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Our industry doesn’t have the best reputation for delivering change quickly and efficiently.
We’ve seen a number of ambitious change programmes launched with a clear ambition to accelerate digitisation in the industry, lose momentum due in part to technology hurdles, but also inertia.
There’s no denying however, that change is needed, particularly in commercial lines underwriting, where underwriters battle against data sprawl, submission chaos and legacy systems inhibiting progress.
One person who’s seen this first-hand, is our Chief Delivery Officer, Natasha Bond. With experience in shaping and successfully delivering large-scale, complex technology and business change programmes and portfolios, Natasha knows some of the biggest challenges facing insurers looking to change and can highlight some of the secrets to a successful, sustainable project delivery.
So, Natasha, what have you learned from your time delivering projects to the insurance industry?
I’ve worked for organisations of varying sizes, and I’ve seen delivery through the lens of both insurer and vendor. From market-wide initiatives implementing at scale, to more focused smaller change programmes with a predominant focus on technology, application and infrastructure change. Across all these experiences, a few things really stand out:
It’s important not to underestimate change projects, they must be grounded in reality, no matter the size, and all parties need to work together with a great level of transparency to ensure everyone is working towards a common goal.
What factors can commonly cause projects to fail?
Change projects often involve a lot of discussion and ‘blue-sky thinking’ within the higher levels of an organisation, but often there is too little involvement from those who will be using the new system or tech day-to-day. It’s key to involve end users right from the start. For example, our agile delivery method includes live demos to the business every two weeks with high levels of engagement across all business teams.
Another important factor for success is project sponsorship both at a programme and senior level within the customer organisation. While Send in this instance is the product provider, the successful delivery of one our Underwriting Workbenches is crucially dependent on how engaged the wider customer organisation is. It’s important we have the support of a champion within the customer managing the interface between technology delivery and the business, communicating the expectation and goals of our implementations. From the outset, we aim to work with customers to build their product knowledge along the journey, so longer-term they feel confident and supported in the successful roll-out across various business lines.
How important is it for providers to work in partnership with their customers?
Delivery teams work better as a single team, removing the ‘us’ and ‘them’ mentality and, as such, Send wants to break the traditional customer/vendor dynamic. We work in close partnership with the equivalent team on the customer side, operating as one team with a single mutual goal of project success. Not only does this deepen our understanding of our customer but it serves as an opportunity to absorb knowledge and learn from each other. Customers know what their business needs, we must listen and be prepared to tap into their expertise as much as they can tap into ours. This doesn’t happen overnight; investment on both sides is needed to foster that sort of relationship, to make sure our colleagues feel empowered to work as one unit, but the benefits are clear.
Equally, many of our customers want to get closer to what we do, be more responsible for the configurable changes our flexible technology allows and control delivery in-house. We want to support them on that journey. We recognise it as a key part of our delivery strategy to ensure we have the tools and aids to allow us to offer that level of independence.
How does Send approach delivery?
We are at a crucial stage in our journey – it’s really exciting! Our recent funding announcement will help us expedite and enable our scale up plans; focussing on extending and supporting our existing talent and working toward our goal of enabling partner-led delivery.
We want to take a fresh and flexible approach to delivery, and it is important we work with delivery partners with the same commitment. We must apply a relative amount of governance for delivery assurance, but we don’t want ourselves or our partners to introduce lengthy processes for the sake of them.
The great thing about our products is just how ‘deliverable’ they are. Our rapid SaaS deployment gets customers up and running in weeks, not months – which is very refreshing in this industry! I often cite this to candidates wanting to join us who are fed up with being held back in their delivery careers by inflexible technology and heavy governance models that leaves no room to respond quickly and manoeuvre fast. Speed to market is vital for us, and the delivery model we/partners deploy must align to the flexible and configurable technology we work with. We need to maintain the pace to respond to customer interest and demand!
We recognise the opportunity to strengthen our teams and talent by building a partner programme. This will be particularly important for our growth strategy into new markets like the US.
We also continue to invest heavily in our own people. We’re focused on building a diverse and resilient team that has the grit and expertise for successful delivery around the world. This is across all resource levels as we build a collaborative community working toward the same goal regardless of the level you operate at, or your responsibility. Operating in a friendly and supportive environment is vital for all of us, and we are keen to maintain that culture as we grow.
What sort of ongoing support can help to ensure that projects are not only delivered successfully, but continue to drive benefits within the organisation?
There are two levels of post-deployment support that are important to ensure the product embeds into the organisation, and that any issues or improvements can be addressed quickly.
First is training. We adopt a ‘train the trainer’ approach and ask the customer to nominate a Product Owner. This person is part of the delivery team and spends time with Send Business Analysts to understand the product capability with a view to rolling this training out internally. This means that there will always be a product expert within the company to support the ongoing training and management of the technology.
Secondly, we also believe it’s important to maintain a continuous feedback loop once the product has been deployed. Our customer delivery team is always available to address post-production issues should they arise, and we appoint a designated point of contact to support the customer.
Part of our strategy is to ensure our delivery and sales/marketing functions work closer together to ensure appropriate levels of customer account management exist as part of our after-care strategy. For delivery, it’s vital to have an honest view of where we need to improve. This ongoing, continuous feedback loop is essential for our growth journey and delivering the support and services our customers need.
Lastly, if you had to sum up the secret to success in project delivery, what would you say?
Recognise that the implementation of our product is a journey, with the richness of features incrementally delivering over time. We cannot reach success in isolation. We openly endorse a close working relationship with our customers, one that relies on honest feedback, mutual goal-setting and an internal voice supporting the end users on the journey. If we can simplify rather than overload deployments trying to address all matter of requirements on day one, we’ll be set up for success.
Want to get in touch with Natasha Bond? You can connect on LinkedIn.