Think Big, Start Small: Build your Insurance Transformation Roadmap

"Where are you on your digital transformation journey?"

How many times have you heard this question over the past year? It’s a difficult one to answer. Depending on your company size, type, history, etc. your own personal digital transformation journey may differ quite dramatically to somebody else. Incumbents and InsurTechs alike are forging their own respective paths, one perhaps aligned with replacing legacy technology and the other aligned with customer acquisition. There are plenty of common themes, however, and a couple of weeks ago, I was fortunate enough to moderate a terrific panel discussion with Reuters Events that tackled this very topic.

Joining me for the chat was Brent Hammer, AVP Innovation Officer, Grange insurance. Beti Cung, Head of Innovation Labs, CSAA, Karthikeyan Rathinasabapathi, Director of Transformation, CUNA Mutal. Sean Adams, SVP Innovation Design, State Compensation Insurance Fund. And Samir Ahmed, Principal and Head of Insurance, Xby2.

During our conversation we tackled a wide range of issues from build vs buy, to failing fast and creating your agents of change. Today I am diving a little deeper into those conversations and shedding a little light around what they might mean for you and your own transformation journey.

Build vs Buy – Creating Your Agents of Change

Essential to any innovation journey is tackling the question of build vs buy. One brings an element of learning and a greater level of ownership to the organization, the other faster results.

Q: Brent – can you share some of your thoughts around the build vs buy conundrum and how you have approached things at Grange Insurance?

Brent Hammer: Absolutely. One of the things that I think is foundational, at any stage of your innovation journey, is establishing that buy versus build framework, getting that calibration across the different areas of the business that are driving different elements of how you're transforming the business.

We like to say at Grange – “Things have never moved as fast as they are moving right now. But they will also never be this slow again.”

And so again, having that buy versus build framework established is critical to be able to manage the pace of change.

In terms of establishing your agents of change as part of that process, I would say, at Grange in particular, we quickly identified where there were gaps between the other agents of change within the enterprise. So as an example, we have a digital team, who are firmly established. We have business intelligence and analytics teams that again, are well established. We even have an emerging tech subdivision of our IT department. Innovation is really the newest of the members in terms of our agents of change and transformation for the enterprise. Every single one approaches the buy versus build decision paradigm a little bit differently.

Innovation Teams

Q: Karthikeyan – Can you share your thinking around dedicated innovation teams? How might companies align around that more effectively?

Great question. If you look at most companies, especially when it comes to the long-term transformation, the horizontal type of transformation, they tend to partner a lot of the time. To help drive internal innovation, organizations will sometimes spin up a separate entity and give them complete freedom to go and innovate. Usually, these are small, agile teams, that typically do not follow any of the standard processes. They are free to leverage any technology methodology they feel fits the bill. And suddenly, they become incredibly good at innovating, and it works for them and for their companies as well. But when you look at the whole mothership, the sum of the short term and midterm transformations and how we want to steer them, it becomes crucial to look at the big picture. The critical part, however, is, you must start small. So, in this process, you need to start looking at what are the long poles in your tent? How do you approach and think about these transformations?