The Risks of Doing the Same Thing
When we move around our industry to a different role and a different organisation, how are things different from where we came from? I don’t mean at a micro and detailed level but at the helicopter macro level?
In my experience, they are often not significantly different at the macro level as the processes and standards are on a general basis the same, maybe packaged differently. I have worked with the insurance industry for a while and with several different industries over time, and for each of these industry sectors there is a standard way stuff is done for all of them within their particular universe. Of course, some of this is dictated by regulatory requirements; however, some I suspect is ‘just the way things are done.’
It’s very tempting, and we all do it, to think that other – completely unrelated industries – have nothing to teach us. How can they? They are not experts in the detailed and complex ins and outs of what is a complex industry with complex business processes.
The Helicopter View
Let’s look at that for a moment. Go back to the macro level – effectively what I would call the ‘helicopter pattern’ view of what we do. Can we learn, from say, Amazon, or other organisations that are so fundamentally customer focused and rely on scrutinising their customer data at a really detailed level? They ensure that they provide – as close as possible-what their customer wants – or even things the customer didn’t think they wanted but their habits and behaviour have allowed predictive modelling to anticipate items they are likely to want. As Jeff Bezos said about Amazon ‘We are not competitor obsessed, we are customer obsessed. We start with the customer and we work backwards.’
Organisations such as Amazon rely on being able to model and predict customer behaviour, to metaphorically step into their customers´ shoes and take the customer perspective. They can be nimble and rely on a superb end-to-end supply chain to work perfectly to deliver value to their customers and deliver value very very quickly. Let’s face it, as a customer when you order something from Amazon, it often arrives the next day, or if not, you know when to expect it. The supply chain from when you – the customer – submit your order to when you – the customer – receives your order is efficient and seamless; all you need to know is I’ve ordered something, and it arrived. You don’t need to know about the efficient end-to-end cross-functional processes at the back end that made that happen.
So could all organisations, regardless of industry, learn from this? I believe yes, it doesn’t matter if your business is B to B or B to C, at a macro level it’s all about understanding and interpreting data. For insurers, it´s about more accurate and scientific risk focused decisions supported by technology coupled with an adaptive and flexible organisation structure that meets customer needs.
- What do my customers want? Do I know?
- Do I have speedy access to the data I need to support my customer’s needs?
- Does the vertical and horizontal organisational hierarchy support using this data and quickly delivering what the customer wants?
- Are my people sufficiently empowered at the frontline and at more senior levels to make the decisions that deliver customer benefits?
If we mapped our major value chains across our organisations, regardless of hierarchy and from the customer´s perspective, I believe we might organise them very differently. Having vertical and horizontal organisational flexibility facilitates the optimum use of data and technology and removes impediments that hierarchical thinking can bring. This, in turn, enables the optimum use of technology and data and the speedy assessment of exposure and risk – companies that do this could be truly revolutionary.