By Nick Coenen & Dan Mets
Think of any disruption that could happen to an insurance company. Let’s use a hurricane as an example. Let’s say that you are in charge of hurricane preparedness for your headquarters. Do you ask each area of the company to prepare themselves? Do you establish some central department for hurricane cleanup and just deal with the fallout if something happens? Or, are you foresighted enough to assess the potential areas of impact and then reinforce the whole building so that any hurricane would be a minimal disruption?
The digital “storm” has been slowly making landfall for several years and many companies wish they could rewind the time machine and take a more holistic approach to preparation. And, fortunately, even if you’re in the midst of a digital transformation, you can still make great strides and gain real clarity around how digital will impact your business. The high-level view starts with the simple premise that insurers need to know their businesses.
When it comes to insurance processes, clarity is king. Many insurers have lived with complexity for so long, that they don’t know how enabling it might be to establish a better way. Most executive and managerial roles can only see a portion of the insurance process, so they assume that when transformations occur, they will just deal with their own piece of the pie. This is the primary difficulty with digital disruption. Digital is an opportunity for the whole enterprise to change in unison, but for much of the company, it looks more like a threat.
Digital transformation prepares the whole enterprise to operate with a new operating model. It is within business analysis that we find the answers to what that preparation should entail.
In business, we like the idea of efficiency because it leads to better service, improved data and higher profits. To position ourselves to gain real efficiencies with digital, however, we have to take three short steps that too often get skipped. All three are related to how digital will impact the organization.
Step 1: Uncover the actual digital need.
What does your organization intend to do with its digital capabilities? This step seems so basic, but it is a crucial first step. Define what you are trying to accomplish with digital so that you don’t waste time building capabilities that will never get used. When an organization is seeking to gain digital competency, the last thing it needs is to be fueling waste.
Step 2: Examine the broader impact of digital upon the organization.
No matter who you are within an insurance company, it is likely there are processes that even you don’t know about. It can be a daunting task within larger carriers to research and fully document every process. When we work with clients, we begin with a set of pre-existing tools, templates and models to help them quickly identify processes and the systems supporting them. This makes it easier to figure out where and how unique processes live within the greater enterprise and how to optimize them. Further, it provides an opportunity to rationalize like processes to build consistent business requirements to serve the enterprise. This simplifies implementation and the impact new technology has on the business itself.
Let’s take an example.
Your organization is bringing in digital customers. This will require the organization to prepare to deal with real-time transactions. What happens the moment a transaction occurs? Does the customer get assigned to an agent? Does that agent receive notification of the sale? Does the agent get compensated for the sale? If the customer has other business with the carrier, how will policies be connected?
But the impact doesn’t stop with agents. Internal employees will also be affected. Can your underwriters define rules that will allow for an efficient and immediately bindable experience for the customer? What happens to the transaction if it isn’t immediately bindable? During and after the transaction, how does this customer interact with customer service? Every portion of every transaction type needs its own process defined before it can be optimized. Without templates and models, this can be an unpleasant experience.
We use the Insurance Business-Oriented Operating Model [see Fig. 1] as the core, and we adapt the model to fit the organization. The goal is to create an accurate representation of the full organization that will assist us to predict digital impact throughout all processes.
It is an exercise that is well worth the effort. It unifies departments and teams by gathering their input and it prepares the whole organization for the coming changes. Transformation goes far more smoothly when everyone understands which processes within the company must make changes along with digital in order to make digital work.
“As you understand your operating model and your business processes, you have to know what else will be impacted when you move to a digital platform, so that you can achieve maximum efficiency with minimal disruption.”