201207 Insurance and Technology: 5 Keys to Fast Successful New Tech Deploments


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Article reviews how to deal with the deluge of new technological options and the aspects of a strategy for quick, high quality implementations of emerging technologies. Based on company success stories, article lays out what will work.

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201207 Insurance and Technology: 5 Keys to Fast Successful New Tech Deploments

  1. 1. 5 Keys to Fast, Successful New Tech DeploymentsBy Steven Callahan, Robert E. Nolan (mailto:)July 19, 2012URL: (http://insurancetech.com/architecture-infrastructure/240003994)The acceleration in new technologies and associated business needs is creating an almost plague-likespread in an accelerating use of pilots. The relative calm –or at least the managed chaos –of recentyears large scale implementations, conversions, integrations and in-or-outsourcing projects hasrecently been broken by the increasingly loud buzzing of social media, predictive analytics, big data,social mining, mobile technology and cloud computing "pilots". Unfortunately, unlike the governanceand oversight that typically comes with large projects, this flurry of pilots is occurring under mixedcircumstances.A conversion or integration or outsourcing clearly takes several years; putting up a Facebook page,building a mobile app, announcing a Twitter account for servicing, moving select simple processes tothe cloud, or contracting with experts to discover social data for claims adjudication all can occur in arelative blink of an eye. And in most cases these "blinks" occur very inexpensively, putting thembelow the radar. Structured methodologies and project management offices can be confounded tryingto address the combination of volume, diversity, and velocity of new project demands. Marketpressures amplify the demands for immediacy while proven simplicity erodes the barriers of control.For those who have been in the industry long enough to remember, the inevitably rapid onslaught ofstructural and operational change is a diversified equivalent to the introduction of the business PC —but at an extremely abbreviated run rate.Customer service is critical, and technology adoption inevitable. The challenge rests withmanagement of the many concurrent efforts. While many companies are approaching moving these tomarket under the umbrella of pilots, the short-term characteristics of these technologies require amore diligent approach. By following straightforward guidelines, greater success with less pain can beachieved even at faster rates.•Even if a miniaturized version is used, make sure there is a steering committee, executivesponsor, business and technology partners, and a well-communicated purpose and scope.The other important element, particularly when working with pilots and proofs of concept, is totimebox the project with a relatively short horizon. Absent the parameters of a timebox, thesesmaller projects can run forever as they multiply with retries and new technologies. Disciplineand rigor should be used early to set a firm timebox for the project to work against.•Determine early if it is a pilot, a proof of concept, or a controlled rollout. This singledecision, often missed, has major downstream implications on the eventual outcome. Rollbacksdo not work with controlled rollouts, and are difficult to apply to pilots that are not tightlymanaged; that means some major function or customer block is now resident on a system withno place to go. Knowing early if there will be a rollback plan and if so what it will be helpsPage 1 of 37/22/2012http://www.insurancetech.com/architecture-infrastructure/240003994?printer_friendly=this...
  2. 2. tremendously. Deciding what to do with the 120 customers on the broken system is best notdone at the last minute.•Spend a brainstorm session or two early in the process discussing end-of-project "what-ifs".What if it doesnt scale? What if it doesnt do everything desired? What if the vendor expertsdisappear? What if it works but the customers dont want to use it? If you know what you mightdo, you can incorporate hooks along the way that will make doing it easier and faster.•Here is a difficult one. If at all possible, go through the various transactions and featuresthat are planned and decide which ones are show-stoppers, which ones are needed but cancome later into production, and which ones are just "nice to have." It is often difficult to createthis list early given the project usually is, by definition, only the "must-have" items. And yetprojects that start with everything in the show-stopper category that run into issues moving toproduction suddenly are able to reprioritize some features and functions as not required forproduction. More often than not, the reprioritization is an end-of-project rush; however, if it can be done up front it will be a calmer and more reasoned process. Worse case, the project runs itscourse, the timebox is exceeded, and there are still show-stoppers. What to do?1. If there is a rollback strategy, use it. Yes, money was spent, but if the overall assessmentis less than ideal, consider it a learning experience, and exercise the rollback. Use theexperience to approach a new project on a more informed basis versus patching thebroken one.2. No rollback is more often the case than not. The team must take a disciplined look atevery defect, missing feature, or absent function. Not only must each be reprioritized, butthe defects must be rated by criticality, impact, time to fix, and alternative (manual oranother system for example).3. The elements of criticality, impact, time to fix, and alternatives have to be combined intoa resourced plan to move the project to a minimal level of acceptability as defined by thesponsor and business. Achieving this baseline, regardless of how low compared to initialplans, is critical to gaining the necessary foothold for next steps.4. Hands-on, extremely detailed project management focused on progress to plan, newdefects, prioritizing and reprioritizing as things change, negotiating with the business, andbrainstorming alternative means to solving each issue is all required at this point.•Upon reaching the initial milestone, whether for a pilot, controlled rollout, or proof of concept,another often missed but key step is the development of a project review document. For someprojects, less than 5 pages may suffice; for others, it may need to be a bit longer. The importantpoint is to capture the successes, shortcomings, remaining known issues, updated cost and scaledata, and next steps with a rough prioritized timeline. It is also important to get the sponsor andbusiness involved to learn what else is functionally needed and the desired next steps.Much of likely sounds familiar in one form or another. Most companies have matured considerablyover the last few decades since the influx of PCs and Infocenters and all the accoutrements of thetime. Yet with that maturity have come a number of changes in the marketplace and with theworkforce. Service expectations in the field and with customers combined with continued challengingeconomic conditions are together putting immense pressure on executives and CIOs to leverage anypossible relevant and applicable technology. The industry is more technologically dependent than 10Page 2 of 37/22/2012http://www.insurancetech.com/architecture-infrastructure/240003994?printer_friendly=this...
  3. 3. years ago, has growth and margin pressures, and is facing a veritable flood of advances in tools,platforms, and even environments like virtual worlds and social networks.Slippage and errors are inevitable in such a fast-paced and challenging situation –they also seem tobe less easily forgiven. Anything that can be done to bring coherence and rationale to the process ofmeeting the demands for rapid adoption and deployment should be shared, discussed, and leveragedwherever possible for mutual benefit. Think of it this way: in the end, Denzel Washington did indeedstop the train in the movie "Unstoppable"; however, I would not have wanted to have been a passenger! Avoid the wild ride with tools, techniques, and practices that help the industrycontinuously improve technologies adoption rate and speed of deployment.About the Author: Steven M. Callahan, CMC is a practice director for the Robert E. NolanCompany, a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry. He can be reached atSteve_Callahan@RENolan.com.Copyright ® 2010 United Business Media LLC (http://ubmtechnology.com/united-business-media-llc-copyright/) | Privacy Statement(http://ubmtechnology.com/united-business-media-llc-privacy-statement/) | Terms of Service (http://ubmtechnology.com/united-business-media-llc-terms-of-service/) |Contact Us (http://insurancetech.com/contact) | RSS (http://insurancetech.com/rss)Page 3 of 37/22/2012http://www.insurancetech.com/architecture-infrastructure/240003994?printer_friendly=this...