A Successful Insurance Venture Starts with Defining Your Operating Model

By Stuart Jordan

Whether you are a startup entering a new field or an established player looking to implement a digital transformation, the most important step isn’t picking a name, writing the first policy, or starting the hunt for the technological ‘silver bullet’. In each case, it’s having the discipline to design a business-oriented operating model that will enable you to move from vision to reality without faltering along the way.  The desire to ‘think on your feet’ might be appealing, but trying to wing it with some cool technology is no longer a feasible course of action in the insurance game.

Why? Three reasons.

The first is simple. Direction. You can’t get where you want to go unless you know where are starting from. Understanding the capabilities you have today and how those need to be augmented is critical to being able to move forward with intention.

The second is our industry ever-present, change. A business’s ability to react to change, or even better, to anticipate it, can be a major point of difference in an increasingly crowded marketplace. For every business, it is essential to be able to analyze data, predict future trends, and keep the proverbial ear to the ground to pre-empt forthcoming legislative changes, industry shifts the ever-evolving expectations of your customers. Having an operating model that allows you to see the capacity and potential for redeploying assets and resources, allows you to use this intelligence to both plan for change and execute when it arrives.

The third is the fallacy of the Digital Band-Aid. For those of us who have been in the industry a while, the terms on the policy might be the same, but little else is. Every few months brings a new app or software solution that wipes out a manual task or adds another data source to the analytical smorgasbord. With technology so prevalent, it’s tempting to assume that simply buying enough cutting-edge componentry, or adding new tools on top of existing processes will deliver success. Unfortunately, without the groundwork to understand how these tools will be implemented and utilized, these approaches often result in little more than tied up assets and wasted man-hours. While the offerings of technology have never been more diverse, not every problem can be addressed with a flurry of dollar signs. The business-oriented operational model recognizes that technology is a tool to help solve problems, not a solution in itself. An extremely capable tool, but a tool nonetheless.

Power of the Business-Oriented Operating Model

While almost every company takes the time to put together a business model before launching its great adventure, the same is not always true for the operating model. This is an oversight.

Approached correctly, a business-oriented operating model can be the foundational touchstone for all of a company’s strategic decisions, combining analytic insights with dedicated workflows that assure that stakeholders are aligned, and that human and technology assets are being fully utilized in pursuit of the company’s vision.

When a business-oriented operational model is installed and maintained, everyone from the CEO and founder down to the newest employee are able to clearly understand not only the overarching vision of the company, their place in that workflow, but also critically, how key functions will be executed throughout each transitional step. The institution-wide confidence that comes with this shared understanding can transform moments of hesitance and indifference into periods of opportunity and growth and help affect change at a more rapid pace.


The margin for error for any company is razor thin whether entering a new niche or making the overdue transition to embrace full use of digital technology. Plenty of insurance companies end up following their gut or hitching their wagons to the current brightest stars in the tech constellation in the hope that this will bring success. The reality is a bit more down to earth, but also refreshing for the planners among us: Focusing on the best practices of how a business will operate and meet its end-to-end workflow needs are of paramount importance in unleashing the full power of business acumen and the digital rocket boosters that can power you to your destination ahead of the competition.