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Why Automate? It’s Worth the Exploration!

June 04, 2014, 07:00 AM

Time is a very expensive commodity, and it must be managed efficiently and effectively to maximize productivity. As the processes and businesses are getting increasingly cumbersome and complex, technology and automation become critical growth and success factors for any financial institution. As technology continues to advance, business systems need to be improved so that they can provide mobility, automation, analytical reporting and ease of use. However, there is usually a resistance to change as employees experience comforting factor in the status quo, which includes current processes, current system, and current tools. But to improve efficiencies and productivity, and sustain growth, change to newer and better systems is crucial. What does it take to evaluate and implement a new system? In this article, we will provide some insight on how to evaluate and plan for implementing a new monitoring system.

The only thing constant in this world is change, and the first step towards change is the acceptance: acceptance to the fact that automated processes hold the key to the future growth, and acceptance that the existing systems can be made more efficient by adopting the change and latest technological advancements. Several financial institutions still follow the manual processes to maintain accounts, and as processes get more decentralized, users grow, and clients become more diversified, the manual or outdated processes become costly, cumbersome and extremely time-consuming. This also leads to errors, and inconsistency in the records.

The limitations of an outdated or manual system ultimately also add to the costs, some of which are evident, some are hidden. There is cost involved in developing the in-house tools that can be used to track and manage data, calculate values, spread financial, track receipts, generate management reports and move data between different systems. There is also ongoing expense to maintain these tools, cost of ongoing manual data entry effort, cost of risk associated due to errors and inconsistencies and additional cost in maintenance support and upgrades. As there is lack of system integrity guarantee and audit capabilities, there is additional cost related to security and credit compliance. There are several other costs involved that cannot be articulated, anticipated, measured or appreciated. Hence, many cost-conscious decision-makers unfortunately feel the system to be free or low in cost, unaware of the huge hidden costs.

Additionally, to stay competitive in the marketplace, customer support is one of the key elements. Social media, mobility and online systems make it easier for clients to do business with a company, but if the company is not adaptive to these changing trends, the clients may find it difficult to communicate, and hence may take their business elsewhere. Hence, it is not only essential to evaluate your internal processes, but also how client interaction is supported by your company.

To deal with the inefficiencies of outdated or manual systems, improve communication channels for the clients, and to improve the efficiency of people and processes, companies must invest in a system that offers the latest technologies to help stay competitive and improve ROI. Although the idea of implementing a new system or migrating to a better system can be daunting, the change is must. The key to the success of a new system is to ensure that the chosen software technology will carry you into the future. The systems architecture should allow for easy access to your other company systems and other 3rd party web service systems. The automation of transferring data between systems should improve efficiencies, reduce labor costs and improve customer relations. Once the need for new or better data monitoring system has been identified, the first and foremost factor is to explore the market for the most suitable system, and to evaluate how much savings it will offer in terms of money/time or human effort. Here are few steps that you can follow to make an informed decision about the new product:

  • To oversee the entire process, form a guidance team or project advisory with one key executive sponsor to retain momentum. This guidance team can prepare action plan with goals, milestones, and objectives to track progress and identify correcting course throughout the process. Along with the team, thoroughly define your requirements; understand the processes expected to be supported by the new system, features that are critical to support the processes and what are your expectations from the new system. This information is compiled into an RFP (Request for Proposal). You may also have to prioritize your business needs to determine which features are most critical, and which are the critical processes within the business that require improvement.
  • Once you have analyzed and understood the requirements, identify multiple software system suppliers that might have products to meet your requirements. Finding software system suppliers can be done through your industry associations and internet searching.
  • To understand the aspect of the supplier’s software, submit them your RFP. This can be an extremely valuable resource as it helps evaluate can do/cannot do scenarios. Make comparative matrix to evaluate each product from each supplier and note down the trade-offs. You can also rank based on the priorities such as mission-critical, desirable and nice to have. This will help you evaluate which tools are acceptable, and which do not satisfy your requirements.
  • Once you have narrowed down the field of applications received in response to your RFP, schedule the software demos to understand the important, factual and comprehensive details of the application.

Congratulations, you have finally selected the application that best matches your requirements; however, you are not done yet. Implementation of the new monitoring application can be challenging, despite best circumstances. The complexity of implementing product software differs on several issues. Examples are: the number of users that will use the software, the effects that the implementation has on changes of tasks and responsibilities for the end users, culture and the integrity of the organization, to name a few.

Also, there are implementation costs involved that can be a major expense when migrating to a new system. There will be costs incurred from the software supplier and internal cost / time for staff labor. The software supplier should provide a detailed proposal for converting historical data, implementation and training. Try your best to get a fixed bid from the software supplier and not open ended hourly rates. Your staff will be under additional stress during the implementation process, but stay focused, and keep in mind that they will become more productive and efficient with this new change.

For the successful implementation of a new system:

  • Create a budget and timeline, and invest in employees, manager and training material.
  • Implement the new system as per your requirements and create a training plan for each department.
  • Help staff get familiarize with the new system, and use pilot system to train. Make sure that employees understand and use the key features of the system so that they can automate business processes and meet business objectives.
  • Invest in change management and training so that the employees do not resent the new system due to lack of understanding and comfort.

Once your new monitoring system has been setup, it is time to migrate the data. Successful implementation of the new system is also dependent on the ability to convert data from old system to the new system which involves software, as well as human intervention. It is important to evaluate how the data will be impacted. For successful data migration:

  • Evaluate the risks.
  • Involve relevant stakeholders.
  • Communicate well to prevent misinterpretation and confusion.
  • Take system backup incrementally.
  • Perform test conversion with a sample of data. Start by converting as little as possible.
  • Perform fully controlled test and validate if the result is complete and accurate.
  • Identify the loopholes, and do the iterations few times till the desired outcome is achieved.
  • Maintain a backup of the old data till you are satisfied with the data transfer. In some cases, it is better to archive the existing historical data and provide access to the old system when necessary. This will minimize implementation costs and will be easier on your staff converting to the new system.

The successfully implemented new system will deliver a return on investment (ROI) within a few months and will improve your business processes significantly. These real-time automated processes can streamline analysis and reporting, and users can have access to the information anywhere, anytime and on any device. The new monitoring system will improve customer relations and make it easier for clients to do business with your firm. As the staff efficiency is improved, they can work on other projects in a given time, and focus on building and maintain strong relationships with customers and vendors that helps improve business productivity.

However, automation is not as simple as just selecting the tool or platform and forgetting about it. The success of the new systems will largely depend on the processes designed around it, and ability of the staff to successfully adopt them. Even the best tool is only as good as the people who implement and use it. Change and automation are an ongoing process, which involves adjusting to the changing market conditions, and looking for the triggers that can be more effective than others. Change, adopt, and grow. This will drive ROI and make your CEO happy.

Michael E. Taylor
Director -- Sales Engineering | NDS Systems
Michael E. Taylor is the Director of Sales Engineering responsible for product enhancements, client relations and special consulting for our Cync Collateral Monitoring Applications. In this role, Taylor is responsible for analyzing a customer’s business requirements and to demonstrate how Cync will improve productivity, streamline their operations and maximize the customers ROI. He is also responsible for providing development with new enhancement requirements for adding new features to the Cync product.

Taylor has been working for software development companies since 1989. His primary experience has been implementing and consulting on ERP Applications for small to midsize companies. Taylor’s extensive business knowledge across manufacturing, distribution and supply chain companies made for an easy transition to consulting on Loan Monitoring Applications.

Taylor is based out of NDS Systems US headquarters in Tampa, Florida. He holds a Bachelor of Science degree from the University of Florida.
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