Agile Transformation For An Insurance Provider

Agile Transformation For An Insurance Provider

OVERVIEW

A large insurance provider in the Northeastern US decided to implement an Agile Transformation initiative across their organization, as part of the implementation of a new policy provisioning system.


CHALLENGE

The Operations department were using a number of time intensive manual tasks to process client applications.  The Business and IT relationship had grown to be rather dysfunctional, with a series of failed or incomplete projects.  The business did not feel included in the initial development process, believed they needed to have the project scope identified in advance, and continued to build and support Microsoft Access databases to track work progress because the provided tools were not process focused.

 

SOLUTION

Partnering with the client, we were able to break the 12 month waterfall project into four separate 90 day releases, with 2 week sprint cycles per release.  The first release consisted of the technical framework, creation of an Agile development cycle, simple product sets, and simple quality assurance and training review steps.  The subsequent releases added product and client complexities, medical underwriting and other processes to the model.


The results was a successful deployment of the provisioning solution within their timeframe and budget, a large reduction in organizational risk, organizational acceptance and support of the Agile process, reduction in pre-production user acceptance testing from 3 months to 2 weeks, and client satisfaction and appreciation for our commitment to the initiative.


At A Glance

Large, nationwide disability insurer that lacked automated workflow capabilities or the ability to provision new policies.

Business Challenges:

  • Aging technology
  • Slowing growth
  • Company Scale
  • Lagging efficiency

Solution:

  • Workflow Engine
  • Business Process Analysis
  • Java Based UI
  • Agile Methodology Transformation

 

Benefits:

  • Total Scope – Delivered on time and on budget.
  • 500% improvement in provisioning cycle
  • $400,000 in first year savings
  • Full ROI achieved after 18 months

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

Being Agile is More Important Than Being Perfect

Being Agile is More Important Than Being Perfect

In business, agility, not perfection, is the single most important indicator of success, even having an agile methodology belief.  While the pressure to move faster and work smarter becomes more and more relentless, so, too, does the pressure to achieve perfection. Too often, product owners and business leaders hide behind closed doors, tweaking and fine-tuning, thinking that if they could just get everything perfect, then success will follow. Meanwhile, businesses that launch their offerings in the early stages achieve much higher success rates.

The Definition of Agile

What is it exactly that allows some product offerings to flourish and prosper while others stagnate and die? The answer points in one consistent direction. Agility, not perfection, is the single most important indicator of success.

Traits of an Agile Enterprise

Many organizations, in pursuit of growth, implement hierarchical org structures designed to enforce policies set forth by senior management. But an enterprise must understand that implementing a chain of command is not enough – and is even counterproductive to success. The org structure of an agile enterprise doesn’t look much like a pyramid, but instead, it looks like a network; a cluster of nodes banded together. The culture of an agile enterprise values experimentation in which contributors of all levels are encouraged to test ideas in the marketplace and then let data – not the opinions of senior management – guide future decisions.

Agile enterprises value transparency. By reframing expectations and understanding that teams are primarily in charge of discovering, not constructing, truly agile enterprises achieve results through rapid testing and learning. In similar fashion to agile software development, agile enterprises iterate on an ongoing basis, prioritizing the workload based on market or customer demand. Paradoxically enough, transparency within organizations sometimes leads to conflict. But, in a truly agile enterprise, that’s OK and even encouraged. When teams engage in positive conflict, they not only foster more productive behavior, but they also achieve innovation in ways that rigid, bureaucratic org structures simply cannot.


Download Now: Agile Transformation Success Kit

Uncertainty is common in agile enterprises. They understand that business is unpredictable, and success or failure is driven by the entrepreneurial energy of its teams. Further, by not only accepting uncertainty but embracing it, agile enterprises have the ability to move quickly and capitalize on new opportunities or stave off emerging market threats. The real-time nature of a modern business is no different than a stock market, with all of the implied volatility. Agile enterprises flourish under these circumstances and use uncertainty as a competitive advantage by making small, continuous changes rather than large, seismic changes all at once.

Operating on the Edge of Chaos

To serve as a counterbalance to the uncertainty and randomness of modern business, agile enterprises recognize the need for structure. Often times, this takes shape in the form of a shared operating platform where ideas are generated, shared, tested, and optimized. But, an organization simply cannot plug a platform into its existing structure and expect agility to follow. There is evidence to suggest that there are contingencies based on the structural, systems, behavioral, and cultural contexts of the organization. Business leaders would be wise to consider these contingencies as part of their strategy.

Pushing decision-making to the lowest possible level is an effective way to increase the agility of your business as soon as today. Long term organizational structure changes are rarely so straightforward. Fortunately, with the right technology partner, equipping your organization with the tools is as simple as it is worthwhile.


Next read:
5 TED Talks that Every Tech Professional Needs to Watch


Next Steps

Review our case studies and engagements where we helped companies just like yours solve a variety of business needs.


About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong. 


Confessions of a Scrum Master

Confessions of a Scrum Master

The Agile methodology is easy to understand, but difficult to master. Take it from a Scrum Master.  Agile Scrum, in particular, requires a change in mindset. Too often, Project Managers must define a schedule upfront and harass people to meet unrealistic dates. What makes the Agile Scrum approach attractive is its ability to promote transparency and accelerate output. If you're willing to let it, Agile Scrum can transform your organization.

But, let's face it: change is hard. Humans are creatures of habit and tend to resist change by default. Introducing a new organizational process, such as Scrum, to an established development team could easily be perceived as risky. You might even be met with downright hostility.

Fortunately, there is a middle ground. Oakwood Scrum Masters weigh in on three Agile techniques you can leverage as soon as today – without causing major disruption within your organization.

Terminology From The Scrum Master

It is important to understand some basic concepts. Oftentimes, the words “Agile” and “Scrum” are used interchangeably, and this is simply incorrect. Scrum is an implementation of the Agile framework. Scrum originally was designed for software development projects, but it works well for any complex, innovative scope of work. The possibilities are truly endless.

Be a Better Scrum Master Coach

Once you have a solid understanding of what it means to be agile and what it means to implement Scrum, it's time to put your knowledge to use. Agile coaches do this by learning and embodying the Agile Principles. When faced with a question or problem, successful Agile coaches look to the Agile Principles for answers.

For example, let's say your iterations are on track but your defect list is growing, and your customer is becoming frustrated. Agile Principle #1 states that “our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through the early and continuous delivery of valuable software.” In this example, the “early and continuous delivery” part has been achieved, but the “valuable software” part has not. A buggy product does nothing to satisfy the customer. Thus, the Agile methodology has not been implemented successfully.

So, how can you be a better coach? It's simple, really. Read the Agile Principles. Print them out and recite them daily. Refer to your principles when making decisions.

Pick a Tool and Live in It

The popularity of Agile has spawned an abundance of Agile project management tools designed to manage the performance of Agile teams. Which one is right for you? Well, that depends. Here's a look at a few of your options:

Visual Studio Team Services (VSTS)

VSTS allows software development teams to store and collaborate on code with unlimited private repositories. When you sign up for VSTS, you also get access to a broad set of free developer tools, Pluralsight training, and credits in your Azure account. The downside to VSTS is the repository management is not as intuitive as competing products. And, this particular tool might be overkill if you're just getting started with Agile.

Jira

Jira gives you access to more than a dozen out-of-the-box reports, giving you visibility across teams and projects. It was designed with Agile in mind and it allows you to create custom workflows of any size that match the exact way your teams build, test and release software. But again, if you are just getting started with Agile, it might be more than you need.

Which brings us to…

Post-it Notes

It may seem rudimentary, but this very well may be your lowest friction and highest impact option. A Kanban Board is a workflow visualization tool that enables you to optimize the flow of your work. The tools listed above (VSTS and Jira) have this feature in common. When boiled down to their most simple feature, VSTS and Jira are both sophisticated, online versions of Kanban Boards.

 

Additional Resources:
www.agilemanifesto.org
www.agilemanifesto.org/principles.html
www.scrumguides.org


Next Steps

Review our case studies and engagements where we helped companies just like yours solve a variety of business needs.


About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.

12 Agile Principles

12 Agile Principles

Are you transforming your organization by focusing on agility?  Agile is the only way to be productive in our fast-paced work environments.  Oakwood can help!  First, read these 12 simple agile principles.  Watch your teams, company and organization will flourish!

12 Agile Principles

  1. Our highest priority is to satisfy the customer through early and continuous delivery of valuable software.
  2. Simplicity – the art of maximizing the amount of work not done – is essential.
  3. Welcome changing requirements, even late in development. Agile processes harness change to the benefit of our customers.
  4. Build projects around motivated individuals. Give them the environment, tools, and support they need to get the job done.
  5. Business people and developers must work together daily throughout the project.
  6. Working software is the primary measure of progress.
  7. Agile processes promote sustainable development. The sponsors, developers, and users should be able to maintain a constant pace indefinitely.
  8. The most efficient and effective method of conveying information is a face-to-face conversation.
  9. Continuous attention to technical excellence and good design enhances agility.
  10. The best architectures, requirements, and designs emerge from self-organizing teams.
  11. At regular intervals, the team reflects on how to become more effective, then tunes and adjusts its behavior accordingly.
  12. Deliver working software frequently, from a couple of weeks to a couple of months, with a preference to the shorter timescale.

About Oakwood

Since 1981, Oakwood has been helping companies of all sizes, across all industries, solve their business problems.  We bring world-class consultants to architect, design and deploy technology solutions to move your company forward.   Our proven approach guarantees better business outcomes.  With flexible engagement options, your project is delivered on-time and on budget.  11,000 satisfied clients can’t be wrong.