sponsor or owner, the bot is ready for deployment.
Approach your RPA journey thoughtfully. Think big, start small, act quickly. Align your organization to RPA based on the highest value activities. Determine if RPA is a long-term strategy, or is RPA a gap-filler while you focus on other strategic efforts? Other factors include vendor review and selection, COE establishment, training, associate communication, and on-going maintenance and support, to name a few.
At Centric, we help you optimize your RPA investment by applying it to the most valuable areas of the insurance value chain and delivering it using a delivery model that is highly flexible and cost-effective.
Learn how we can make a difference for your company and your staff.