Automation Insider: Determining what to automate

In our last blog, we shared how to infuse an automation ethos into your business, and how automation is truly revolutionizing the mortgage lending process. Our latest eBook series, entitled Creating a Culture of Automation in Your Organization, details how embracing automation within the lending workflow can transform your business and your customer experience. That’s because the more quickly and efficiently you’re able to originate loans, the more value your borrowers will realize. This naturally leads to enhanced engagement, loyalty, and building customers for life. In this blog, we outline the steps you need to take to begin your automation journey that will put you on the road to achieve a new level of ROI.

Getting started with mortgage automation

With so many automation opportunities within the mortgage process, it’s tough to know where to begin. However, before we can look forward to improved process efficiency and lower origination costs, we must first look back. This includes getting a detailed picture of how your operation is functioning today.

Start by conducting a time and motion study.

The process is relatively simple:

  • Observe your day-to-day loan processes
  • Chart how long it takes employees to complete each specific task
  • Document what you see
  • Identify and rank inefficiencies

“When you time out what it takes to go to a screen, open another screen, check the credentials, click the button, wait for it to come back, review it and click the button to import liabilities, it can add up,” explained Keri Rogers, SVP, Strategic Planning at Lennar Mortgage. “In an industry where every second counts, that’s time you can’t afford to waste.”

Tackle the simple and obvious first.

Pace yourself by starting small and building up from there. When choosing a process to automate, begin by asking questions such as:

  • What is our most people-intensive or heaviest-spend task?
  • Does it happen at a predictable, specific time in the loan process repeatedly, like ordering flood insurance or another service?
  • Is there technology available to automate that task?

Once you’ve selected a task that could be ripe for automation, then dive deeper into the process to identify who is responsible for performing that task right now, what is that person’s average salary, and how much time would partially or completely automating that task remove from that process.

Then, do the math to see the potential ROI.

Don’t just go off what you assume to be true, verify your hypothesis with real data. Identify the actions that are causing the whole flow to take an extra day or half-day, and pinpoint where employees are working overtime due to multiple touches. This will help ensure you focus your resources where they’ll deliver the greatest potential ROI.

Setting priorities

When most lenders look at their operations and evaluate how much time and effort they can save through mortgage automation, they often end up with more “to-dos” than resources available to execute such. That’s why you need to align your automation strategy with your business strategy. Here’s how to start:

  • Identify which opportunities best support current business objectives or business strategies
  • Determine how many of those initiatives can be accomplished with existing staff and budget
  • Get agreement on those priorities at the executive level, plus department heads and other key stakeholders
  • Ensure that your IT department can handle the incoming automation project workload
  • Consider the impact on your user community as well

“When you’re mapping out and prioritizing your automation plan, you also have to consider your users, specifically, how much change can your employees handle?” said Michele Buschman, CIO, American Pacific Mortgage. “Between continual regulatory changes, volume fluctuations and everything that’s happened in the industry, employees are constantly dealing with a lot of disruption. You have to pace how much more change you can throw at them—and when.”

Developing the solution

In today’s rapid-fire mortgage industry, multi-year development cycles have become a thing of the past. Lenders must be more agile to speed innovation and progress, while minimizing disruption. However, it’s important to spend adequate time in the development cycle to ensure success. Our experts shared their best practices:

  • Think beyond eliminating a step in the process: Don’t simply have a software robot handle a step that was originally done by a human, use APIs or business rules to see if you can alter the original processes to improve efficiency.
  • Think about automating a workflow, not just a single task: A task-based workflow can allow you to use automation to guide the workflow, based on the outcome of each task, and tell your staff exactly what they need to do next.
  • Choose the right technology: It sometimes makes sense to roll out iterative changes that improve efficiency while a larger initiative is in development. RPA is often used as this type of gap technology.
  • Don’t over-engineer: Make sure your solution is solving the key problems you’ve identified, and not focused on addressing additional problems which will have a minor impact on your business.
  • Ensure you are collecting the right data: Avoid rolling out an initiative and realizing that you missed certain requirements because you were not collecting the right data. This can leave your support team spending hours trying to dig in, unwind things, figure out the issues, and patch it up.
  • Get user feedback early and often: Don’t develop the solution in a vacuum. Get user feedback before you start the process, and during the process to refine as you go. This will not only make for a smoother rollout, but will also speed adoption and maximize the value of what you create.

Ready to learn more and create a clear automation strategy? 

Download the full version of Creating a Culture of Automation in Your Organization - Part 1, now.

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