Agile Insurance: when small can be beautiful
Posted on: May 15, 2018 by Franck Coisnon
The art of Agility in banking
The transformation pace of insurance incumbents is not yet at the level required to stay competitive in this market. New entrants like the famous insurtechs brothers - Oscar, Lemonade, Trov - and now the Gafas with Amazon are leading the race proposing never seen before customer experience supported by agile native models.
Yet this is not a fatality and the way ING transformed its business to become a “technology company”, as they like to call themselves, can be a great inspiration.
Back in 2015, the Dutch banking group ING started shifting its traditional organization to an “agile” model. They built about 350 nine-person “squads” in so-called tribes and successfully improved time to market, employee engagement, and productivity. This initiative was introduced as customer expectations were rapidly changing driven by digital leaders in other industries – the old product-centric approach supported by a highly scalable operating model was not viable anymore.
Key Agility Factors
So what can be learned from this experience?
Among the strategic levers of transformation, the first and foremost is agility. It is about a new way of working in multidisciplinary & horizontal teams that comprise a mix of business – marketing & product specialists, user-experience designers - and IT experts - all focused on solving the client’s needs and united by a common state of mind.
On top of changing the organizational structure and the way people are managed, it is also key that the IT operations are evolving toward more responsiveness. This is where DevOps and Continuous Delivery play a crucial role to reduce the release cycle time by combining product development and IT operations – multiple biweekly small releases instead of yearly big launches.
What is the recipe for success?
Notwithstanding the steps that most insurers have already initiated - onboarding Agile teams or testing DevOps practices - this has not reach the critical mass to be successful yet.
We are not talking about launching big transformation program here. As commented by Alan Kelly in his recent blog about Atos Digital Business Continuum publication, a company can also continuously adapt to its changing environment when making small incremental steps.
But transformation to an Agile Insurance model will only come with taking those small changes at the scale of the company.
This is precisely what is needed and this requires three main ingredients that were key in the successful transformation of ING: sponsorship at the highest level of the company, bold investment in this new model and strong belief that only the people will successfully change the culture and transform the company.