Taking Implementation Away from IT

“Business and IT must be aligned for your software implementation to succeed.” How often have you heard that old truism?  But on most projects, that really means, “The business should clearly articulate what it wants, then twiddle its thumbs while IT does the hard work.” And that makes sense when the key difficulties are all about the code: APIs, integrations, configuration, etc. But what if the tougher issues are really for the business side to resolve? Better yet, what if the project was an opportunity for business leaders to reimagine their strategy and articulate their vision?

We weren’t dwelling on implementation details when we developed Guidewire Live Spotlight™, our hosted application for underwriters to improve their accuracy and consistency. But we were trying to create a product that would be immediately and practically useful to people making business decisions. And as we have walked with our customers through the first implementations, we have found that business decisions are not only the most important component of the project - they are the project.

The IT team has the easy part:

  • Does everyone have Chrome or IE11? Check.
  • Have we set up the automated daily feed so Spotlight can show the concentration of our existing policies? Check.

Wait, that was it?! Yes - for new customers, who will find Spotlight already integrated into Guidewire PolicyCenter®.  Customers with PolicyCenter already in production can decide whether to add accelerators that send information directly to Spotlight or receive results back.

Meanwhile, the underwriters are facing crucial questions:

  • What problems or inconsistencies does Spotlight’s data visualization reveal in our current underwriting process? How should we address them?
  • Which new data sources should we use to evaluate location risk now that we can take advantage of them in Spotlight?
  • For each data source, where should we set our thresholds to accept, review, or reject a policy submission? How will those choices affect the size and quality of our book of business?
  • What limits should we place on policy concentration - whether by count or insured value - based on actual distances instead of postal codes or other workarounds?
  • How well do our chosen thresholds harmonize with our underwriting staff’s intuition? How do we roll out Spotlight across our organization in a manner that enforces consistency while simultaneously building trust?

These questions are not incidental issues on an IT project: they reside at the heart of an insurer’s underwriting strategy. An implementation project that demands clear answers is a very good thing indeed for the business. And fortunately, an important process doesn’t have to be a lengthy process. In setting up risk profiles, underwriters are able to quickly see the effects of their choices and fine-tune them accordingly. Motivated insurers can move from setup to pilot to wide rollout in only a couple months. As more feedback rolls in from users, ongoing improvements to underwriting guidelines or data can appear right away instead of waiting for the IT team’s release window.

As head of Guidewire Live’s Data Consulting team, I have the privilege and pleasure of accompanying our customers’ business leaders on this journey. Each insurer must decide its own strategy and risk tolerance, but our experience with multiple customers equips us to lay out the roadmap and share best practices. We raise the key issues to consider, help customers appreciate the implications of their decisions, and help them create a plan for continuous education, feedback, and improvement.

I’m not disparaging the valuable but complicated projects that take up IT’s time. But for me, a quick implementation that focuses on business strategy is a lot more fun. What about for you?