Insights from Implementing an Automation Center of Excellence at SCM Insurance Services
Brandon Robinson, Mike Ackroyd, Sean Hinton, David Burnie
Sean Hinton 00:09
All right, I think we have quorum. Let’s get started. Welcome. My name is Sean Hinton. I am the country leader for UiPath here in Canada, and I’m really excited to have you all join us for a fun conversation with, with a few of my colleagues talking about SCM and their the recent hyper automation journey they’ve been on. Before we get going, just a couple of housekeeping rules, the chat functions deactivated. But please use the Q&A function to ask any questions. We’re going to be monitoring that and try to add those questions in as we go along. And we’ll cover as many of them as we can throughout the call. If we run out of time and there are additional questions, we’ll follow up with the answers in subsequent communications. And unlike the NHL games or basketball games, EA Sports did not provide us with a laugh track as we’re going on. So there will be no other noises other than the four panelists on the screen.
Today, I have some fun colleagues with me. I’ve got Mike from SCM, we’ve got David Burnie from the Burnie Group, and we’ve got Brandon from SortSpoke. We’re gonna have a conversation about the journey that SCM has been on over the last 12 months. But before we get into that: brief intros for everybody. So again, my name is Sean Hinton, I lead the Canadian business for UiPath. We have about 30 employees here in the Canadian market. And UiPath, if you’re unfamiliar, is a leader in the RPA segment, according to Gartner, and a number of other analysts. We provide a platform for hyper automation within your organization starting from discovery all the way to gaining insights from what you’re inputting. I’m going to pass it over to Dave. Mr. Burnie, can you introduce yourself?
David Burnie 02:04
Yeah, I’m the founder of the Burnie Group. I founded the Burnie Group in 2011 after having been at McKinsey and Company for eight years. Our focus is really around helping clients to improve their operating performance. Automation is a very big focus for us. We helped SCM along on their journey. We have great partnerships with UiPath and SortSpoke. And I’m really looking forward to this discussion.
Sean Hinton 02:31
Great. Thanks, David. Now, Brandon. I was joking earlier about the name because we had a conversation about what’s the funniest name you’ve been called in terms of the company. You want to introduce yourself and tell us just a very, very short overview of SortSpoke.
Brandon Robinson 02:50
You bet. Sean, thanks so much. I’ve literally heard them all: SortSpoke, SoftSpoke, SportsSoak, SportsFolk, you know, they’re all of them. So no complaints there. But thanks for having me on today, guys. What we do is we help you extract the data from documents that allow you to unlock the automation on both sides of a workflow, where you typically have human beings doing manual data review or data entry from documents today. So really excited to be here. I’ll share some more with our experience as part of this as we go forward.
Sean Hinton 03:18
Great, thanks, Brandon. And guest of honor today, I mean, the rest of us, we just, you know, we just help customers be successful. You’re the customer. Mike, can you introduce yourself?
Mike Ackroyd 03:30
Absolutely. Happy to be with everyone. Today. SCM, for those that may not be aware, is Canada’s largest independent provider of claims management, risk management and related services in Canada. We’ve also got a US presence. And we work very closely with large insurers and corporate entities to deliver insurance-related services, the broad umbrella, but that’s it in a nutshell. Happy to get it.
Sean Hinton 03:56
I gotta be honest, Mike. Well, we met I think it was just a little over. It was November last year, or sorry, two years, I guess. 2019. And I think it was still minus 24. I think it hasn’t changed where you live yet.
Mike Ackroyd 04:12
As I said, sadly, we’ve had not so nice temperatures this past week, but hopefully a short while longer, and we’ll be back to normal temperatures.
Sean Hinton 04:21
Well, yeah, it’s a good thing your furnace works. So let’s get right into this and talk about the journey because it’s fun. To me, the most exciting part of the job is being able to share and understand what our customers are doing to get value out of the platform and value for their business. So what kick-started your journey or the SCM journey for automation, like what was the catalyst? How did that start? What were the objectives? Can you walk us through that a little bit?
Mike Ackroyd 04:53
Sure. We went back to probably mid-2019, and we realized that a lot of the processes that we had in place were overly manual in nature. We do a lot of work for different organizations, and they all have their own unique data format and the way they want to do work with us. And so we realized that we have a lot of time being spent on either duplicate data entry or data extraction, and we knew that there was a smarter way to get at it. So we started looking at our automation journey at that point.
Sean Hinton 05:25
And I mean, listen, you, you look at the people on the screen here, these are a broad brush of organizations here to support you, how’d you land on UiPath, SortSpoke, and more importantly, the Burnie Group.
Mike Ackroyd 05:43
I really felt that getting the right technology partnerships in place was going to make the difference between the successful launch of the CoE and an automation program versus not. And so we actually spent six months before any of the formal engagements began just researching the landscape, understanding who are the players? What are their strengths, and we’re very, very deliberate around that process. Burnie Group, specifically, we were looking for a partner that could help us accelerate our implementation, but at the same time, provide some guidance and training. And insurance industry background and knowledge was a must for us. And so Dave Burnie and the Burnie Group definitely brought that to the table. UiPath, we were very impressed with the availability of online learning. And the nature of the platform is easy to use. We were up and running, even before a decision to be made. We had some developers reach out and grab the community version and started playing with it, and found that to be a very good tool. And then lastly, SortSpoke really fit a very niche need for us in the overall solution with its machine learning and document management capabilities. So all in all, I think the parties came together quite well for us.
Sean Hinton 06:58
We’ll talk about it as we go along, but some of the use case and the value you’ve been able to get with the combination of technologies and partners has been very impressive. I’m looking forward to sharing that as we go through. One of the challenges companies have as they’re starting this journey is kind of getting the governance and getting that CoE right. Right? Why did you decide to create a CoE, to begin with, and what are the key considerations for you in a successful launch of that automation CoE?
Mike Ackroyd 07:25
So for our automation journey to be a success, we knew that it couldn’t be a top-down push. And we knew it couldn’t be solely a technology project. And so getting a cross-functional group of stakeholders from the executive level down to frontline staff, combined with both IT and operations was going to be needed for us to really get buy-in and drive this change throughout the organization. Looking back, I would strongly say that, that when building an automation program, you need to have all parties at the table. It’s equally as much an operational journey as it is a technology journey. And we really wanted to bake in the concept of automation into the culture of SCM. We’ve always been a bit of an innovative organization, putting technology first. And I think this is another example of how we’re striving to do that with the work that we do for clients.
David Burnie 08:21
And one thing that I would add, having worked very closely with Mike – Mike, as you know, is CIO and head of the technology side – he did a very good job of bringing in and working closely with the business. We too frequently find that automation is either technology lead or business lead, and you don’t have the two working closely together. And I think Mike did a very nice job of making sure that the technology and the business were both fully integrated in the approach.
Sean Hinton 08:58
What’s interesting, David, you and I have been on a couple of other conversations with some other clients. And that is definitely one of the biggest challenges that we see in the market for adoption. A lot of the time, IT wants to do it one way, business wants to do it another way, and they end up fighting through the process. The successful clients are doing exactly what Mike did: coming up with a governance model and a CoE that’s co-led and co-owned and shared success. That’s the winning formula, that’s for sure. That’s a good point. Dave, it’s been a little while since you and I had lunch downtown and I can’t remember the name of the restaurant, but it was very good. One of things we talked about though, was CoE. And I’d like you to give a different version because you’re here helping Mike and the SCM team get it set up. But getting the CoE right is tough, right? And you have to blend it to not just that IT and business teams, but you also have to get it right to match the culture of the organization. Can you talk a little bit about what Mike and the team did well in that regard, and what they could have done better and what you’ve seen in other organizations?
David Burnie 10:15
Yeah. So I think one of the first things that is important, and which Mike and team did well, was to take a step back and work on your automation strategy. So too frequently, we’ve seen organizations who just want to get started, and they dive in. And they take that first process. And they start that, and then it’s just, “Well, what’s next?” and there’s not a real plan. So Mike did a really nice job. We worked with them to develop an end-to-end automation strategy, which over the course of eight to 12 months, really targeted and attacked the biggest opportunities. And you get the biggest bang for your buck. And once you were done one wave of activity, you had the next one ready to go. So I think starting first with an overall strategy was important.
And then second was having the right people and the right knowledge, the right skills and capabilities. And so, in speaking with Mike, I know that some of the automation team came through promotion from within, some came from external resources. And so it’s really important to have that right blend of business knowledge and technology. And so we frequently find organizations will bring people even from like, continuous improvement organizations, Six Sigma. You don’t necessarily need to be a deep technical expert – you need to have those people on the team – but having a nice mix of people who know the business and know the technology is important and might fit that very well. And so I think that that combination of overall strategy to start with, then building a really strong team are things that Mike got right. And that’s actually where we see organizations fall down. They often will start with just the business drives, what needs you know, these are the things that are painful, but they don’t necessarily do it for the fact. So Mike had his eye on the prize and really ensuring that you deliver the value.
Sean Hinton 12:18
Great. Thanks, David. I have two questions from the audience that we will talk about. I think we’ll direct them to you, Mike and David, you if you want to add something after. So one is a little bit around governance, right? So governance is one of those things that in a traditional lifecycle of an IT project governance is long, I don’t wanna say arduous, but it can be very arduous. And to be successful in automation, you can’t have the same governance model. What did you do differently around governance than the first one? And then I’ll go to the second question.
Mike Ackroyd 12:52
I’d say, in some cases, we did preserve aspects of our change management, right, making sure that we follow it, you know, Dev, QA team prod release structuring. But I think that because we are maintaining some central visibility to the automation program, we have control over that. I think there’s a key decision that organizations need to make around, do we want community developers, i.e. deploy an automation opportunity for every employee to build their own? Or do we want to maintain some centralization and control over that? Our decision was to maintain some of that control within IT proper, you know, supporting the development, desires of the broader group, but maintaining the centralized group to do the development itself. So I think that from a governance standpoint, we had control and oversight into how things made their way into production. But we at the same time tried to stay nimble and ear to the ground on exactly what, you know, the biggest bang for buck could be and take ideation from anywhere.
Sean Hinton 13:58
But that really is the trick being nimble but still maintaining that that governance in the background. Dave, anything to add to that?
David Burnie 14:09
Yeah, I think that governance is a question that organizations wrestle with. And I think some level of centralization is important where we’ve seen.The most important is around managing the technology. So you don’t end up with three different platforms and also leveraging the knowledge. So building a library of automations is really important, and being able to have someone who has a good view across the organization of what those automations are, so you’re not replicating them over and over again, and you don’t have different variations. So I think that some level of centralization is always going to be warranted. And then to Mike’s point, you know, it’s important to retain your nimbleness so having some ability and capability out in the business is also important.
Sean Hinton 15:00
It’s interesting. A lot of the development that’s happened, organic development that’s happened on the platform over the last six to 12 months, is really around enabling that governance so that you can do exactly what you’re describing, is have that centralized view of everything. But also give the tool to the hands of some of those, I’ll call them power users or citizen developers to be able to to get automations going. If you do that blend right, that’s when you start the rubber hits the road, right, and you start accelerating your development. But it’s a very tough balance to do that, right? The second question from the chat, this is a quick one. You know, doing that IT and business, getting that right, getting that relationship right, getting that governance right, getting all of that correct is tough. What are some tips, techniques, tricks that you use to make sure that that happened?
Mike Ackroyd 15:53
I wish I could say that the automation program was the starting point of that business relationship. I think the road is longer than that. Thankfully, we’ve had a great working relationship with the business. You know, I think they see IT as an innovator and an enabler for them to get done what they need to get done. And conversely, we’ve also found that they’ve been very willing to provide assistance where and when we need it, so it was more of a continuation of existing relationship and then creating something new.
Sean Hinton 16:25
But in organizations that haven’t got that, right, this could be a good catalyst to start it because it’s one of those places that you really for to go and get the value. You really have to get that that working relationship buttoned up and go quick. All right, one of the best practices we have around robots and putting them in place is sort of treating them like a digital employee. That means giving them a name. Mike, I mean, listen, I’ve heard some interesting stuff about names before. When you told me the story about how you guys came up with the names and what they were, I thought it was great. I thought there was purpose to it, and it seemed a little fun. And the team kind of came up with it. Can you walk us through and share some of that with us?
Mike Ackroyd 17:12
Sure. So we opened up a vote or a contest to – it was the IT group that all weighed in – where they would choose a theme for the names of our bots. We’ve got currently 10 bots in production, and each of them has been assigned a name of a Greek god. But initially, it was a list of 20 or 25 options that the employees had submitted. And ultimately, we landed, with the Greek gods. One of our IT development managers put together a kind of a fun welcome email that went up to the group that introduced them as having collective 1000s of years of experience, and they’re not susceptible to human viruses like COVID-19. So they were excited to have them on board.
Sean Hinton 18:03
The last customer we’re talking to on a webinar used Star Wars, and I thought they had some good rationale behind the bot name. So it’s pretty cool.
Before we get Mike to walk us through the SCM journey, I’m going to just flip over to Brandon for a second. You know, SortSpoke has kind of got an interesting value prop and an interesting complementary solution to what UiPath does around document understanding and ingesting the document understanding into the automation flow. What are some of the unique challenges that you’re able to solve for Mike and the SCM team?
Brandon Robinson 18:38
Thanks Sean. One of the things that we focus on and we’re a product company, we do one thing, everybody, we are just data extraction from like PDF documents. So when you typically have manual workflows, where you know, in UiPath speak, where attended workflows are occurring, where there is a significant human review component to looking at documents, whether they’re coming in for underwriting, whether they’re coming in for claims, whether they’re back of house, some sort of processing that’s occurring. A lot of times we find that in your automation journey, the document-heavy ones, the hard ones get parked in some future parking.
Sean Hinton 19:11
Way down the road.
Brandon Robinson 19:12
They’re basics, like we’ll come back to these some other time. And lots of times, sometimes you try to address them because they’re high value. Maybe it’s in your underwriting channel. Maybe it’s in your lost channel, your claims channel. But one of the challenges is you’ll try other technologies to solve the complexity of a use case where there is this high volume of documents, but you don’t necessarily have any success with it. And it doesn’t lend itself to the kind of accuracy or success that enables the automation journey to really be fulfilled. So on either side of the actual document review, you get stuck. So where we show up and where we can contribute to success on projects, like with Mike and SCM, is where we will help you neutralize or kill that pain that’s in the middle, which is the document processing portion. Well, it’s a relatively – I’ll say, small – it’s a component of the workflow. It’s certainly not the whole thing, we kind of act as the pivot that allows you to knock that problem out, knock it out in such a way that allows you to have really high-quality data from these documents and give you a significant building block for the continuation of that automation journey. So you know, there’s all these different kinds of technologies that all kind of sound the same to SortSpoke, you will use different ones at different times. When you would choose to look at a SortSpoke is typically when you have the most complex, the most unstructured of documents. And typically, those were where other tools aren’t doing the job. Those are opportunities where SortSpoke can come in and give you the kind of assistance that we’ve been able to help Mike and his team really take on and own and empower themselves to get creative with it to increase the automation journey for themselves.
Mike Ackroyd 20:45
To layer on top of that, if I could, Sean, I think that the addition of SortSpoke into the mix was a really key addition. And that, you know, with hundreds of different clients, and each of those clients having their own variety of formats to sign this business, to use traditional OCR techniques to get at that data would have taken us years to do. But with a tool like SortSpoke that it’s based on machine learning and, you know, over time, becomes intelligent to pull out, you know, those data fields really allowed us to do two things: speed up the development process, but also take on a broader array of formats that ultimately we could process through automation. So it was really a key addition to the mix.
Sean Hinton 21:28
And that’s why I use the term complementary solution, you know. We have some basic document understanding built into the platform, but there are times when another technology, like SortSpoke, are required to really unlock that value more quickly. And that’s the beauty with the platform is you can plug in and out different technologies to solve specific purpose-built issues, which is great. So it’s glad to have you here, Brandon, it’s great story to be talking about.
Alright, let’s get back to the actual SCM journey. So Mike and David, I’m sure you’ll add some commentary as we’re going through here. But can you walk us through the journey talk about sort of some of the processes that you felt were suited for automation? What went well, what are some of the challenges? But I’d like you to start at a different place. I’d like you to start at: Okay, now you’re a year in. What’s the most visible benefit or impact you’ve seen inside SCM? And even potentially for your clients because some of these processes could impact your customers.
Mike Ackroyd 22:37
For sure. So if I look at the number of different automations we built out, I’d say the most impactful and the one that likely carries the most benefit to our clients in turn, is around our FNL – first notice of loss. Basically, a claim intake process for Claimspro. We’ve taken, really, the manual aspects of copying data out, you know, we process a single email and that email is turned into a claim with minimal, if not zero, human interaction through that process. And why that’s impactful for SCM and for our clients is that you know, we’re often called upon in cases where there’s a catastrophe that’s happened: floods, ice storms, you know, fires, and the volume of activity that we see through those periods is huge spikes. And so, with this automation now in place, we can ensure that the claims are A) setup and B) in the hands of the adjusters who are going to be delivering the services that are needed in a more timely manner. And done so truthfully, with a higher degree of accuracy, just based on the lack of data transposition that occurs.
David Burnie 23:49
And that ability to ramp and accelerate, I think, is one of the real benefits people don’t initially consider. And it’s only when you get these spikes that people realize, “Oh, yeah, I can just throw three or four automations at the robots at this and get through it very quickly.” Whereas it’d be very difficult to do that in a traditional way of working.
Sean Hinton 24:29
What do you think went really well in the process? What was the one thing that you were so incredibly proud of in the process? And what’s the one that was, “Oh boy, we should never ever, ever do that again”?
Mike Ackroyd 24:44
Dave alluded to it at the start of the call. I think that the decision to perform an opportunity assessment ahead of any development effort was a great decision for the business because it set us up with a strategy and a roadmap of what the first call at 12 months would look like and provided clarity. So that was, I think, a proper and a good decision on our part. Other things that have gone well, I think the decision to develop internal technical self-sufficiency was also a key point for us. We wanted to make sure that we could maintain and grow the program over time. And so with the Burnie Group, using a see one, do one, lead one approach, we built our internal expertise in that area. Last thing I’d say would be that we’ve used a combination of technologies in order to deliver the final solution. We talked a little bit about SortSpoke, you know, in some cases, using user interface and UiPath to work through data, but we’re also making use of API. And the real, I guess, the core of that story is that, that you can have a solution that isn’t all one flavour, you can put different pieces together and come up with something that’s really meaningful in the end.
David Burnie 25:59
And if I could add one other thing that we would change, Mike, probably, I think everyone would agree, we really got into the heart of what we’re doing and about March of 2020. So if we could just eliminate that whole global pandemic thing. Definitely don’t want to do that next time.
Mike Ackroyd 26:16
Yeah, that did throw a bit of a hiccup in the mix, didn’t it?
Sean Hinton 26:20
Yeah, but it gives you space to actually start focusing and growing this even more, right? That’s what I’ve seen. A lot of organizations are using that time to double down on the automation so that when we come out of it, they’re way more automated than they were going into it.
Mike Ackroyd 26:40
Sure. As far as, Sean, if I could – as far as items that I would do differently, some learnings. I think that there’s something that I call the STP syndrome, the Same Ten People syndrome, that we often find that were side of desk, because those same ten people have a lot of other responsibilities. We weren’t as deliberate around creating space for focus on automation as we could have. And I think also when whenever dealing with clients and talking about automation on third-party systems, you have to make sure those conversations are well underway. Because, you know, we have to schedule client initiatives as well.
Sean Hinton 27:23
So totally unfair question, David. I’m warning you now it’s not fair. What does Mike have to do to get 10 X the value over the next 12 months?
David Burnie 27:36
That’s an excellent question. You know, I think to get 10 X the value, a lot of the work that we did was precipitated on growth, growth of SCM, and just setting the groundwork and the foundation so that SCM could go out and be the most efficient and provide the best service to its clients. And so I think that – and all of that was the goal that they could then go and win a whole bunch more business. And so my view would be to get the real 10 X, you’ll be leveraging all the great work that’s been done to go out, and really grow and get new clients. And I’m confident that SCM will be able to do that if they can now really demonstrate great capabilities, efficiency, you know, lack of errors, high quality, these are all things that I’m confident they’ll be able to execute.
Sean Hinton 28:31
Very cool. And I mean, I got to think in this business, Mike, that’s all important, but that lack of error, that error rate has got to be a huge, huge plus changing from people to robots doing this stuff. Have your customers noticed the change?
Mike Ackroyd 28:52
I don’t know if I’ve heard, you know, a testimonial from a client yet. But I definitely know that as we look at the inputs and the outputs, we’re seeing a higher degree of consistency and quality on how things have been processed.
Sean Hinton 29:09
You said it earlier when we were talking about the journey, you know, or I think David said it around, then this COVID thing happened, and the pandemic, but it’s a really valid point. How did that change the course of the project, or did it?
Mike Ackroyd 29:23
So in some ways, you know, initially, it distracted our ability to focus because we were mobilizing to a remote workforce. But thereafter, it actually allowed us to focus in a more meaningful way. If business volumes were slightly down, it would create time and opportunity to focus on development and really get ourselves ready for when we all come out of this and business returns to normal.
David Burnie 29:48
And I think that the SCM organization really did a nice job. You know, I think that a lot of with all that uncertainty see a lot of organizations decided to put everything on pause, cancel all projects. I think that SCM was very visionary to say, ‘You know what, things have slowed down, but they’ll come back. And we want to be ready, and we were prepared.’ And so they really did a nice job of keeping going and, you know, believing, as has happened, that things would return to normal. And so I think that’s really paid off.
Sean Hinton 30:28
Yeah. The two questions from the audience: one’s a follow-up, and then it’s a little different topic. How did your the priorities of your customers change? I mean, I asked you about your priorities. How did they change because of the pandemic? What about your customers? Did you see a change in your customers’ priorities or needs?
Mike Ackroyd 30:49
I’d say that the pandemic created capacity internally for many of them. We are often an outsource. And so because claim volumes were low, people were at home, watching their basement and making sure it wasn’t flooded, etc. There was probably more internalization than we would have previously seen. But beyond that, I don’t have a major comment on it.
Sean Hinton 31:17
This is question number two from the audience. Were there any surprising reactions from the folks inside SCM when automation was the first push that you didn’t anticipate? Because that’s a tough one, right, you’re introducing new technology. People can get a little scared. How did that go?
Mike Ackroyd 31:36
I think that it’s all about how early you socialized the concept and how you frame it. Our view is that this is very much a quality of life improver for our staff. So what we’re saying is we’ll take away the mundane, repetitive aspects of your job and free you up to do the things that you do well: decision making, problem-solving, delivering customer service. That’s the focus of how we’re looking at how automation will bring value to both SCM is an enterprise and SCM employees.
Sean Hinton 32:10
Well, it’s going to enable you to take on more work and keep your cost model low. Like when you get it right, it’s going to be spectacular for the organization. It’s unbelievable.
Brandon Robinson 32:24
Really quick, just to this line of feeling: you know, that’s one of the things that we get a lot of reaction of SortSpoke from customers. It’s how the users who are like the claims adjudicators, the underwriters, etc, they come back to folks and say, “This just feels better. I enjoy doing it more this way,” whether it’s as part of an automation journey, whether it’s just using SortSpoke on its own because it takes away some of that – like what Mike said – it takes away some of that work that’s not, doesn’t feel good. It’s important work. It’s data entry. You know, these are critical parts of the job. But if you can start to replace that with something that feels better, but that also comes with all the other benefits of improving the quality, of decreasing the risk, of increasing the speed, the turnaround times, all these things. But then you get that kind of qualitative feedback from users where they say, “I just love doing this all of a sudden,” it’s such a difference from going to work and being like, “Grumble grumble, I gotta go and type something out” to a “Cool, check out what I just did. Let’s do some more.” And to David’s point, that’s really also sort of the fuel as you start to increase the operations where you can start to put more customers, more revenue, more business to the top, that makes the whole thing just start to sing and dance a whole lot better.
Sean Hinton 33:34
It’s so true, Brandon. One of our customers from the East Coast – it’s just one person, I’m trying to remember her name – but we automated or the automation team automated 85% of her job. She was the biggest cheerleader for the program because now she wasn’t doing the mundane kind of stuff, and she was actually able to engage her thoughts and her value to the organization because she’d been there a long time. It was an incredible transformation. We found with that, just that one individual and she became part of the team and loved every minute of it. So very, very, very good stories when you hear those happen, and it’s happening all over the country.
Alright. This is going to be an open question for everybody. What’s the one use case or application of the technology at SCM that each of you is most proud of?
Mike Ackroyd 34:33
Sean Hinton 34:38
Yeah, it’s your business!
Mike Ackroyd 34:41
I’d say that while there’s been a number of automations we’ve built, the one that’s carried the most benefit for SCM to date has been on our intake process. I’ve already spoken to some of the technologies, and now they came together. Ultimately, it’s delivered about an 80% reduction in the amount of time it takes to set up a new claim, which translates to real minutes in a day and creates capacity for our teams. So by far, that’s probably the biggest impact that we’ve delivered today.
Sean Hinton 35:13
Very cool. Mr. Burnie?
David Burnie 35:17
And for me, I think it was, you know, the combination of UiPath and SortSpoke in a way that hasn’t really been done before. I know that SCM has a number of different clients, and many of them have very similar needs, but they’re all a little bit different. They’ve got different application forms. And so leveraging the technology, as Mike said, typically, if you’re using traditional OCR would take years to automate, you know, one process because you got all these different forms. Being able to very quickly and rapidly automate across a broad spectrum of different application forms, I think, for me, was the one that was there was really cool. And I was like, “Wow, we haven’t ever seen this being done before.”
Brandon Robinson 36:05
I’ll dovetail on that, David. And I’ll say that the thing that the SortSpoke team’s the most proud of is, Mike, that we’ve given you the ability to do it the way that makes the most sense for you and for your business. You know, so between it being that you guys talked about this at length earlier, with a combination of tech and business, we as SortSpoke kind of fit that same approach where we’re trying to make it so you can choose and experiment and rapidly iterate on trying to find out the best way to accomplish a certain end. And again, the thing that we’re happiest about in the outcomes here is that we’ve given you the ability to choose what kind of documents you want to put as part of an attended workflow. So you’re making sure that there’s human review on every single line on every single piece of data so that you decrease the risk. But then we’ve also provided you some of the opportunities where you start to get to a really high level of comfort, and you guys manage the risk. You say, “Hey, just let it fly, cool.” You can, you can kind of pick and choose as it makes the most sense to you, and without having to call me or having to call David and his team, necessarily, every time to say, “Hey, guys, I need to make a change, or I need to update something, and I need to do something differently.” We’re just so happy that it’s in your capability, it’s in your skillset, and we’ve empowered your team to help as part of that journey.
Sean Hinton 37:11
Sure, that’s a big, that’s a huge part of all of this, right? You know, Mike, I remember this part of the conversation from a while back. You didn’t want to be beholden to anybody but your own team for a long time, right? You wanted us to come in to help you get going as a group to help you get going. But you wanted to be able to do it yourself on an ongoing basis and maybe get help every now and again. Right? And that’s, to me, sounds and feels like you’re almost there. And then you’ll bring us in to do more of that, that heavy lifting when you want to add something else or change something a little bit more dramatically, right? That, for me, is one of the key things. And the other piece is the combination of the technologies. I mean, we consider ourselves a very open platform where you can plug in lots of different things from lots of different places to enhance the automation process. And this is a great example of that. So let’s take that same question. Let’s change it a little bit, though, to say, Okay, what are the things that you’re most excited about that’s in your pipeline?
Mike Ackroyd 38:19
So as I look at the next six to 12 months, I’m really keen on some of the new features we’re going to be able to add in. Talking about integrating additional services, I think that building out additional cognitive AI capabilities will be important for SCM, whether that’s, you know, sentiment analysis and intelligent routing of content as it comes in, whether that’s chatbots for, you know, client and/or insurer use. Another area that I think has some real potential is as we look at our client network, where traditional API methodologies aren’t available, to use RPA in system-to-system data replication activities that may be happening today. I think that has a large opportunity for efficiency for both parties if we can advance those discussions.
Sean Hinton 39:09
Okay. Very good. David?
David Burnie 39:11
Yeah, I think that it’s a good opportunity to talk about some of the technologies, which, you know, we’re really excited about, as we’ve talked about, what SortSpoke has brought to the table and AI with human in the loop. And some of the things that we are seeing that we can help both SCM and others with one is around contact centre automation. And I’ll have to flip it back over to you afterwards, Sean, because I know you’ve got a lot of capabilities in UiPath and in your apps program. But being able to develop, you know, a single view of agents to make their life significantly easier. Process mining as we talked about that initial, you know, scanning to see what are all the opportunities. Process mining can be quite helpful in identifying how things work and where we can go and apply automation capabilities. And then fast discoveries related to that. And I think that’s another big opportunity. But Sean, I know that UiPath has a lot of really key capabilities here. Maybe you can touch on a few of those because I know that you’re a leader in this area.
Sean Hinton 40:20
Yeah. The call centre automation, I think, is the biggest untapped resource or the biggest untapped place for a lot of customers that have a lot of agents. We’ve seen that in specific customers that we have in the Canadian market. When you have 1000 or 2000 plus agents, and you can automate a minute or two minutes or three minutes a call for those particular agents, you know, that’s a tremendous impact for those organizations. And one of the ways we’re doing that is leveraging RPA to be the front end of multiple applications. So we’ve created this tool called Apps, which allows you to pull almost like a very simple user interface that’s based on eight or ten different apps in the background, and the RPA, the robot, becomes that interface to that. So it’s a very, very powerful option that we’re working with many, many large organizations on. The other one you talked about is task mining and process mining. And really, I think about the whole thing as discovery, right?
There’s multiple ways that, you know, finding the automations can be the biggest challenge in all of this stuff. And we’ve now got some technology in place to be able to do that. Right. So we’ll start with process mining. The process mining, really looking at the back end documents or back end blogs and things to be able to figure out from the back end what people are doing within those different applications. So there’s lots of data around that.
The second one is looking at it from the keyboard. What’s the user doing? So task discovery is that user side of it, right? What are they doing every day? That’s coming in private preview very, very shortly. We’re looking at that. And then, we have the third leg of the stool is with built into one of our other tools. It’s part of the discovery part is crowdsourcing, right? So being able to let agents and employees record what they’re doing. And submit that as an automation. So now you have the crowdsourcing, you have the back-end data, and you have the front-end data. Imagine what happens when you put all those together. And the power that can generate for an organization, that’s where we’re gonna see game-changing for a lot of organizations. It really speeds up the pace of adoption of the technology. And there’s a lot of other really, really interesting things we’re doing. But those are some of the ones I find most exciting.
David Burnie 42:57
Yeah, that’s exciting.
Sean Hinton 42:59
What about you, Brandon?
Brandon Robinson 43:01
Areas where we’re most excited about going forward kind of comes around two primary things. One is assisting Mike and his business team, finding other areas where SortSpoke comes to bear. SortSpoke, unlike other products, is not uni-focused on a single kind of document or a single kind of use case. You can literally use SortSpoke to extract data from any kind of document in any kind of workflow, whether it’s something on your claim side, whether you’re in a larger carrier, it’s P&C side, you know, whatever the underwriting side, whatever the case may be, there is an opportunity where if you have human beings reviewing documents manually today, SortSpoke can help you with that. So one of the things that we do regularly with Mike and his team is talk about where else can we help? And what other sort of use cases can we start to help you rapidly iterate? And the best part is, is when they call me and say, “Hey, Brandon, we just tried something for a couple of days, it went pretty good.” And I’m like, “Cool, I didn’t even know you’re doing it.” So that’s really awesome. Because, again, it’s on that self-serve, sort of, you guys are in charge.
The other thing that I’m most excited about to be able to share, in addition to, you know, continuing the precision of our machine-generated text extraction, is we are working very rapidly right now and being able to release handwriting recognition support. So we’re an early days, kind of – I think the phrase you just used is a private preview, Sean. We’re kind of early days on a beta, public beta of our first bit of handwriting recognition. Our target use cases are things like application forms that have handwritten responses in it. If anyone’s thinking from sort of life, or the health sort of side of this or benefit side of this, is we’re not focused on doctor’s handwriting today. That is not a solution that we’re very confident in anyone’s going to be able to solve ever. But we are kind of taking the first step towards questionnaires and application forms that do have handwritten responses. And I know that that’s an opportunity for Mike and his team in some portion of the documents that they still receive being handwritten, whether it’s in the first notice of loss or it’s in other corners of the business. Those are things that we’re focused on, and I’m really, really excited about being able to show that to people later this year as we show some results with it from our first few customers.
Sean Hinton 45:00
I think there actually is a small boutique company in Europe somewhere that’s actually doing script for doctors. I don’t know how effective it is. But it’s definitely being used, that’s for sure. One of the things – and I’m gonna ask this to Brandon and then to David – one of the things that customers appreciate, and especially in projects like this is time to value. And time to value becomes really critical because you’re investing. This is one of those technologies or one of these infrastructures of technologies that, once it’s in place, actually creates space in an organization. So for us, you know, customers can have this stuff up and running in days and weeks versus months and years, right. What’s the experience been for SortSpoke?
Brandon Robinson 45:52
It’s exactly the same. And that’s why, you know, partnering with UiPath, when we did a couple of years ago from a technology partnership standpoint, makes a lot of sense. And, you know, being partners with Burnie Group is just more fuel for us to say, we’re onto something here because, you know, kind of similar to what you’re describing from the community-led development and the rapid adoption of RPA tools. SortSpoke is very much the same way. We do not come with pre-trained models. We don’t have a bunch of stuff that you can roll it off the shelf. Now that doesn’t always go hand in hand with what I’m about to say next. But what you can do with SortSpoke, is in literally a few hours, you can get started, and you can start to see automation occur with SortSpoke. Every use case is a little different. But we try to measure the return on how long it takes in hours, days and weeks, and certainly not in months and years.
You can stand up SortSpoke with your business users. And I really want to underline business users. It doesn’t have to be technologists; it doesn’t have to be folks with specialized technology, knowledge to be able to do this. This could be underwriters; this could be claims processors. The people that are the document subject matter experts really hold the keys because they know where the stuff is. SortSpoke as a technology is here to augment them. And that’s where we try to come in and say, “How can we provide advice and guidance to get you and your team – in this case, where we help Mike and his team and the Burnie Group – get up to speed on doing this?” We can help them do that in just a few days. And then, again, they take the ownership of it, the empowerment of it. And it’s like, “How can we just keep this thing rolling as fast as possible?”
Sean Hinton 47:19
I would say, David, I was gonna flip it back to you and Mike on this. Now you’ve heard from the software publisher, the solution provider. What’s the real story?
David Burnie 47:32
One of the things that I find incredible is just the pace at which you can implement solutions. And traditionally, especially when you touch IT, in most organizations, that will take, in many cases, years. And you can do a full end-to-end from initial design development and put it into production within eight to 12 weeks. So this is really fast. It’s amazing how quickly you can get the value. So I think it is very fast. Yeah, that that that actually raised a question that I had. Because, you know, Mike, we work with a lot of insurance companies, as I know, that’s your core focus. I know there’s a lot of insurance companies who are observing this webinar. I’d be curious, if you maybe like if I’m at an insurance company, what are the areas that I could immediately look at for automation to say, “Oh, here’s where I should start”? Or are there certain topics that are most relevant for any insurer watching us right now?
Mike Ackroyd 48:47
I think going back to Brandon’s comment, data extraction and removing the manual aspects of that, whether that’s on the claim side or the underwriting side, is a key place to start. What you do with that data once it’s been extracted, really the sky’s the limit, right? If you think about an account onboarding, when you’re binding a new policy, being able to take key information and then send that through all the way to a bound policy, including confirmation back to the policyholder, that can be quite impactful if you can do that without a human touch. On the claim side, I think having the ability to automate many of the manual steps in a claims journey can also be very impactful in, you know, cutting down the overall time. As the group will know, cycle time and how long a claim takes to close off often has an impact on the overall indemnity and cost of that, and so anything you can do to shorten that timeframe is going to benefit you as an insurer, for sure.
Sean Hinton 49:56
I got this great question that popped up here. Before I ask it if we’ve got about 10 minutes left, if you do have questions from the audience, please put them in, and we’ll try to get to them before noon. Great question, though that came up here. What would you say to organizations that have tried automation and abandoned it?
Mike Ackroyd 50:21
I would ask them to go back and, you know, deeply think about the reasons why the automation failed. Was it the tools were insufficient? Was it business adoption? Really, at the root of the failure is going to be one or two kinds of key areas. And then, you know, think about how you might approach it differently to relaunch, and I think automation and working intelligently is the wave of the future. Organizations that don’t have an automation toolset within their tool belt are going to find themselves falling behind. And so I think that everyone needs to really look at automation in a meaningful way.
Sean Hinton 50:57
That’s great. And I agree with everything you said there. That’s exactly the word – well, not exactly the words – but it’s kind of what I talk to customers about when they when they’ve said the same thing. All right, we’re in the homestretch. Lessons learned. Let’s just do a little round table here and talk about some of the lessons you’ve learned from doing this. Mike, let’s talk specifically about your experience. And then you know, Brandon and David, when we get to you talk about not just what happened with Mike in the SCM team, but talk about other clients as well, some of the lessons learned that might benefit people on the call today.
Mike Ackroyd 51:37
I’m going to spin it positively, if that’s okay, Sean. I’m going to say here are things you’ll want to keep in mind while building your own automation program. I think that, as with any change, automation is a great opportunity to rethink how work gets done. You can make a mistake by trying to add automation to poorly designed processes. And so, as you’re looking at what future state might be, don’t discount a re-engineering of that same process. I think developing a process to work more efficiently is a key part of your automation journey. The second piece of advice would be in order to have the adoption that you need both with the end-users and organizationally, I think socialization of the topic and the concepts needs to be done early, so that you can, again, when the time comes to actually put into production people are prepared both emotionally and mentally for that change.
Sean Hinton 52:36
That’s great. Because a lot of the time when we do this stuff we forget about the people impact of it. And it can be big, depending on the organization, because you’re changing the way they’re working. Yeah, potentially. What about you, David, what have you seen? What do you see at SCM? Some of the lessons learned, and you’ve done this with other companies as well. What are some of the key ones that you think you should share?
David Burnie 53:00
What I saw at SCM, which I think really resonates, is around change management and how effective a job that Mike did at really integrating the business, and communicating the plan to the organization, and really having a solid plan of attack. So it wasn’t, “Hey, we have automation, come on over. And we’ll you know, tell us what your problem is, and we’ll try to solve it.” It’s we have, “We’ve looked across the organization, we have a plan, here’s what the plan is how here’s how it’s going to impact you. And then you know, pulling in the business, and bringing business nicely together to have that change management approach that was just really effective. So that was one of the big learnings for me.
Sean Hinton 53:51
Brandon, what about you?
Brandon Robinson 53:54
I think there are so many ways to accomplish an outcome. One of the things that you need to consider early on is – I’m sorry, David, I’m not putting words in your mouth – but one of the things that I always say is, I don’t know the best way for you to get there yet. And in lots of cases, that’s true. One of the things that I always advocate for is “Let’s work together to figure out the best way to accomplish something.” You know, you have to be willing and open to a little bit of flex. You have to be flexible in terms of figuring out how to get to the outcome. It’s not always going to be the straight line that you might expect it to be from the planning standpoint. You might goof up along the way. You might have to start again. That’s okay. These kinds of tools like SortSpoke and UiPath, and others do allow you the flexibility that you don’t have to go and spend six months before you realize this isn’t gonna work the way I want it to. You could spend six hours and figure that out and learn things along the way that you can bolt on to make it a better product for yourself, and a better solution and a better outcome before you’re finished. And you know, for me, that’s really the key. You could slice this on in any number of ways that make sense. Sometimes the only way to truly find out which one will actually work is to try it and be okay with getting it wrong a few times along the way.
Sean Hinton 55:01
Good, that’s good feedback. I would say from my perspective. There’s a couple that I would add into this. And I think Mike, SCM nailed this one. It’s that business-IT relationship can make or break you and these programs. And you guys got that. Right. That was That’s fantastic. I would challenge you a little bit on the process improvement, getting the process perfect before you automate it. It depends on the organization, but sometimes it’s best to automate the process as is to create some capacity for the organization to then go back, once you’ve created enough capacity to go back and rework the process, right? I think sometimes we – again, it depends on the organization – but in a regulated environment where you have to get approvals on process change, it can create a slowdown, and you’re getting value out of what you automate. So I think that’s there’s a fine balance there. And the other the last one, I would say is, get going. Just get started, right? You’re going to build the governance, and you’re going to build the CoE as you go along. For sure, you have to do that if you want the programs to scale, but you got to get started to see, to learn how this is going to work within your environment in your organization. So those are the three bits I have.
Well, listen, guys, we’re at the hour. We’re at the end of our webinar. I really wanted to say thanks to all of you for taking part of this. Brandon, David, Mike, you guys have invested a ton of time to be part of this program and appreciate it as a great conversation. Enjoy the cold, Mike, David, Brandon. Enjoy your shovelling a little later on. And have a great rest of your week. Thanks. Thanks, guys.
Brandon Robinson 56:49