The Era of the IT Executive: 25 CIOs Speak Their Minds
Senior Vice President
American Modern Insurance Group
What does the relationship between IT and business look like at American Modern Insurance Group?
In the insurance industry, particularly in personal lines insurance, technology and business are converging. Two years ago we began to re-platform our IT systems for personal lines. At that point, it was clear that IT and business had to become even more integrated. Prior to beginning our transformation journey, we took a step back and asked, “Is the path we are on the right path?” We were upgrading systems one product at a time, then rolling it out to 50 states, then starting on another product. It was a system that was selected over a decade ago, and it did not have a lot of robust functionality on the front end. Was a better solution out there? We looked at the software market and decided we needed to change direction, move away from cobbled-together legacy solutions and find a product that offered a suite of functionality for our business needs.
To do that, we didn’t want to continue viewing the initiative as only a technology project. We had to ask, “How do we make this more of a transformative event for the business?” Historically, we were doing 60-70 enhancements a year on the legacy systems that were consuming a lot of business and technology resources. We had to tighten the spigot down on the enhancements to free up capacity.
In addition we needed to streamline our product portfolio and simplify our underwriting rule set. That was a huge part of our business case. So it became much more of a shift from a pure technology replacement project to how do we transform the business. We talked in terms of a comprehensive business transformation, not simply a technology replacement exercise. In the end, we wanted our company to be an easier place to do business, more nimble in the marketplace, have faster speed to market, have more relevant products and exhibit tighter underwriting.
How did IT and business integrate further during this process?
The leadership agreed that the only way we should do this is if both IT and business worked together. We started our claims transformation a couple of years ago. We had claims department representatives working everyday with the IT folks. When we started the policy, billing and enterprise data warehouse project (later called AMSuite), we knew we were going into a much more complicated area of our business, so we amped up this integration even more. We combined the workspace, putting IT technicians alongside product and underwriting people. If you asked anyone in this workspace a question, you wouldn’t know if the person answering was a technical or business person since they were so engrained in the whole process.
We have been using an iterative development approach since January 2014. Each month, technicians and business representatives go through specs, build, test and deploy in a demo environment. At the end of every month we have something to demonstrate live on a screen so our users can actually see it, try it out and see what’s going on with all the major work streams of the projects. It’s very exciting and a very different way to work. The iterative development work is the key to all of this because it has enabled the business and IT folks to work side by side and the business folks can see immediate results. In the past this process would take several months after business analysts “threw the requirements over the wall” to IT. We don’t have that issue anymore.