Putting digital labor to work the right way

by Clay Jarvis21 Jul 2020

On its own, technological innovation can be impressive and impactful, but without being properly integrated with a mortgage company’s invaluable human resources, even the most cutting-edge technology can be blunted by inefficient processes.

In a recent white paper, LoanLogics describes the melding of tech and human expertise as “digital labor.” Rather than rushing toward a mythical “100 percent digital” mortgage experience, LoanLogics says tech needs to be used to enhance human performance, not replace it.

“The goal is to automate time-consuming, tedious, and rule-based work,” says David Gitlin, LoanLogics’ director of technology. “Through this, digital labor enhances the productivity of intellectual labor, leaving staff free to focus on the cognitive and emotive analysis of work and communication internally, and with clients and vendors.”

Allowing staff to tackle more nuanced and rewarding tasks is not only a better use of their talents, the white paper states, it can also increase job satisfaction.

“With technology doing the heavy lifting, the application of human skills can be adapted to much more strategic and high value work, such as defining lending parameters to balance business risk with growth and profit goals. The underlying tactics that support those strategies are well suited to digital labor,” Gitlin says.

Digital labor best practices

But getting to the point where employees’ skills are being optimized takes time and a measured implementation of digital labor. According to LoanLogics’ vice president of enterprise portfolio management and support, Jim MacKenzie, there are three best practices the company and its clients use in the implementation process.

First, a company should evaluate its staff on its comfort level with technology.

“Willingness to change and move on from ‘the way we’ve always done it’ is paramount to ensure consistent and quick adoption,” MacKenzie says. He suggests that companies get input on configuration from the staff members who will be using the system, celebrate milestones when they are achieved, and use team members who have successfully embraced technology as part of their daily routine as “change ambassadors” for the rest of the organization.

Second, a company should define new workflow and integration points before the deployment of a digital labor solution. Collaboration with a mortgage provider’s tech vendor will be critical at this juncture.

“They know the product capabilities better than you do, but you understand your own processes better than they do. Together you can raise each other’s knowledge level to make the most out of your technology investment, plan your roll-out strategy and reduce the user adoption curve,” MacKenzie says.

(MacKenzie’s point about mortgage companies collaborating with their tech vendors should be taken seriously. According to John Alderman, LoanLogics’ vice president of engineering, creating an agile and efficient digital workforce will require familiarity with both cloud native and cloud-enabled applications, as well as microservices.)

To ensure the full and proper use of digital labor, MacKenzie says firms should also determine pre- and post-implementation benchmarks so they can measure improvement as their new tech is rolled out to users.

Digital labor and data sharing

Alderman explains that digital labor can help companies verify and share loan data across their entire IT infrastructure, smoothing out the often confounding, error-prone process of collecting data from various sources.

To accomplish this goal, he says companies must be capable of automating document processing in both bulk and real-time during the production process. That won’t happen if the digital labor being used to validate loan file data and automate tasks is siloed off on its own.

“One-off implementations of technology do not provide the lift lenders need,” Alderman explains. “Instead, when implementing digital labor, trust in technology, trust in an integrated workflow and eliminate parallel manual practices for overall greater efficiencies in the mortgage origination process.”