The (Pool) Business Case for Automation (December 16, 2020 Pooling Perspective)

  

By Ann Gergen, Executive Director

12-15_chart.pngWith almost all pools having experienced some form of operational disruption this year, pool leaders are looking ahead to what their business processes might look like in 2021 and beyond.

For many pools, this will involve using technology to automate functions historically performed by hand. In fact, as part of a poll conducted during one of the conference sessions at Pooling Today, three-quarters of pool respondents said 40 percent or more of their pool’s business processes could be automated. 

With this in mind, a group of pool executives participating in our Executive Think Tank recently identified a variety of opportunities for pool business automation. Here are just a few such opportunities all pools will likely appreciate:

  • Onboard new pool staff with structured online training and introductions
  • Streamline internal financial reporting, invoicing and accounts payable
  • Use a self-service portal to facilitate claim submissions and provide loss runs to members
  • Allow members to update property and vehicle schedules and print coverage certificates online
  • Provide self-service training for pool members based upon frequently asked questions 
  • Introduce online voting technology for membership-wide decisions 

Some pools may be hesitant to fully implement changes like these. “Business automation” sounds cold and impersonal, which doesn’t fit our pooling culture. But automation dialed in at the right level can actually help amplify the human element. For example, automating work where possible allows pool staff to focus on delivering superior member service or developing new initiatives. Automation also allows staff to spend time and energy on relationships and innovation rather than manual data inputs and calculations. 

If you’re interested in thinking more about the possibilities of automation, I recommend purchasing access to the article From automats to algorithms: the automation of services using artificial intelligence in the March 2020 issue of the Journal of Service Management. (You can also read an overview at Science Daily.)

The full article outlines a conceptual framework for business automation with two meaningful considerations that are useful to the service mindset of pools: degree of interaction with customers (members) and breadth of services offered. The article doesn’t present empirical research, and it certainly won’t tell you whether or what to automate. But it does put pertinent questions into strategic perspective to help you consider where automation may (and may not) help your pool.

Under normal circumstances, you might not want to fix what isn’t broken. However, because most pool business processes are already in a state of disruption, this is the perfect time to consider how and whether to automate certain pool operations for the long term. If your pool has insight on automating business processes you’d like to share with the community, let me know.

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Ann Gergen is AGRiP’s executive director and a former pool administrator. She has worked closely with and for pools, public entities, reinsurers and related service providers throughout her career.


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