It has been three and a half quarters since this insurance carrier started with the implementation of an insurance platform. The company selected a state-of-the-art solution which met all the needs of the business. However, during the execution phase, the team discovers more challenges, and believes that the approved budget and timelines will not deliver the required outcome. The team decides to take a pause, and determines that the newly found execution challenges must be first addressed.
If these challenges are not addressed, then desired business results will not be seen.
If these challenges are addressed, then there is naturally a significant impact on schedules, timelines and most importantly budgets.
Does this sound familiar?
In my experience, more than 80% of the time, in most insurance platform modernization and transformation initiatives, execution teams seek such interventions. It is extremely rare to see future state realization within the desired or approved budgets and timelines. Even If they are met, then most likely there is a scope reduction and/or it is a standalone MVP (Minimum Viable Product).
Hence, execution teams reach out to executive sponsors for approval of schedules and budget deviations. Executive sponsors, CXOs or board members must follow a Cause-Impact-Action framework and ask the following three critical questions:
1. Why are we discovering this now in lieu of an elaborate due diligence phase?
There is an adage,
‘The more we sweat in peace, the less we bleed in war’.
This holds true for the due diligence phase for any platform modernization initiative. In the excitement of starting a project, teams tend to focus on an inventory list of impacted areas and reserve finer critical details for a later point in time. This subsequently becomes a major roadblock during execution.
Similarly, many due diligence phases end up with superficial business/ functional capability maps and block level superficial architecture, while in reality, it requires further detailing in terms out-of-the-box alignment, product sequencing, bureau or proprietary forms alignment, product-platform interdependency and most importantly, organizational change management.
Integration is another area which adds to scope creep or delays at a later point in time. While the in-house team will be able to point out existing IT landscape nuances impacted by a modernization program, getting an external perspective with similar experience is equally recommended. Budget approvers must explore this option at the beginning of the due diligence phase or at any intervention phase to ensure that no more significant adjustments are required.
Nonetheless, a fine balance needs to be achieved between analysis-paralysis and superficial detailing.
2. How does this change the future state and ensure that all bases are covered now?
A multi-year program can translate into managing legacy and modern IT platforms together for a significant period. This lays a foundation for an ‘interim state’. During a due diligence phase or an implementation phase, things are seen from the lenses of absolute future state. However, as implementation period increases, maintainability of interim state becomes critical for running the operations.
There will be a delay in offering certain features which can’t be released unless all foundational pieces are in place. For example, bureau reporting can’t be made live unless all lines of businesses are on the same platform. There is also an alternative to merge reporting from the old IT landscape and the new IT landscape. However, this will be a throwaway arrangement which needs to be vetted for RoI.
Running dual IT always requires data to be exchanged between platforms, especially from the legacy platform to the new platform. Due to this, the legacy platform will always influence certain behaviour or design of the new platform. Every budget approver must proactively look for such features/ functionalities, as at a later point in time, this can be removed from the future landscape unless there is a strong business reason to keep it.
3. What will be required to achieve the right execution pace with these changes?
Platform modernization initiatives tend to add stress on in-house business and IT stakeholders The schedule needs to be balanced between ‘Run the business’ activities and platform modernization activities. In this case, only two choices are left: Run program at a pace of internal business/ IT availability or scale up internally or rely on an implementation partner’s capability and experience to maintain the momentum.
After initial hiccups, there will be a tendency to execute the program in a bureaucratic mode for change requests and other processes. Larger the organization, the higher are the number of red tapes. Unnecessary processes slow down the execution and add lag in the timeline. Establishing or improving a program execution process is critical to make best of an intervention. Budget approvers must critically evaluate what new features or functionalities are being requested. They must also check the pace of execution and test it out with probable scenarios.
Winston Churchill once said, “Let our advance worrying become advance thinking and planning.”
With these three critical questions complemented by a Cause-Impact-Action framework, executive sponsors can ensure that platform modernization initiatives achieve the desired outcome.
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