You’ve fought tooth and nail for your technology budgets. Competition for funding is tough with compliance, product, underwriting, marketing, and a host of others all vying for a slice of precious technology dollars. If you’ve come out of that process with budget for next year, congratulations. You’ve made it to the starting line. Now is the time to make sure you’re primed to run the race to have your project implemented. There are three simple things that you can do to improve your chances of steering your way through the technology maze, which is an all-too-common wasteland for otherwise good ideas.
First, you must have a business benefits case. In the insurance industry, hard numbers are almost always valued higher than soft benefits. Don’t get hung up on details. Make some reasonable assumptions and then support your case with a few numbers. With a little creativity almost every activity can be assumed to drive customer satisfaction, and that translates into increased revenue or improved retention. In a large organization, even small improvements can add up to big benefits. There is a proven relationship between customer advocacy and business performance, so you can be comfortable that there is truth in your benefits case. Projects with business cases are usually the last to experience cuts or delays. If you can’t justify the value of your project, there will always be competition for “your” budget.
Second, while internal technology partners ultimately serve the same business and the same customers you do, don’t assume that they see benefits in the same way. Marketing and sales teams usually think in terms of revenue generation, while technology partners often see things through the lens of efficiency. If your insurance company doesn’t have a formal process to socialize business requirements with technology partners, take the time to meet with the development teams and business analysts. An informal setting may be just what you need to have a jargon-free conversation to arrive at a common understanding about what you’re really trying to achieve. When it comes time to implement or defend projects, you’ll find important allies who will fight to work on your project because of the time you invested to communicate.
[Previously from Merkle: Building a Marketing Enablement Platform]
While you’re ahead of the game with verbal communications, nothing speaks to quality of your project like well-written business requirements. When you take the time to commit your ideas to paper, you’ll discover questions that you may not have considered at the higher level. This exercise will put you miles ahead of a sea of other vague and unclear projects.
Technology teams like to work on projects that have clear requirements because they have a higher chance of success. With clear requirements, technology teams can better estimate and implement. Ultimately, that makes them less likely to have to work long hours to deliver an overdue or over-budget project. Appreciation for this dynamic will win the respect of your partners and that will pay dividends. So don’t procrastinate, get your requirements done by January or sooner.
If you’re a technology partner, help your business partners to learn these simple concepts. If you’re frustrated by ambiguous or seemingly unreasonable business-side colleagues, maybe there is just a lack of education for what you need to deliver effectively. Be proactive and be the first to demonstrate that spirit of partnership. If you do this, you’ll quickly find yourself with the reputation of a technology partner who “gets it.” Technologists who can work well with their business partners are in demand, and inevitably people will ask for you by name. Given how technology is becoming an ever-increasing competitive advantage for insurance companies, good things will surely come from that.
This may seem like overly simplistic view of the relationship between technology and the business, but think about it. How often do you see project delays, frustrating calls, or finger-pointing? Those symptoms point to underlying communication and teamwork problems that better relationships and clear, documented requirements could help solve. Another way to combat a challenging environment is to bring in a third party who can be a bridge between technology and the business. There is a reason that the staple of third-party engagements are business cases, formal methodologies, and informal lunches. If insurers tried these simple tricks, they just might find that the technology maze will become at least a little bit easier and maybe even more enjoyable.
Aaron has been dedicated to delivering business results in the wealth management industry since 2000. Throughout his career, he has focused on the development of leading customer relationship marketing (CRM), sales, business intelligence and analytic capabilities for ... View Full Bio