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February 25, 2019
Throwing out the “manual”: How smart companies are conducting their investigations
By: Tobias Butler

With the Hayne Commission on everyone’s minds, it’s never been more important for companies to be able to conduct credible, independent investigations. And it’s not just financial services institutions under the microscope. With the steady increase of financial, ethical and environmental regulation and enforcement across all industries, more and more companies are under intense scrutiny.

To properly fulfil governance duties, boards and executives often need investigations to assess customer complaints, or instances where Internal Audit identifies misconduct or Risk finds compliance breaches. Often, these investigations are highly complex – for example, in response to a patient complaint in a hospital – requiring a thorough, auditable, compliant and transparent process. Worse, each investigation has unique characteristics, making it hard to drive efficiencies when conducting investigations at scale.

Investigations are a massive drain on resources

They are expensive, complex, time-consuming and disruptive to business operations and personnel. Investigations often have to be completed within mandated timeframes or against the clock of customer and media expectations. But, at the same time, given the fines that could be levied or the potential damage to brand and reputation, you can’t cut corners. Your investigation must be able to produce a coherent, robust, brief of the evidence needed to defend against or prosecute a (possibly criminal) case.

Frequently conducted using emails and excel spreadsheets, the manpower requirements for investigations can be crippling. Very few organisations have dedicated investigations teams. People either get pulled out of other bits of the business – leaving gaps – or organisations rely on multiple third parties. Neither option is ideal. How do you orchestrate all the tasks by third parties and track that each required activity has been done – and done correctly?

Why aren’t we automating these processes?

You’d think investigations would be first on the list for automation, but this has proved extremely challenging. Part of the problem is that investigations – by nature – need information from multiple systems that don’t talk to each other and may be owned by other companies. So, you need to patch together different bits of technology.

This is perfectly possible but, given each investigation is unique, requiring information from different systems and people, it’s not worth doing for a single investigation. As a result, even digitally sophisticated organisations are continuing to conduct investigations manually, chewing through horrendous amounts of human and monetary resources.

Emerging technologies will be a life saver

New developments in intelligent automation, AI and human-centred design are being used to create investigation case management platforms that remove human steps and physical handoffs and learn from each case. These platforms integrate easily with any internal or external system and can be easily customised by people in the business for the next investigation. They enable:

  • Speed and accuracy– Rather than humans laboriously going through all the documentation and trying to connect the dots, the software performs the same task in a fraction of the time – and, frequently, with greater accuracy. Instead of dozens of people poring over documents, computer algorithms can analyse subsets of data using predictive coding to highlight key terms in hundreds of thousands of documents.

    The platforms can also track people, objects, locations and events and correlate them with other data points in an investigation. For example, they can quickly and easily identify every data point in the investigation that touches a person of interest, or a particular instance of river pollution. This means, if you have 12 separate reports about the same environmental incident, the system correlates them and treats them as one.

  • Predictive intelligence – Rather than relying one person’s expertise or experience, the platform allows organisations to collect and harness the consolidated wisdom of each investigation. Infused with AI, investigation platforms learn, supporting each new investigation with information gleaned from previous cases. They also use propensity scoring and modelling to determine next best steps through investigation, or look for common patterns or event triggers.

  • Complete transparency and real-time reporting – Boards benefit from access to a constant record of the investigation’s findings and status, with granular visibility of cost, work and process compliance. They also have confidence that the investigation is following the requirements of regulatory or compliance legislation and will result in credible evidence.

  • Better end-user experience – The platforms harness human-centred design to ensure staff and customers have a good experience of the investigation. Screens are intuitive and helpful, scripts work for human beings and don’t ask for information people have already provided. Where needed, the system automatically sends customers regular SMS or email progress updates.

  • Remote access – The new platforms also make it possible to conduct investigations across multiple locations, giving members of the team access to the key documents, investigation plan, progress reports and findings at the touch of a button, wherever they are located.

This is all good news for companies struggling to resource multiple investigations. Investigation case management platforms mean that boards will be able to commission investigations, knowing the results will be credible, the process will be transparent and the cost will be manageable. In the current environment of intense scrutiny, there’s never been a better time to throw the “manual”.

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