Olivia Hill

Product Manager

Think Differently: Saving Hundreds of Hours by Repurposing an Existing Tool

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Each time our company produces a video that will be shown to clients or financial advisors, the content needs to be reviewed by our Marketing Materials Compliance (MMC) team to ensure it meets our compliance standards. Historically, that's been a manual, time-intensive process; our MMC analysts view about 1,000 videos a year and it takes them 2-4 hours to view and approve each video.

About a year and a half ago, MMC came to our Digital Innovation team and asked if we could find a way to make the process more efficient. We didn't have a solution in mind at the time, but not long after, we learned of another technology being implemented at Northwestern Mutual to meet a different need—video closed captioning—which we thought could be repurposed. What if we pulled a closed-captioned transcript of a video and made it available to MMC? Instead of watching a video minute-by-minute, they could simply scan through the transcript and flag any words or phrases that were a potential compliance concern. Would that save time?

We ran a 30-day pilot. We taught several MMC analysts how to pull transcripts of the videos and asked them to test the process. The result? They estimate the transcription-based approach cut their review time by 40 percent. Over the course of a year, that translates into a (very conservative) time savings of 500 hours. Probably more. A month after the pilot, the process was rolled out to the entire MMC team and it's now becoming part of their best practices for videos that are more than 10 minutes in length.

Aside from the few hours our team spent to learn about the software and then teach the transcription process to our colleagues in MMC, the solution cost us zero dollars – yet the company will save more than $100,000 a year.

It's a great story to share, I believe, for two reasons. First, this project helps us take full advantage of our investment in the closed-captioning software. There are times when a tool is brought in for a specific niche use case, and we only end up using a fraction of its capabilities. This is one example of how we can extend the usability of tools we already own and help us become more efficient at the same time.

Second, this illustrates that not every innovative idea has to be the next Uber. There's so much you can achieve with incremental innovations, if you’re willing to think a bit differently and broaden your perspectives. In this case, it was just about repurposing what we already had.

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