How automation can create value for people without destroying jobs
30 January 2019 | Web Article Number: ME201913242
THE growing maturity of intelligent automation technologies offers financial services companies an opportunity to drive more value for their customers and employees – and without the widescale destruction of jobs many people fear will accompany the rise of the machines.
That’s according to Andrew Wood, CEO at Durban-based direct marketing and financial services firm, The Unlimited, who says that automation provides an opportunity to create more meaningful work for human beings, drive higher levels of productivity and deliver better, more personalised customer experiences.
He said the company had, over the past three years, realised millions in bottom line value through business process automation. “We have invested in business solutions that have enabled us to scale up rapidly and respond quickly to changing business conditions and customer needs.”
One of the foundational components of The Unlimited’s IT infrastructure is the Warewolf software development and integration toolset. It gives developers a low-code, visual, flow-based, drag and drop environment to easily and quickly develop software applications and automations.
The Unlimited first deployed Warewolf to address inefficiencies in its collections process. The company wanted to understand which monthly payment days would best suit clients with multiple subscription products. Ideally, the collections department would align the payment date to the most successful day. But accomplishing this task manually was a tedious and time-consuming process. The company decided to automate.
Because the IT department was already stretched meeting mission-critical business requirements, The Unlimited could not spare the resources for a long and complex development project. But using Warewolf Studio enabled it to seize the opportunity to improve the collections business process without taking resources away from other parts of the business.
According to Wood, The Unlimited achieved a 373% saving in overall project delivery time with minimal impact on IT infrastructure and the IT team. Automating the small process of aligning collection dates has enabled the business to enjoy a revenue increase of up to R140,000 every month. Following that win, the company deployed Warewolf for all kinds of business processes.
Using Warewolf, The Unlimited streamlined the process of updating customer details in the CRM system and built a Warewolf service to trigger an instant, personalised confirmation SMS via the existing SMS provider. The fully tested and implemented solution took 12 hours to complete from concept briefing to going live.
The net effect of increased agent capacity, number of customers saved, saving on agent salaries and successfully collecting on the customer subscription each month has meant an additional R8 million revenue over the next three years for the company.
Another simple Warewolf automation to increase customer retention and lifetime value will deliver an additional R112 million to company profits over three years. This project focused on automating the process of maintaining and testing communication campaigns. In the past, this was a manual process that slowed down campaign deployment.
“In addition to the time the solution saves for our people, it is also a powerful tool for our IT and business leaders. It enables them to focus on solving business problems in innovative ways rather than on understanding the demands of a new software tool,” said Wood.
With the unemployment crisis in South Africa – particularly frighteningly high levels of youth unemployment – concerns about the impact of automation on the job market are understandable. Wood, however, said research had shown that automation can create more jobs than it destroys.
For example, one Deloitte study of automation in the UK found that automation eliminated 800,000 low-skilled jobs but created 3.5 million new jobs in the process. The new jobs paid, on average, nearly £10,000 more per year than the ones that were lost. The catch is that the new jobs tend to demand higher skill levels than the process-focused and manual jobs that are destroyed.
“Striving for higher levels of productivity and automation have been key to our growth throughout a challenging few years for the South African economy. We have put the need to develop the skills of the future – customer experience, entrepreneurial thinking, interpersonal and leadership – at the centre of our business model. Our goal is to help our team prepare themselves for the future of work.”