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Operational business implementation and agile

Underwriting workbench: Operational business implementation and agile “in live” change through low-code/no-code tools

In this, the fourth in my series of blogs (part 1, part 2 and part 3) on Underwriting workbenches for reinsurers, I will focus on “no-code” change and what this means for solution delivery and “in live” agile business change. Much of what is discussed can apply equally to any commercial insurer keen to rapidly and affordably change the IT used by underwriters and other market-facing staff. 

Many of us are familiar with multi-phase multi-year IT-enabled transformation projects and the challenges they can present. It has been well recognised that the longer the project, the more likely it will not achieve the original target outcomes. It is often not easy to stay the course if budgetary pressures emerge or priorities change, particularly if coupled with client leadership changes or a merger or acquisition. Furthermore, the smaller but valued business units that are not in the initial phases can often create valid business cases and plans to implement an interim solution.

In this context, it is not surprising that so many (re)insurers have system landscapes with heritage systems partially integrated to multiple stand-alone “modern” systems. What we are looking at is simply the “scar tissue” history of partially completed projects that have run out of sponsorship and business case, as well as business unit interim systems that are now permanent. 

A critical element to staying the course and ensuring the right solution is delivered is the operational business seconding staff into transformation programmes. Operationally this is never easy to do and presents some conflicts. For the operational business management, it might not be the best perceived use of their best and brightest talent, particularly if no backfill is provided, which is not unknown.  Those with memories of past failure will be concerned that the short stint will become distended. For the individual secondees, they might not consider a stint on a transformation programme the best career move, particularly those on market-facing career paths, such as underwriters. 

A better solution is to reduce or eliminate this tension in the first place by operationalising the change activity into operations as soon as possible. Experience suggests that when change is delivered directly by the business as a “business as usual” activity, it is more sustainable and better than when by a remote separate transformation programme. As they say, “those closest to the problem are closest to the solution.” 

Low-code/No-code

The advent of “low-code/no-code” platforms makes this more possible than ever, particularly no-code business configuration of new products, processes, rules, workflow, and documents. Whilst short discrete projects might still be needed to stand up the core platform, integrations and probably an initial minimum viable product, once up and running, change can become a part of operational business’s day job.  

It is important to consider the operating model required to truly embed the capability early and ideally acquire the internal knowledge from the vendor when the core platform is being stood up. Clearly, the more work done by operational business users at this stage, the lower the cost. The operating model will need to close the loop between trading and what needs to be changed by the BAU function. There will be potentially process and distribution touchpoint changes, as well as product and proposition changes. How the changes are identified and prioritised needs to be thought through. It is likely though the changes will be from structured analytics insight as well as common sense judgements. The same “test and learn” concept industrialised by the personal lines market can apply with reinsurers and complex commercial insurers, particularly when trading in more commoditised classes with a volume of data. 

Clearly though reinsurers and commercial insurers will be unlikely to be adopting extreme pace of insight and change as found in personal lines. That said the more reinsurers and commercial insurers stand-up portals the more they will want to ensure they are tuned to optimise trading. To that end “no-code” business configuration should extend to ensure web portals are updated automatically in line with changes made in a reinsurers and commercial insurers underwriting workbench or policy admin systems, so as to keep the cost of change down and make sure there is no disconnect between the business conducted in portals and in across traditional channels.

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