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NEOS to Host Webinar on System Selection

Webinar discusses best practices insurers can use to select software

Hartford CT – December 8, 2014 – NEOS, a management consulting firm that helps insurers innovate business solutions to legacy problems, will host a webinar on system selection entitled “Hit or Miss? Selecting the Right Software” on December 9, 2014 at 12pm EST.

The webinar will discuss best practices that insurers can follow to be more effective, efficient, and successful in selecting and implementing the best solution. Steve Leigh, Managing Consultant at NEOS, will provide input on a lens-based approach to analyzing RFP responses that takes subjective opinions out of the decision process. Karen Chamberlain, Senior VP and CIO at Western and Southern Financial Group, will share her experiences of what did and did not work as well as lessons learned for selecting software.

Despite ongoing improvement among systems and service providers, and more experience among insurers, many system deployment projects struggle to deliver their expected value. Traditional system selection processes that fail to differentiate between vendors, accurately identify needs, and balance the needs of all stakeholders tend to be at the heart of this issue. At the end of the webinar, attendees will understand tactics to choose the right software.

“Anyone about to undertake a software evaluation will benefit from this webinar,” says Scott Witter, Senior Principal with NEOS, who will act as the webinar’s moderator. “Our panelists will share valuable insights and best practices of a system selection. Often, people forget how crucial the right system is to their business goals. The implications of a poor system will be felt by many and for a long time but the situation is avoidable.” As the moderator of the webinar, Scott looks forward to taking questions from the webinar attendees. “We’ve got two great panelists who can speak to all perspectives: business, technology, and executive leadership.”

This webinar is part of a series of NEOS hosted webinars focusing on a variety of topics within the financial services, insurance and information media industries. Previous webinars have addressed topics such as gaining value from closed block portfolios and leveraging processes to reduce operational risk. The webinar series includes experts from across industries to maximize value to attendees.

About NEOS LLC

NEOS is a management consulting and technology services firm with unparalleled experience in holistic modernization, enterprise data and business operations consulting throughout the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Clients range from large mid-cap companies to the Global 1000 segments including financial services, insurance and media. Services also include process, organizational and operational consulting, enterprise architecture strategies and design, reviews and planning, deployment and data analysis. NEOS is the parent company of Vgo Software that specializes in modernization analysis and conversions solutions.

For more information about NEOS, visit http://www.neosllc.com or follow us on LinkedInFacebookGoogle+,YouTube, or Twitter.

Things Insurers have to be Thankful For

thanksgiving cornocopia representing what insurers have to be thankful for

There may not be a table big enough, but if the 2.5 million people in the insurance industry got together this thanksgiving then they would have plenty to be thankful for. Annuity sales, for a variety of reasons, are currently soaring. The industry, which just recently weathered a recession and a very active span for catastrophes, is nonetheless looking exceptionally robust as it breaks all-time policyholder’s surplus records. Most exciting of all, insurers looking to innovate and cut costs can look to a landscape of technology options that have stabilized and matured significantly in recent years.

  1. Plump, Juicy, Annuity Sales

    Sales of annuities, particularly fixed annuities, have been red hot. Fixed annuities sales are up almost 40% over the first two quarters of 2013 according to Insurance Newsnet. Typically annuity sales in the first quarter dip significantly compared with the fourth quarter, but this year the energy carried over into 2014, with only a slight dip of around 4%. The baby boomer demographic wave has contributed to this tremendous increase, as well as the increase in annuities slant towards fixed products. NEOS attributes better sales to better products, which are being designed and supported by better technology. “The products coming out these days are better targeted to the market, and some of them, especially in indexed annuities, would not have been as easy to implement in years past,” says Dan Kohler, senior consultant at NEOS.

  1. Fresh, Homemade, Policyholder’s Surplus

    Policyholder’s surplus, often seen as an indicator of the robustness of the P&C industry, hit record highs. A recent A.M. Best report indicates that policyholder’s surplus increased by $20 billion in the first half of 2014, pushing the overall number to $683.1 billion. This means, among other things, that insurers can feel comparatively quite well assured of their ability to meet future losses. NEOS senior consultant Dan Kohler argues that, “The fact that rising profits and increasing values of investment portfolios have managed to push this number to its record high despite considerable catastrophe losses is a heartening sign of resiliency.”

  1. An Abundance of Stabilized and Matured Technology Investment Opportunities

    Technology is providing insurers with some appetizing options for lowering costs, improving pricing, engaging with customers, deploying innovation, and improving distribution effectiveness. According to a report by Insurance & Technology, three quarters of insurers used predictive analytics in their pricing, and all insurers with over $1 billion in personal insurance employed it. Telematics are becoming more useful to insurers and palatable to consumers. NEOS managing consultant Steve Leigh asserts that, “Automated underwriting processes among life insurers have begun to come into their own, with successful implementations cutting costs and improving results.” Meanwhile, according to Leigh, increased investments into core system replacements, emerging technologies such as social media, mobile, gamification, digitalization, and others will yield increased business value over the next several years.

Overall, insurers are in a relatively good place, and they have promising opportunities to look into in to help them try to keep it that way. What will these promising trends bring for the industry through the end of 2014 and in to 2015?

Insurance Horror Stories: Read if you Dare

Jack-o-lantern representing insurance horror stories blog

This month at NEOS, in keeping with the frights and thrills of the season, we asked some of our staff to divulge their own horror stories from working in the insurance industry. We heard back on a host of different topics, from customer service terrors to project management difficulties. We’ve chosen the three that frightened us the most. Read on, if you dare.

Rise of the Angry Customers
An auto, home, and life insurance company was experiencing rapid growth in the volume of calls to the customer service center at the same time that it was developing a new IT system. The project consumed much of management’s time and attention, leaving issues in operations to flounder. Managers recognized the need to act. The company responded in exactly the wrong way: by reducing customer service center hours in a misguided attempt to keep frazzled employees from becoming overwhelmed. Customers began spending at least 30 minutes on hold every time they would call in, often times never reaching a representative. Now employees were dealing with high volume and angry customers. Extending hours and hiring more customer service representatives could have helped mitigate the situation.

Change Management Abandoned
A large life insurance company was building a new system to manage the licensing of annuity and life insurance agents. The project was slated to take a year, but as the final months of the project drew near, the project manager repeatedly pushed out the system completion date without changing the implementation date. Meanwhile, employees in Training and Development were building online system training. With each system change, the training team needed to make corresponding updates. When the system was finally pronounced complete, employees had two weeks to build training, jeopardizing the system adoption and proper usage by employees at large. Placing more emphasis on the change management component of the project could have reduced stress among employees and ensured a smoother transition to the new system.

Vanishing Priorities
A leading auto, home, and life insurance company was unable to keep pace with growing sales. They wanted to improve their ability to handle the growth and decided to invest in a system that could help realize that goal. However, once talks of a new system came on the table, other goals started to surface. For example, the new system should be able to handle current sales and help drive future growth. These aspirations were all important things for the company to consider, yet management failed to prioritize which issues needed to be addressed first. Attacking all of their problems at once made it challenging to allocate resources properly and identify dependencies. Lack of prioritization also made it difficult for them to articulate what they really wanted their new system to be able to do beyond the end goal. The company ended up relying on a vendor to determine the best path forward, ultimately spending time and money on a system that couldn’t do everything they wanted. If they had properly assessed and prioritized their needs, they could have come out of the forest of system development with a system that met their needs.

These and other horror stories could have been avoided, or at least minimized, with more attention on project, change, and business process management. Sometimes consulting experts with an objective eye or leaders with more experience in project success is what a team needs to spot problems in a project or a process. Bear in mind our insurance industry horror stories to keep from being spooked on your next project; avoid the tricks and enjoy the treat of a project well done.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

So, You Think You Know the Voice of the Customer

 

NEOS blog on voice of the customer

Do you know what your customer wants or needs? Or do you just think you do.
Have you ever come across a customer-oriented initiative where the people around the table assured everyone that they understood the customer well enough to provide the customer perspective? The insurer skips the step of actually contacting customers to find out what they think or want because the step is perceived as too time consuming or expensive. Inevitably, the application fails to deliver on expected benefits because the customer doesn’t behave quite like everyone thought they would.

Case in point: a large insurance company wants to reduce its overall unit cost and improve its customer service by offering self-service capabilities to its customer base.  They assume that the customers want to have this capability and will therefore use it.  The company designs the application in a manner that mirrors how the internal teams process the business.  The insurer launches the capability and receives a nasty surprise when no one uses it. They “knew” what the customer would want, but they were wrong. The capability increases the volume of customer calls, resulting in increased unit costs. The customer experience suffers.

With the failure of this project, everyone begins to ask, “Why did this fail?”  The root of the problem is one of misalignment.  Development and implementation started before the insurer could align its objectives with those of its customers.

To prevent wasted effort and investments, companies need to first learn and understand what their customers truly want and would actually use.  We recommend obtaining the “voice of the customer” and listening to it.  To learn your customers’ wants and needs, conduct a voice of the customer study, which can take on many forms, from actual site visits and user group sessions to surveys.

The key to conducting a successful voice of the customer study is to get a representative sampling of the customer base, gather the information, truly listen to and then accept it.  The ultimate goal is to understand what customers want and how they interact with the company.  Aligning these findings with the goals of the company will help to ensure a successful product for both parties.

Stop assuming that you know your customers.  Take the time to ask and truly listen so you can incorporate actual customer input into your customer-oriented initiatives.  It is a key step in the overall process and will have a significant impact on your success.

January 1, 2015 is only 3 months away!

Contact NEOS to help start projects off on the right foot in 2015.

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5 Ways to Tame Your Processes

 

NEOS blog tame your processes

If you aren’t in control of your processes, your processes are controlling you. In the day to day frenzy of insurance operations, it’s easy to simply relinquish any sense of control and just do what is necessary to get the business on the books or respond to the incoming phone calls. Jump through hoops, make those hand-offs, toggle through multiple legacy systems, just keep the work queue under control and hit those service levels. It’s a jungle out there, but your business processes can be tamed and controlled. We promise.

We’ve got a list of five easy steps you can take to get a better grip on your processes.

  1. Name your processes. In some cultures, people believe that if someone knows your name, they have power over you. With business processes, this is true. The first action we ask a group of client stakeholders to complete at the start of a business process engagement is deceptively simple. We ask each person to write down the names of their business processes. Then we compare the lists. If there are 10 stakeholders in the room, we end up with 10 different lists of processes. If you don’t know what your processes are, you can’t wrangle them into submission.
  2. Profile your processes. A profile can reveal important information about a process. Is the process primarily distributor or owner facing? Does the process vary by product? There are a lot of characteristics that can help you manage, improve, and control your processes if you know what they are.
  3. Own your processes. Remember the list of processes from step one? Ask the same group of people to name the person who is responsible for the success of each process on the list. When we ask groups to do this, we often receive puzzled stares. Then a lively discussion breaks out among the group about the relative merits of having process owners and who the best owners would be. The standard organization structure of a life/annuity/retirement company means that processes can fragment across teams and departments. If you have process profiles, you can use them to determine the best and most logical owners of your processes.
  4. Document your processes. Documentation doesn’t have to mean detailed Visio flows in standard BPMn notation. Choose a format that fits your need and culture, and use it consistently across the enterprise. Documentation enables training, continuous improvement, disaster recovery, investment planning and other activities that strengthen your organization.
  5. Measure your processes. Like documentation, measurement doesn’t have to mean extensive data capture and reporting. Choose the two or three metrics based on the process profile and overall objectives of the company. Measuring process cost is ideal, but few companies can achieve it. People naturally pay attention to what is measured, and this philosophy applies to processes as well. Your teams, your leaders, and even you will pay more attention to processes when you measure them and take actions based on those metrics.

Notice that none of these steps involves re-designing or streamlining your processes. If you don’t have a commonly understood inventory of profiled processes with designated owners, consistent documentation, and meaningful metrics, you can’t achieve continuous improvement success.

Process Efficiency Myths…Busted

 

Process efficiency myths busted NEOS

Every day we deal with clients and their business process challenges. When we start a new project, it’s not unusual for us to find that at least a few of the client leaders have fallen prey to some of the most common process efficiency “myths.” Have any of these myths taken hold in your organization?

Myth: I need to automate everything

Busted: You don’t. Automation is only one tool that increases process efficiency. You can boost efficiency by streamlining a process or procedure, redesigning a form or input screen, or adjusting approval levels, just to name three examples. In fact, efficiency can plummet if you just automate a current state process.

Myth: Handoffs should always be eliminated or automated

Busted: Certainly, looking at handoffs is the right place to begin a process efficiency initiative. In many cases, eliminating the handoff is the right thing to do; however, there are two factors to consider as part of that equation. First, what’s the cost/benefit to eliminating the handoff? If it costs more to automate the handoff or consolidate the activity than the anticipated benefit, maybe you can just leave the handoff where it is. Second, why is the handoff there? If it addresses a regulatory requirement or maintains a segregation of duties, you’ll need to replace that control before you can eliminate the handoff. To understand what could happen when compliance isn’t at the forefront of process decisions, read our whitepaper Sometimes, it’s Not about Efficiency, about one client’s automation mistake.

Myth: We can’t change it because it is a compliance issue

Busted: Wait, didn’t we just say that compliance controls shouldn’t be eliminated?  Just because something is compliance related doesn’t mean you can’t question it.  Inefficient controls can be replaced by better controls as long as they continue to comply with regulatory requirements and company policy.

Myth: If I hire a vendor, they will come in and fix the problem

Busted: Yes, vendors bring a lot of solutions to the table, and they can accelerate your accomplishments.  At the end of the day, though, you’re left to operate with your processes; youhave the greatest stake in its success. Don’t depend on a vendor to have the same vested interest in the future state as you do.  Every stakeholder needs to be involved in the project of increasing efficiency in order to ensure adoption and engagement. Involving everyone who “touches” the process will lead to better results.

Myth: Only Lean/Six-Sigma Black Belts can redesign a process

Busted: Although Six-Sigma and Lean get a lot of press and attention, they aren’t the only options when it comes to analyzing, redesigning, and deploying processes. These formal models require significant investments (time and money) and an organizational commitment to succeed, and not every company or organization is positioned to make that happen. If you have those resources, great! If you don’t, that’s okay, too. You can map your processes, define your goals, collect metrics, and make intelligent decisions about process improvements without a Black Belt. The key is to put a consistent, repeatable approach in place and follow good standard practices. Companies without a Six-Sigma program can achieve amazing efficiency results, too!

5 Ways to Turn Your Business Processes into Business Assets

NEOS Business Process

Business processes are either liabilities or assets depending on how you define, control, and manage them.  According to a June Gartner report titled ‘Successful Approaches to Business Process Improvement’, “90% of organizations are early on their BPM journeys and still struggling to apply BPM as an enterprise program.  Changing organizations toward higher levels of appreciation for business processes as an essential corporate asset remains a slow and difficult undertaking.”

The most successful companies figure out how to leverage their processes to become business assets, even when there is no clear ownership within the organization for managing business processes.  Below are five actions NEOS has compiled to help your organization use your processes as some of your most valuable assets.

  1. Process inventory lists

    A list of relevant core business processes at the highest level enables everyone to speak the same language when discussing practices and their characteristics. From prioritizing needs to scoping projects or making organizational and role decisions, an inventory provides enough information to be useful without unnecessary or overwhelming detail.   According to Gartner, using “visual perspectives of processes helps people to see the inefficiencies and identify opportunities for improvements.”

  1. Process scorecard

    Rating business processes according to an organization’s strategic priorities and objectives engages stakeholders from across the enterprise and integrates diverse perspectives into a carefully crafted rating. This is a practice used by successful companies all over the world.

  1. Process design/re-design

    Providing a deep understanding of current state or a deep focus on defining the desired future state allows organizations to make informed business decisions. To understand current state, subject matter experts document baseline metrics, understand process rules, and map existing processes based on a process inventory before beginning future state process design. A combination of individual interviews and group rapid design sessions help to define future state processes.

  1. Process Control Topology (PCT)

    PCT is a NEOS-coined approach that provides a view into how controls, business processes, and application architecture cooperate to achieve compliance with regulatory and risk-management requirements. Unlike traditional BPM approaches, where the object is cost reduction, service improvement, or streamlining, a Process Control Topology focuses on the institutionalization of controls across process and system.

  1. Controls analysis

    This examination is a way to determine where your processes may have too many, not enough, or the wrong controls based on non-negotiable rules imposed by internal or external regulatory entities (e.g., SEC, compliance departments, customer contracts, product designs).

By using these tools, or some combination thereof, companies are able to rely on their processes, making them as beneficial as possible. NEOS has expertise in implementing these tools with great success. We can help your organization better understand its business processes and how to turn them into assets.

 

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7 Tips for Selecting a Process Modernization Strategy

 

process modernization

Everywhere you look, there are articles, webinars, and conferences around business process management (BPM). The influx of information being produced validates the importance of optimizing and modernizing processes but can be overwhelming to those looking to start an initiative. At NEOS, we consolidated seven tips to keep in mind when investigating methods for optimizing your processes.

  1. Choose a process improvement approach that fits your corporate culture. Lean and Six Sigma are not the only tools in the box.
  2. Start with a process architecture before diving into documenting current state or redesigning the future state.
  3.  If you are not using current state as a basis for future state, do not document it. Keep the focus on the future.
  4. Benchmark the current state metrics so you can show improvement in the future state. Keep metrics simple.
  5. Documenting current state can derail an improvement project faster than anything else can. How much current state do you need?
  6. There are options in process documentation. It’s not one size fits all. Choose a format and level of detail to fit your need.
  7. Process documentation can be multi-dimensional, tying together compliance, data, and technology. Don’t limit yourself.

If you would like more detail on our 7 process tips ask our process expert.[/vc_column_text][/vc_column][/vc_row]

What Is Project and Program Risk Costing You?

 

Do these numbeNEOS June newsletter risk dialrs mean anything to you?
$74 million, 31.1 percent, or  7 out of 10These numbers alone probably don’t trigger a reaction. What if we said the average US company risks $74,000,000 per year because of project failure or underperformance? (According to Project Management Solutions.)  The Standish Group’s research shows a staggering 31.1% of projects will be canceled before they ever get completed, and the OASIG study says 7 out of 10 projects “fail” in some respect. Now, what’s your reaction?

The fact is that all projects contain risk. It may not be risk of complete failure but other risks lurk such as running over budget, not meeting set goals, and missing deadlines. The question we need to ask is why all these projects fail or do not meet expectations.

At NEOS, we have a project health model that uses five lenses to assess, diagnose, and fix projects.

  1. Leadership/Sponsorship – As we all know, the sponsor plays a critical role in a project’s success but is often given less importance than other project areas. When the power of a sponsor is underestimated, often faults such as ineffective communication to peers or visible support of the project are overlooked. Just as detrimental as a sponsor not preforming to the level the project demands is choosing the wrong sponsor or not clearly identifying a sponsor.
  2. Organizational Relevance – A project is doomed from kickoff if the significance to the organization has not been assessed and communicated. You can only predict possible problems if you are aware of impacted areas and let those affected have ample time to plan accordingly.
  3. Technology Fit – Technology is meant to be an asset but when the wrong technology is implemented, it can be a cost and resource burden. Many components affect whether technology will hinder the success of a project. A thorough software evaluation will ensure technology aligns with the project as well as the overall organization direction.
  4. Target Employee Engagement – All projects impact a group of employees.  Someone is going to have to do something different at the end of a project.  Many companies err when they overlook the need to engage the targeted group of affected employees. If they are engaged early and understand the project reasoning and implications, the rate of adoptions and support will significantly increase.
  5. Project Mechanics – All aspects of project management, deliverables creation, financials, and project communication fall into this dimension.  With so many moving parts, this dimension is a high-risk area. Keeping the project in small digestible bites helps reduce risk by limiting scale and resources needing management.

NEOS has highlighted 5 best practices for each dimension in the whitepaper – 74 Million Dollar Project Question.

How healthy is your project?

The ability to cure a project is dependent on diagnosing the root of the problem. At NEOS to diagnose a project, we score areas within each dimension of our project health model, giving them a numeric value in order to give an objective screening into each area. Totaling the numbers gives each dimension an overall health assessment.  Individual numbers lend detailed insight when developing a strategy for remediation.

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NEOS Welcomes Steve Leigh to the Firm

Steve Leigh joins NEOS as a Managing Consultant

Hartford CT – May 29, 2014 – NEOS LLC, a management consulting and technology services firm, announced that Steve Leigh, a former Gartner insurance industry analyst, has joined NEOS as a Managing Consultant in its rapidly growing insurance practice.  Leigh is responsible for business development, project execution and content creation specific to NEOS’ insurance clients.

SteveLeigh

Ernst Renner, Managing Partner at NEOS, says, “We are very pleased to welcome Steve to the NEOS team. He is going to be a great addition. At NEOS, we aim to hire those who have really been immersed in our target industries: insurance, information media and financial services. Steve fits the bill and will be a real asset to our clients with his vast knowledge of the insurance industry.”

Leigh’s addition to the firm will further NEOS’ ongoing commitment to provide innovative solutions to its insurance clients. Leigh will be a part of the team that assists clients in moving beyond their legacy product, process, and system constraints and creating solutions needed to drive revenue, reduce cost, and promote growth.

Leigh has worked for 25 years in the insurance industry developing ways to increase business value using various technologies. More recently, he has worked at Gartner as an industry analyst, advising insurers and industry vendors on major trends. Leigh will use his industry insight to expand on NEOS’ insurance offerings and client base.

About NEOS LLC

NEOS is a management consulting and technology services firm with unparalleled experience in holistic modernization, enterprise data and business operations consulting throughout the US, Europe, the Middle East and Asia. Clients range from large mid-cap companies to the Global 1000 segments including financial services, insurance and media. Services also include process, organizational and operational consulting, enterprise architecture strategies and design, reviews and planning, deployment and data analysis. NEOS is the parent company of Vgo Software that specializes in modernization analysis and conversions solutions.

For more information about NEOS, visit http://www.neosllc.com or follow us on LinkedInFacebookGoogle+,YouTube, or Twitter.


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