Transformation initiatives are revolutionising the insurance industry. Companies are enjoying the benefits of digitisation - including automating repetitive tasks, harnessing data to tailor their products, enhancing the customer experience and mitigating risk.
The end goal is compelling, but there’s often hesitancy at the beginning of change programmes around skilling, project management and delivery. Of course, change comes with its challenges, but it doesn’t need to be painful.
Opportunities to gain competitive advantage and improve efficiencies are forcing the typically traditional and cautious insurance industry to embrace change. The Covid-19 pandemic also turbocharged a move towards digitisation – with customers’ expectations around a seamless omnichannel experience increasing.
But legacy systems, an over-reliance on manual processes and strict regulations have meant the sector hasn’t always kept pace with other industries, or with customer demands.
There has also been a tendency to readily accept that change projects themselves are a necessary evil that must be endured when, in fact, they can be empowering both operationally and culturally. While there are common pitfalls that can threaten to derail or delay projects, none of them are insurmountable - and most of them just require you to put people before the project.
1. Evaluate the skills you’ll need
Once you have established your transformation strategy, a good place to start is by evaluating the skills that you have within the business and identifying where the gaps lie. It’s crucial to consider the benefits of different types of engagement (including permanent v contractor), what’s available on the market, internal capacity, timings, budget and how / where you will source additional skills.
It’s also important to think about the project holistically - it’s not just about data analysts and product owners, for example, you also need to consider the management, governance and communications around your change programme.
2. Define roles and responsibilities
Being clear about roles and responsibilities is as essential to contractors and third party vendors coming into the business as it is to existing team members. A lack of clarity over ownership of outcomes can impact delivery timelines and reporting structures. In the ‘it’s all about the people’ adage, teams work more effectively when they feel empowered and accountable.
Agree the deliverables, milestones and KPIs and make sure that everyone has skin in the game and is invested in completing the project on time. What are your tactics for overcoming apathy, particularly for hybrid or remote teams? Project managers need to be super communicators, super organisers and super influencers. They also need to understand the deliverables inside out so they can motivate and hold everyone to account.
3. Choose star players, not bench players
It can take time to build the perfect team. Companies that have worked with traditional consultancies on the strategic planning of their change programme may look to work with more agile partners for the delivery stage - ideally one that can source the exact talent they need to see the project through to completion. Organisations often require rare skills or very specific industry experience – so just having access to the team that’s available at the time will not be good enough. You should also guard against consultants being rotated onto other projects, leaving you with the headache of losing knowledge and onboarding new teams.
But, don’t forget, when you’re bringing in external contractors, make sure you marry the right skills with the right cultural fit.
4. Integrate hybrid teams
In-house project leads are often juggling multiple change programmes. This can make it difficult to keep project milestones on track and ensure internal and external teams are working together effectively.
Ensuring from the outset that you have adequate line management support is key, particularly when you’re managing a hybrid team. Let someone else take on the responsibility of making sure external contractors are being managed and motivated effectively, that shifting priorities are being communicated and that contractors are performing and remain invested in the project’s success.
5. Make sure everyone's happy
The success of any project lies in how well teams communicate. It’s vital that internal and external staff feel they’re part of the same team – don’t underestimate how much they can learn from each other and how rewarding that can be. No-one should be wondering who the consultant in the corner is or what they’re doing.
Too often, contract teams are expected to just ‘get on with it’, when a little care for their wellbeing and work/life balance can make a big difference to their attitude and performance. It starts with an effective onboarding experience, where the cultural values and working practices of the organisation are explained alongside the deliverables of the project.
Cross-team pastoral support should be prioritised throughout the project. Cultural obstacles are easy to breed but hard to eliminate once they set in.
Transformation is happening across the insurance industry, laying the foundations for huge innovations in product development, data driven decision making and the customer experience. But ultimately, change projects begin and end with people – from the people who scope the project, to those who manage and deliver it and the teams who need to adopt and embrace new ways of working. For companies looking to embark on a business transformation project, there’s a lot to gain from putting people at the heart of that change from the outset.