Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

5 tips for insurers to successfully implement new technology

The most successful businesses plan to continually improve their business processes, and they make sure to include the human element as well as technology. (Photo: iStock)
The most successful businesses plan to continually improve their business processes, and they make sure to include the human element as well as technology. (Photo: iStock)

Over the past 10 years, I’ve worked with insurers dedicated to transforming how they do business through the implementation of technology.

I’ve collaborated with large insurers, regional insurers and startups. Although the size of the insurer has varied, principles they have employed to ensure transformation success have not.

And these principles apply to all segments of the insurance industry, including carriers, agents, brokers and claims professionals.

Related: Digital transformation can help insurers keep customers loyal

Here are five key observations from the implementations that I’ve worked on and the maneuvers these insurers employed to drive success:

Vision

(Photo: iStock)

1. Articulate your mandate — again and again and again

I once worked with a large insurer on one of the most complex initiatives. As a former change-management consultant, I found it impressive that before the vendor-evaluation process started, the chief information officer and his team communicated their vision to all levels of the organization in one succinct statement.

As the team transitioned to implementation, this vision was a beacon reminding all project members of what they should be driving toward. Whether gathering requirements, planning releases or gathering user feedback, all activities kept the executive mandate in mind, from evaluation through implementation.

Working toward one goal ensured consistency of direction across teams, improving the probability of success in achieving the business goal they were all striving for.

Later, in a conversation with that same CIO, he revealed that the key to their success was repeating the mandate to ensure it became innate knowledge within the organization.

To keep the message top-of-mind in an organization, use company town halls, CEO updates, webcasts, annual reports and newsletters as opportunities to refresh employees and stakeholders on the executive mandate, and why the company is on this transformation journey.

Related: 5 steps to building and sustaining a culture of innovation

Team building

(Photo: iStock)

2. Create one team

Early in my career, I worked as a change-management consultant across various industries.

Regardless of the industry I was working in, I found organizations tended to divide project teams into separate technical and business units. Rather than create units, successful transformation projects combine the business and technical people into one team.

Keep in mind, everyone is working toward achieving one business mandate. To reinforce the “one team” approach, successful transformation projects situate the team in one location. Technical people take the same training as the business people, they celebrate their group identity by creating a team name, and they rally around a set of core team values.

When assembling one team, successful transformation projects staff with the best and brightest their organization has to offer. Rather than have these resources flip-flop between their regular jobs and the transformation initiative, they ensure the resources are 100 percent dedicated to the most critical points of the transformation journey. They understand that the transformation initiative is their organization’s future and require the right people to focus solely on the project at the most important time.

Related: 8 characteristics of a good insurance executive

Old way versus new way

(Photo: iStock)

3. Build the new factory

At a recent user conference, one CIO presented a transformation project detailing how the insurer refused to rebuild the old factory or current system and instead focused on the new system as the factory of the future.

If transformation is your goal, don’t carry over old business processes and rules that were limiting in the past.

Successful transformation projects use the new system as the new best practice for doing business in the future. When team members begin slipping back into old processes, successful transformation projects challenge these team members with questions like “Is that how you want to do business in the future?” or “How does this support our executive mandate or business vision?”

Successful transformation projects separate the business-process education from the system training, with the understanding that a new system will come with a new set of best-practice business processes that could cause confusion among hardcore users.

A regional Canadian insurer I worked with made the brilliant decision to first educate its user community on the new business process before launching training on the new system. This allowed an easier transition to the new system because the new business processes were inherently supported by the new system.

Related: 5 areas where independent agencies are falling short on digital processes

Open box

(Photo: iStock)

4.  Stick to 'out-of-the-box'

After purchasing vendor software, you become part of the community that helped to drive the best practices of that software.

Many insurers say that the majority of industry processes are the same across the industry and across insurers. Instead of trying to reconfigure a core process that really is the same across the industry, leverage the commonality and out-of-the-box content to accelerate your transformation project and drive it into the future.

Successful transformation projects spend their project dollars and time by nuancing content that differentiates them from their community and, more importantly, their competition.

Related: Going digital? Here's how to keep a personal connection with clients

Excitement

(Photo: iStock)

5. Generate excitement for the initiative

Change can be scary, but in today’s work environment it’s the norm.

Successful transformation projects convert fear into excitement by advertising the project. Whether through CEO updates, town halls or other events, sell the importance of the transformation project and the team supporting it.

One insurer I worked with creatively orchestrated “showcase” demonstrations of the system on a quarterly basis to employees. The brief demonstrations targeted crucial pain points and showcased the way the new software would resolve the issue. They also knew it was important to gather feedback, not just from the showcase events but also from focus groups and the field. When an organization has an influential field presence, successful transformation projects advertise the project to the field by conducting regular roadshows and ensuring that the community’s feedback is incorporated into the solution.

Laura Drabik is vice president of business transformation at Foster City, California-based Guidewire Software Inc. She can be reached at ldrabik@guidewire.com.

Related: Can IT projects fail when following best practices?

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