Managing a Major System Change to Reap Organizational and Business Rewards That Extend beyond Technology
By Christopher Dowler, CIO, IAT Insurance Group
We are a family of companies, built and assembled over the years, and today a growing provider of specialty personal and commercial casualty and property lines. To help us achieve our strategic vision to be a leader in the specialty property and casualty business, we need to update our technology in a way that helps streamlines our business practices and provide more advanced capabilities to our distributors, customers and employees. As a result, we are investing in a single technology platform that will improve the external and internal user experience through providing best in class services across all channels of our business.
Our focus is on implementing a new enterprise-wide platform that leverages “out of the box” best practices focused on data collection, improved customer service, and continuous process improvement. We believe a key part of our success will be to involve various perspectives including our employees, distributors and customers. Their perspectives will help ensure we deliver a system that meets their needs and improves their interactions with our company.
Leveraging Best Practices
When we talk about “out of the box,”we mean accessing the best practices that the system already has developed. Leveraging these best practices will help lay a foundation for operating the business more consistently across departments and business units. It also will help speed up our implementation and allow us to implement new capabilities more quickly. Ultimately, a single system will streamline our diverse business process into common processes across the organization. At the same time, we are identifying where customization is needed to enable our businesses to go to market in unique ways. Too many times companies heavily customize technology making it hard to keep up with improved or new capabilities and reducing the long term value of system transformations over time. Another key strategy is to organize ourselves in such a way where we can provide proper process and product ownership during the implementation to insure we strike the right balance of common and unique processes. This ownership model significantly increases our chances for not only leveraging best practices, but speeding up decision making during the construction phase of the project. Given the amount of change, we are also implementing a change management regimen to relate “technology and process changes” on a human level engaging stakeholders at all levels of the organization. This will create a strong feedback loop and increase transparency of what is changing, why it needs to change and what does it mean for the employee, distributor and customer. We are also involving our distributors in the process so we gain a thorough understanding of the potential impact of our system change on how they do business, identify and prioritize ways the new system can support ease of doing business, and ease the transition through effective communication and training.
Our focus is on implementing a new enterprise-wide platform that leverages “out of the box” best practices focused on data collection, improved customer service, and continuous process improvement
One of the major benefits of this new system will be the collection of accurate and relevant data that we can use internally and externally with our customers resulting in the overall growth of all of our businesses. The implementation of simplified processes will also lead to improved interactions and an overall better customer experience.
Roadmap for Organizations to Tackle the Challenge
From a technical perspective, we looked for a solution that supports our niche strategy in the property and casualty space. A key focus was to find a system where the processes closely mirror our business, provide easy technology integration with our agents and increase our speed to market for new products. It was also important that the system we select is continuously updating and advancing with new capabilities to support our continued growth. After selection, we reprioritized our work to free up key resources needed for the project construction and put a strong team in place with experience executing these kinds of transformations. We have intentionally balanced internal skills and expert external skills to build an effective implementation team. Strong governance and leveraging “out of the box” processes, prevents the organizational strain of reinventing the wheel and ensures we only deviate from a best practice when it provides us with a clear competitive advantage. As mentioned earlier, starting with the end in mind organizationally will help speed decision making and ensure proper ownership along the way. Given the age of our current systems, “out of the box” processes are already a substantial leap forward which will help us realize benefits earlier and with less cost.
An Iterative Approach
Given we are essentially a collection of niche businesses, we believe a single system can create a strategic technology advantage for the company. Collectively we can invest in advanced capabilities that the smaller businesses would likely not be able to make. The key is getting a foundation in place that we can leverage with existing business lines as well as with new business lines that will add more value for our customers and distribution. In support of the improved experience, the focus for our initial deploy will be to collect data that will enable a better understanding of how our business is performing. Through the analysis of that data, we will take an iterative approach and prioritize which processes to improve or which additional capabilities to enable. Overall, this will dramatically change how the business operates.
Advice for Managing
My advice is to start simple and stay persistent. These types of transformations take a large commitment and patience. This can be hard for a business that is moving quickly, as ours is, but the results will better enable the organization’s ability to service its customers. Creating bite size chunks and involving all levels of the organization while keeping the end vision in mind will let the company evolve its way to a better experience. As CIO, I believe a key aspect of my role is to create an environment for people to be successful from a project perspective, but also from a daily operational perspective. This is achieved through sharing the vision, developing a strategy to get there, putting a great team in place, constantly aligning the senior team and managing budgets to allow the team to focus on execution. We also believe in engaging all stakeholders to participate along the way to increase adoption and to learn from their experiences. To be successful we need to create an environment where people feel a part of the change and feel empowered to take part in our journey. Management should keep an eye on big picture business impact by focusing on the parts that create a competitive advantage and simplifying everything else.
Inspiring Organizational Impact
We are currently at the beginning of our journey, but have laid the foundation for significant organizational advancements and culture improvement along the way. The company’s energy level is high and the excitement around the workspace continues to grow as we move into each new phase of our transformation. The employees are enthusiastic about the new approach, and we look forward to the positive rollout of a single platform that will support connectivity, growth and ease of doing business for our customers, distributors and employees.