Experience from the Field: Avoiding Three Common Pitfalls for Portal Projects

Every insurer wants (needs?) a robust, mobile-friendly, online presence. After Steve Jobs introduced the first iPhone in 2007, insurers worldwide realized that mailing documents, personal lines agents and enlarging call centres would soon become as legacy as their decades old core systems. The new generation of customer base expects (demands?) to store and organize their “life” on an abstract cloud. They also expect new, light-structured apps to support them. “Fire and forget” is the new mantra. Push notifications are no longer optional. A society of transactional-minded customers are here to stay. The customer’s goal is to spend the least amount of time inside a non-social connected app.

How do we apply these rule changers to what most consider one of the more conservative industries? Bringing it home: are you able to interact with and retain the iPhone generation customer?

I’ve been a Field Consultant at Guidewire Software for years and have helped customers make this monumental leap. I have seen customers leveraging our Digital Portal products to successfully interact with their customer base I discussed earlier. The journey is fraught with technology, people, and process challenges. Below are three common missteps and recommendations for avoiding them.

"The journey of a thousand miles begins with one step." - Lao Tzu

  1. Don’t focus on the portal technology. Use technology as leverage to change the business process. Very often a customer will consider the Guidewire Digital Portal framework as tooling to rebuild the existing business model. Use the out-of-the-box (OOTB) feature set, and technology strength, to introduce alternative or new ways of doing online business. Ensure your team members are active project participants and management is enabling and embracing change. Take the time to truly understand the product’s feature set and envision how your business process could mold into the product, instead of the other way around. 
     
  2. Configurability. Most of our customers desire to build administrative interfaces so that business users can configure the production environment without additional development involvement. It is a reasonable request with pure motivations, but expensive to implement. I have also seen more often than not that interfaces are built, then never used.  Implement a phased approach to your online portal rollout so that the project team doesn’t view Release 1 as the “final” product. Produce a roadmap where Release 2 or 3 are not “years” down the road. The more you leverage the OOTB product, the shorter your upgrade durations will be and the faster you can consume new product features that Guidewire delivers in later releases.
     
  3. Be Agile. Your methodology approach may not make or break your project, but sticking with agile will likely reduce your time-to-live and your project Total Cost of Ownership (TCO). Almost all Guidewire Digital Portal projects are run in an agile way, but few of our customers have agile experience. Seeking a way to prove the agile benefit? Run your inception phase with agile. “Test run” what a scrum looks like, how the teams work together, and what gets produced at the end of each week or month. You’ll get more familiar and faster with the approach, and start to create executive and team member buy-in.  

Customer success is our number one objective. As you embark on an online portal implementation to support the next-generation customer, learn from your peers – be agile, leverage the feature set that the Digital Portal products provide, and focus on the business problem at hand.