Misha: Welcome to the GSD Factor podcast. I’m your host Misha Bleymaier-Farrish. And today I have a special guest, Awais Farooq. Now, let’s first talk about Awais, your name. I have known you for well over a year, friend. And you just now told me this morning that I have been saying your name wrong the entire time.

Misha: What’s up with that? 

Awais: Hey, you know, I just loved hearing you say it differently every time. So it’s awesome that we finally have done it during this podcast. So you now say it perfectly, so. 

Misha: Perfect. Awesome. So Awais so here we go. Let’s dive in friend. So everybody, I want you to sit back and enjoy our podcast.

Misha: We’re gonna have a fantastic discussion today about re-engineering automation and that productivity and utilization, because let’s face it. We all need a little more time in our lives to do the things that we love. So let’s talk about Awais, your background. So, Awais is the U.S. Insurance practice lead at ActiveOps responsible for helping the industry leaders drive measurable results in their organizations through innovative technology and management process automation. Awais has over 14 years of insurance industry experience both operationally and including serving as trusted leader at organizations, including State Farm, Chubb and Berkshire Hathaway Guard Insurance.

Misha: Awais holds a master’s degree in insurance management from Boston University. He holds numerous designations and is an active member of the insurance community, where he serves as a mentor to professionals in various areas. Awais, thank you so much for being here at the GSD Factor podcast. 

Awais: Well, Misha, thank you very much for inviting me. I’m really excited for this conversation. We talk about it quite often in our, off the podcast discussions. So it’s good that we get to do it in front of our audience. 

Misha: Absolutely. So let’s talk about this whole idea of automation and how can automation help our daily lives, both personally and professionally. 

Awais: So, you know, automating stuff and our life…stuff, I would call it not necessarily “work”, we do it every single day. You know, whether it’s starting our vehicle or, you know, it’s figuring out who’s going to pick up the children from school to all the little things that we do. And we don’t think about it that way, when we think about our daily lives. But, we have a lot of automation opportunity within our lives to make ourselves better. You know, you look at our simple phones and the amount of data that it has and what we can do with that data is just phenomenal. I’ll use a personal example. I actually use my parents as my automation trial, I will call it.

Awais: So I have an app on their phone, which allows me to track where they’re at at any given point. And I utilize that to, to measure what’s happening, right? A tool is a tool unless you utilize it for something. So companies such as Google, Amazon, and the big data companies are collecting this at a massive level. But we, as individuals can tap into what we have accessible to streamline some of the things that we do, whether it’s work or outside of work. 

Misha: I think that’s fantastic. And you know, my husband and I are also very data-driven people, right? That’s what we really pass on to our kids as well. And you know, my fun, personal story with that is, you know, Riley, our daughter one year, the pediatrician was like, Hey, let’s just be sure we’re staying extra active this year because, with COVID kids are being less active because we’re going outside less.

Misha: And so, because we’re, data-driven people we said. Great. We’re going to get her a Fitbit for kids. And it’s awesome because that Fitbit manages and tracks her steps. It tracks her active minutes and it tracks her sleep. And so all of a sudden the power of her being able to learn to manage herself and regulate herself, her sleep pattern, her steps, her exercise, her active minutes all went out of our hands as the parents and actually went into her hands as the six-year-old. She loves it. She knows when she needs to increase her movement or increase her sleep. And so I think the power of data gives us that insight that we’re looking for to help us improve our lives certainly. 

Awais: Yeah. You know, it’s fantastic that you’re talking about that and that even at such a young age, you know, having that ability, you know, that self-coaching is very important, right? When we think about, Hey, this is “Big Brother” or you’re tapping into my environment, you’re looking into what I’m doing at an employee level, or just in general as a human being, it’s more than that, right? My dad discovered Facebook and he just can get out of it. I just don’t want him to get TikTok level. And we started setting some goals and saying, Hey, I don’t want you spending 40 hours on Facebook a week. That’s a full time job. So when you break it down like that, you know, he’s reduced it over time, similar to what you’re sharing about, you know, your little one and it’s, it’s just phenomenal how self-discipline can teach you so many different things. 

I have, I have a youth group, and one of the things that some of the kids share with me is like the TikTok, right? As soon as they go on TikTok, the reels start rolling and you just keep on going. You don’t even realize an hour into it, so they have put in a self-timer within the app.

Awais: So, a lot of people don’t know that you can do things such as that, which regulate how distracted you can be, but it’s all those small little incremental details, things for you to alert yourself, to say, you know, when is it unproductive for you? You know, it’s good to have entertainment, but at a certain point it becomes unproductive.

Misha: 100%. And I think there’s times that we do to just shut our brain off. Right. And, and spend some time in that, but maybe not for the two hours. Right. Or it’s just, it’s it’s you never want too much of a good thing. And so I think, it’s having those timers, you know, Apple does a great job of letting you know, Hey, here was your screen time over the last week? Microsoft does a great job of saying, Hey, here’s how you’re spending your time on a day-to-day basis. So, I love how we’ve talked about that automation and what we can do in our personal lives. Now let’s shift over to the professional lives and talk a little bit about what you’re doing to help your clients be more productive, especially in this day and age.

Awais: Yeah. Misha, it all boils down to right, to our conversation of how you utilize your time dictates the quality and the productivity that you achieve. So, if you have good control over your time, cause we have limited amount of it. You’re going to see a complete transformation of what you can achieve.

Awais: If you give yourself. 10 hours to do something. It’s going to take you 10 hours. But if you limit that to giving yourself that four hours to complete that same task, it will get completed in that. And we noticed that quite frequently, depending on the work that’s available, right? The days that we have high level of work, we tend to be more productive. And the days that we have low work, we tend to stretch the time to be able to fill the gap. Just, just naturally how our brain works. So, you know, me coming on to ActiveOps, one of the backgrounds that I like to share is the process of re-engineering element of it. A lot of times, you know, insurance companies that I was involved with and even outside of that, as I talked to my peers. You know, there’s this big hype about automation and process re-engineering and absolutely needed within our industry. There’s a lot of manual things that we do today. But, you know what I notice a lot of carriers doing is they go too fast and too rapidly into an automation effort without really recognizing is that the true output for what they’re looking to achieve?

Awais: So you can automate a task, however, it may create more manual tasks otherwise. Right. So first and foremost, one of the things that I’ve been successful in doing it ActiveOps is giving leaders visibility into seeing where the time of employees is going. Take that to look at process re-engineering efforts, instead of you creating a massive robotic process automation effort for a particular task per document automation, all of which is needed.

Awais: You can know that there’s low hanging fruit, such as, you know, your people are spending way too much time in Microsoft Excel, Microsoft PowerPoint or Microsoft word, or not picking on Microsoft, but it could be other things that people are spending time on. Whether it’s a particular website to doing research because they can’t, they don’t have any integration between the system. Now that you have that information, what you do with it is the next step. What is, you know, going to be able to do something, to be able to reevaluate how that time is being utilized. So, if somebody’s spending too much time in estimation platform or your department is spending too much time and estimation platform because they have to go manually write those estimates there’s not templates built out for them. And you’ve made some type of a change because of your transformational efforts. Now you have the ability to measure, how does that time compare to what happened before the transformational effort? So you can see, did it really yield me the results that I was looking at and you’re at this agile moment of doing it much rapidly.

Misha: I think that’s fantastic. And I think the other thing that we’ve talked about too with, my own clients with ActiveOps, is a lot of times the work that we’re doing, especially in the insurance space, especially in the financial institution space and technology is we’re always looking at what is that ROI going to be?

Misha: Right. What does that, what does that improvement going to be to be able to measure the success of that project against the expense of that project. And so many times, in these spaces, time studies are so important, right? And so I think what’s great is the ActiveOps tool automates that time study component, to be able to say, I’m spending this amount of time here, or I’m spending this amount of time there.

Misha: Some of the clients and companies I’ve had the privilege of working with over the 20 years, it would have been amazing to have an ActiveOps system, right? Because the amount of time studies that we did were so manual. So what I would say to our listeners is if you’re a company or a corporation that’s looking at those automations and those process improvements. Maybe it’s to give your employees back time to spend with our families, maybe it’s to continue to improve and see those results definitely consider the ActiveOps as a way to evaluate and also as a way to measure that ROI for future projects. 

Awais: Yeah, Misha. I mean, I think the other piece that we, we should talk about is the elephant in the room, which is the “Big Brother” right? You now have that information what are you going to do with it. You know, a tool is a tool. You can use a hammer to break things or you can use it to hammer nails, right? It’s, it’s a measure of how do you take this tool and use it in a way where it’s yielding you good results. To your point, you know, I’ve done a lot of time study efforts and every time you do a time study about a particular process, it’s always different.

Awais: And people work differently when you’re sitting by their side and then looking, okay, tell me what you’re going to do? That time that it takes to do it when you were sitting side by side versus without you being there is completely different. So having that visibility is important. And then, you know, if people are going on non-productive sites and doing non-productive things as, as an organization, you need to know that, but you also need to be respectful and have boundaries and when do you intervene?

Awais: If somebody’s going on non-productive sites, you know, you have to set a threshold. If you just constantly ping people and saying, Hey, I see you, you’re on Amazon. Get off of Amazon. You know, that employee is more than likely going to look for a job somewhere else. But as a leader, if you have that visibility, you can use, we have management methodologies as well in how do you lead and coach employees and leaders to have use of this tool?

Awais: Some companies allow individuals to have the tool available at their fingertips, similar to what you did with your daughter, right? You gave her the power to be able to self-discipline. In other areas, you know, if you do know somebody who’s going in non productive areas, what you can do is you can actually have the leader contact that individual, but talk about the work stuff, right? Sometimes they just need that guidance to come back in line, to come back into the right track. So,you know, happy to discuss more, if you have any questions about ActiveOps and what we do, our focus is really making operational management a more effective process and giving you efficiency back and measurable results on what you can achieve when it comes to productivity. And the other thing is utilization of staff, do you have uncapped capacity somewhere and using that to areas where people are getting burned out and helping you identify those areas. So that way in this ‘great resignation,’ you don’t necessarily have to just hire more people, you have visibility into where you have capacity.

Misha: That’s fantastic, Awais. Where can people reach out to you and find out and learn more? Can you give them an email address or a LinkedIn? 

Awais: Yeah, absolutely. So LinkedIn, just search Awais Farooq. you see it on there. You can email me, Awais dot Farooq@activeops.com. Feel free to reach out my cell phone as well as on my LinkedIn. You know, a Boston number. So, if anybody’s from Boston, let me know. It’s too cold. I’m not there now. But yes, multiple ways of reaching out.

Misha: Awesome. Thank you so much. I appreciate you being on here and we look forward to hearing more. 

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