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FutureWeek™: The Future is No Longer Defined in Months and Years

A Look at How NEOS Is Revolutionizing Process and Capability Implementation

According to recent studies, the implementation of process excellence frameworks and application of lean six sigma practices to dJune Quarterly 2rive rapid change is a top priority in 2016 as companies begin to realize a competitive differentiator in their ability to go to market and realign core processes to improve the customer experience quickly and cost effectively. Unfortunately, traditional methods pose significant challenges. Most process improvement approaches, including DMAIC, can be too cumbersome resulting in projects that are large and costly, political, and yield value too slowly to keep pace with customer, market and business demands. With the added strain of ‘too much change,’ companies are being forced to define methods that make it even faster, easier and more cost effective to drive critical improvements in core processes and business capabilities.
At NEOS, we’ve developed a more agile approach that can lead to new business process and capability designs with key performance measures and design documentation in just weeks, not months or years. We’ve successfully simplified deliverables and tools to cut through the clutter and capture exactly – and only – what leaders and project teams need to make informed decisions and begin executing against incremental wins that add up to big gains quickly.

In this newsletter, we’ll examine our proprietary methodology, what we refer to as Future Week. FutureWeek™ is a proprietary workshop that we use to help clients achieve business strategy through process and core capability redesign. It fits within a simple four-to-six-week framework that can be broken down into three segments, which naturally alleviate the usual suspects of organizational pain and failure when designing for the future state. We’ll take a look at each segment in the approach and highlight how it differs from other contemporary methods. It is important to note that not all deliverables are required for each client. NEOS works with each client to right-size the approach for each engagement.

Segment 1: Pre-Work
Pre-Work is characterized by assessments that lay the groundwork and set the vision and direction by establishing anticipated business value and how that value will be measured. Business value statements serve as design criteria during FutureWeek™. Deliverables include:
a. Identify, define, and prioritize the major pain points through user observations, interviews, and documentation reviews
b. Establish the business strategy and objectives to be achieved with associated metrics
c. Gain executive buy-in early in the redesign process
d. Prepare and distribute the FutureWeek™ pre-read materials to bring focus to the effort

  • How our Pre-Work is different: The secret sauce is in the Business Value Linkage, or BVL scorecard. The BVL is a proprietary method for defining exactly how your redesign effort will align to, and positively affect, the broader business strategy. The scorecard includes key indicators, measures for success, and clearly defined operating objectives in plain English that get all key leaders aligned, on board, and behind the effort early. Gaining early buy-in from key leaders is crucial for securing funding, resources, and ensuring competing priorities do not become risk later on when the project team is ready to begin executing against designs. We also combine this with a special pre-read packet that inspires, educates, and enables stakeholders to come focused and ready to work in a safe, collaborative environment to successfully design their future state.

Segment 2: FutureWeek™(Redesign Workshop)
The star of the show is the Redesign Workshop. This workshop is where we do the design work, and you guessed it — it only takes a week. In just a matter of a few days, we can:
a. Define the desired business experience and operating model
b. Redesign the business process
c. Assess the impact of the future state on the existing organization

  • How the FutureWeek™ redesign workshop is different from other workshops: The Future Week redesign workshop cuts through political strain, departmental bias and fear of change to create a safe environment that dissolves barriers, minimizes discomfort and enhances meaningful collaboration to generate a future state design in record time. The result is a set of concrete answers to the question, “How can we redesign this process or capability to achieve our business strategy and capture the critical people, process and technology enablers needed in just the right detail?”

Segment 3: Post-Work
Our consultants go to work producing the materials your leaders and teams will need to achieve the future state coming out of the FutureWeek™ session. Deliverables include:
a. Generate process designs, impact assessments, service models, technology requirements, and other outcomes
b. Plan next steps for implementation, additional processes, software selection, requirements, etc.

  • How our Post-Work is different: Key deliverables resulting from homegrown methodologies and DMAIC hybrids often result in a cumbersome documentation. Also, key information is not always actionable, meaningful data is obscured in excess detail, and the process for creating these deliverables is both time consuming and costly. The FutureWeek™ Post-Work takes an average of two weeks and produces a concise set of proprietary tools and documents that enable leaders and project teams to engage in immediate process-improvement initiatives. Details include key people, process and technology enablers, gaps in current state process, impacts, risks, the right level process designs, and more depending on the complexity of the transformation impacts coming out of the workshop. Project teams know exactly where to start and do not have to ask for more information.

In all, a FutureWeek™ engagement can be executed from pre-work through post-work executive readouts in as little as four to six weeks. By securing the right executive buy-in from day one and defining clear measures for success, teams are armed with operating targets for the future state while the FutureWeek™ workshop gives them the inspiration, flexibility, and mechanism for capturing innovative solutions. When a process improvement workshop is rounded out with crisp, clear, actionable information, the only limit is how fast a company can assemble a team.

The old days are over. It’s time to start implementing the future.

Similar to other process solutions in the marketplace, Future Week was designed with industry neutrality in mind. NEOS has successfully demonstrated the application and power of FutureWeek™ across companies in three separate industries to date with more added every day. Industries include Insurance, Financial Services, and even Shipping and Transportation. In fact, Future Week has proven itself to be so practical, fast, and effective that we have seen more repeat engagements involving Future Week across multiple functions in the same company than any service offering we’ve ever provided. Imagine the power for a moment; leaders in all corners of your organization advocating for the use of Future Week means they trust the outcomes that your projects are producing. Securing resources, funding, and prioritizing initiatives will become easier than ever before.

Be sure to explore some of our additional blogs, whitepapers, and other collateral to learn more about individual tools and deliverables within the approach.

IT for the Modern Insurance Company – Two Speeds Are Better Than One

Does the news of insurance start-ups in Silicon Valley have you nervous? Wondering how you can compete when your IT department tells you it will take six months to get that next mobile app out to customers? If this applies to you, then two-speed architecture is something yoshutterstock_64372981u should consider.Also known as two-speed IT or Bi-Modal IT, two-speed Architecture can get you where you’re going quickly while maintaining the harder-to-change back office systems. In today’s ever-changing world of customer-facing applications, traditional IT methodologies and frameworks just don’t cut it anymore. Waiting six months to get a mobile application out the door is so 2014. Nowadays, you need to get those apps out the door in weeks. How can you do that, you ask? How can you take a traditional IT department and equip it with the tools necessary to thrive in a modern environment? The answer, as you’ve probably guessed, is Bi-Modal IT. As the name implies, Bi-Modal IT describes an IT environment that works in two different modes. In this case, it has two distinct environments that run at two different speeds while still interacting with each other. The traditional, almost static back-end systems that run the business are the components that make up the slow environment. That environment is supplemented with a front-facing API layer that allows for the quick development of mobile and web apps.The exposure of an API layer that interfaces with traditional back-office systems directly or indirectly creates an environment where front-end applications can be rapidly developed using a myriad of technologies and an agile methodology. The front-end applications can be web applications, mobile applications, or some business-to-business web services.

First, a quick note about Agile: We’ve been around the block a few times and have seen Agile implemented at many a Fortune 1000 company. We can tell you from experience that they aren’t doing Agile. Why is that? It’s because those legacy IT systems do not lend themselves well to the agile process. If you are implementing a new insurance administration system, can you go live with a release that only incorporates 75% of the features you need? Of course not, you need all the features to run the business. On the other hand, if you have a great idea for a mobile, customer-facing app that enhances your business, can you go live with an application that only incorporates 50% of the features in the first release? Yes, you can. Technology start-ups do it all the time. Get the first release out there as quickly as possible and delay some features for future releases. Iterate many times and release often. An agile methodology allows you to do that.

An Agile development environment will help get you started, but it is the API layer that allows for change. An API layer allows your consumer client applications to be developed in whatever language your star development team uses or whatever language best suits the application. If you are writing the best iOS insurance claim app incorporating the features of the latest iPhone including 3D touch, GPS, and access to the camera; write the application in Swift. If you need a web page to allow a customer to view the status of their claim, write it in JavaScript. The development environment is only constrained by the talent you have. Have a new potential hire who does her best work in Python? Bring her on board! She’ll be productive in days, not months.

Another benefit of an API layer is the ability to allow outside organizations to build your front-end apps without having to know the details of the systems running the business. If you don’t want to hire the best Swift developers; hire the best Swift development company instead. Visionaries might even find ways to expose parts of their API to the public and crowd-source some of their development.
One more important point is that your high-speed environment needs access to the information in your stable environment but should not be completely dependent upon it. So while your API could directly interface with your traditional applications, it really shouldn’t. Just as a change in your high-speed environment shouldn’t impact your stable environment, change in your stable environment should not negatively impact the high-speed environment.

Every insurance company should already have a slow speed environment with tried and true methodologies for change. This important environment enables all of the complex processing that runs the business. Enacting a policy to allow for a quick change in such an environment is not a great idea since those systems need to remain fairly stable. However, a fast, adaptable, and expandable environment is also necessary to allow access to all the benefits of the modern digital world. The key is to enable both of these environments to exist simultaneously in an integrated yet not dependent way so that the change in one does not impact the other.

DoL Assessment Part 3, Addressing Added Distribution Complexity

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As we talked to the attendees at LIMRA’s Retirement Industry Conference last week, a common theme appeared. Many were in a “wait and see” mode. They were reluctant to take any action on the DoL ruling until it became entirely clear what their organization was expected to do. Some were waiting for their legal departments to make decisions while others were waiting to see how their broker-dealer partners addressed the changes. Either way, they were waiting. Last year I had the pleasure of going on a canoe trip in the northern reaches of Minnesota with my sister, an avid canoer. I was frequently confused at how to find portages and campsites since it is difficult to match the map to the landscape. Whenever I was confused she would respond like a wise sage, “keep paddling and the path will become clear.” In Minnesota, and in the insurance industry, you must keep paddling even when the way is unknown. The reality is there is no time to wait for clarity.
Use this week’s “Need to Know” area to assess your organization’s understanding of internal distribution complexities that will impact DoL design and implementation, and help you to identify internal resources that will alleviate them.

“Need to Know” #3 – How prepared are you to determine all sources of complexity and address any additional complexity with existing systems?

Insurers must prepare now for distribution complexities they will face during implementation. To start, ensure that:

  • IT begins to address additional commission complexity.
  • Operations start to address complex workflows that will likely change based on the product, qualification, and distribution partner.
  • Product development teams look at their ability to increase the number of simultaneous product redesigns and pricing change.

Use the following questions to assess your awareness of any additional complexities in your organization.

  1. Do you know what will drive new complexities?
    The key driver of additional complexity for commission processing will come as each distribution partner makes decisions about compensation. Some will pursue fee-based approaches while others will demand that all their manufactures provide a flat, up-front compensation. Still others may want new commission styles. From the insurers’ perspective, they will be required to provide products with different commission amounts and payment schemes demanded by each distribution partner.
    Operations must prepare for this type of additional complexity. Insurers will need to support individual processing requirements, and process flows from each distribution partner, depending on how they intend to address DoL requirements. Each process flow must be designed to ensure that the correct compliance oversight is in place, and critical documents are stored, included in the contract, and signed.
    Many companies struggle to get products to market fast enough. The rise of new product variations, different pricing (a product of various compensation levels), and new competitive pressures will demand more efficient product development processes. Companies must plan now to ensure products are getting to market much more quickly, reduce the rework that exists in product development, and work on multiple products simultaneously.
  2. Do you have internal resources to alleviate any complexities?
    It will be a difficult task to determine all additional complications coming out of the DoL requirement. However, it is important to accomplish now so that insurers can move on to identifying the resources they have that can support these complexities. Whether this will be a new system, process or operational procedures, it needs to be determined now. Early identification will allow for a rapid redesign, early implementation and ultimately a competitive positioning amongst all insurers.

It is not too late to begin taking the necessary steps to address the new fiduciary rules. At NEOS, we assist insurers in documenting organizational processes, complexities and impacts, and available resources because we know that an understanding of this information will streamline future decision making and implementation. If you are behind on this internal documentation, use Need to Know #1 and Need to Know #2 to get started.

To be sure you do not miss next week’s NEOS “Need to Know” post subscribe now.

Preparatory Steps before Migrating Applications’ Architecture to a Private Cloud

shutterstock_155282822We live in an era when data is rapidly moving into the “cloud”. Manufacturers of personal computers and devices such as smartphones or tablets are steadily encouraging their users to “file away” all their personal data in the cloud. In the corporate world, businesses and organizations are not exempt from this pressure. This has resulted in a frenzied trend toward moving crucial files, core applications, and business services to the cloud with promises of increased scalability, mobility, and security in return. However, a growing number of companies, while enthusiastic about the benefits, are wary of public cloud services and are opting for a private cloud or hybrid cloud solution (A combination of private and public cloud services to fulfill specific objectives) to meet their needs.
Private cloud systems are considered less risky than public clouds for sensitive company information and sudden service outages in the past by large public cloud service providers like Amazon and Google have proven that reliability is not certain. Further, private cloud systems enable organizations to have complete control over their network infrastructure and applications, allowing them to easily scale back platforms to support critical legacy applications that might not be supported by public cloud infrastructure or application platforms.
For any organization migrating their applications architecture to a private cloud, there are three key preparation areas to take into consideration before they begin.

  1. Comparison of Utilization Metrics: The most important first step is conducting an exhaustive analysis of all current system utilization data to determine if migrating to private cloud architecture is feasible for the organization and whether it meets both business and IT objectives. This stage involves collecting all the essential data that will show whether migrating to a private cloud would be expedient. As part of this analysis, it is necessary to set defined goals that the migration is expected to meet. Crucial data includes an assessment of the current infrastructure’s application utilization metrics to set a benchmark of the metrics that virtual systems (hosted in a private cloud) would provide.
  2. Cost Analysis: Once ample data has been collected and examined to demonstrate plausible reasons to migrate, the next step would be to analyze the cost of migration. This takes into account the overall cost of the migration and long-term maintenance of a private cloud system. Key questions should include: does the organization have the necessary disaster recovery, replication and security resources to maintain the infrastructure required to run a private cloud system? Does the organization have the resources to manage a technical team that would oversee an on-premises private cloud system and ensure its reliability?
  3. Architectural Design Blueprint: The last key item involves the creation of a comprehensive architectural design blueprint. This takes into consideration the number of necessary physical systems and virtual systems that would be necessary to run all applications and services. A buoyant and efficient backup system is essential for any cloud design to be feasible, so adequate provisions must be made for this. Also, since an efficient cloud system is built on a reliable network, there must be sufficient network redundancy and fault tolerance to keep systems up in the event of any system failure. Network infrastructure also needs to exist in at least two different physical locations for an added layer of security and redundancy. The design blueprint should also have room for expansion of system and resources in the event of a need for increased allocation of resources to any system.

Building a practical cloud system is a big investment for any organization, and the many benefits of such a system might not be experienced universally. Therefore, an organization needs to carefully consider its current and future utilization metrics, examine cost analysis of migration and establish an architectural design blueprint before reaching a final decision on whether to migrate its application architecture to a private cloud. The relatively minor cost outlay for these preparatory steps far offsets costs incurred by jumping into a cloud migration project unprepared. The knowledge these critical steps provide will arm your organization for a successful future in the right environment.

DoL Self-Assessment, Part 2: The Gap Between Your Current and Future States

In our last posting, you assessed the degree to which you understand how you currently sell your products and what interdependencies exist between the new business process and internal technology, processes, and information. If not, refer to DoL Self-Assessment, Part 1 which focused on the foundational importance of knowing the variations and details of your processes and supporting actors, technologies and information to ease implementation of new requirements. Once you have this information, it is time to assess your organization on “Need to Know” area #2.

Let’s continue your self-assessment with Need to Know #2.

“Need to Know” #2 – How will your internal processes change, and what resources are needed to support them?
Once you have a good understanding of how you and your distribution partners sell today, you must isolate the areas that need to change internally to support new functions or are unnecessary moving forward. Your processes, internal data, and supporting technologies must align with future requirements to streamline the current selling styles of your advisers. Identify what your new process will look like, and note new actions, actors, or organizational inputs. This will highlight the differences between current and future state, and determine what parts of your process must be redesigned.
As you begin to evaluate your internal processes and redesign a new process, answer the following questions. Give yourself 2 points if you can answer “yes,” 1 point if you can answer “no” or 0 points if you answer “I don’t know” for each letter. Keep track of your total to find out your Redesign-Ready Score at the end of the assessment.

1. Do you know the new requirements that are not supported by your process?
You will likely have new steps to add, new data to review, and new skills required in the internal process. For example, your new business teams may need to discover whether there is already a Best Interest Contract in place. Each external process will have corresponding steps to create a seamless workflow.

2. Do you know how to change your process to adapt to these areas?
Document the future state but be careful not to over document. It is easy to spend too much time documenting internal processes that are simply going to be replaced. You want to balance the time spent analyzing existing processes with the time spent creating and documenting the ideal processes.

3. Do you have the right skills and staff in place to support new and significant complexity in your new business process?
If you previously had a single new business process for all your products and distribution partners, this is not the case anymore. You will have different processes depending on whether the new business is qualified or non-qualified. You might also have different processes depending on which distribution channel is sending the business to customers. Keep track of needed resources that are currently unavailable, or that may have large organizational impacts on the business.

4. Are you prepared to make required compliance checks within new business?
The new business process will have additional checks that need to take place, particularly if the BICE is being used. Many changes will need to occur, for example. Service teams will need to make sure that the Transaction Disclosure was presented, and that it is consistent with what was sold to the client. You will need to have the compliance checks documented and built into the training and technology for the new business staff.

5. Do you have right systems to support your processes?
Don’t neglect the opportunity to automate many of these steps. If you have a workflow system, expect to have many more routing rules and new process trees. Also, make sure that if decisions need to be made along the way that you either automate these or provide the relevant data for your service teams to make the appropriate decisions.

Look at the answers you have and tally your total.
Ready for Redesign- 8-10 Scoring within this range means you are aware of the resources and capabilities your organization will need in the future to implement requirements successfully. Moreover, some of these resources and capabilities exist within your process today. If there are any remaining gaps in the current state process, document them now. Then, move forward with prioritization and execution of required redesign or technology enhancements.
On the Road to Redesign- 3 to 7 You have knowledge of some elements needed to implement new requirements, however, still lack an understanding of the nuances that exist within advisers, selling styles and process steps. Failing to account for these details will result in a future process that is neither effective enough nor considers all organizational needs. Highlight the above questions you answered “no” or “I don’t know” too and identify what specifics you still need to answer to satisfy internal strategies. Fill in the gaps and move forward to process redesign.
Redesign Rookie- 2 or under Scoring within this range means you currently have a weak understanding of the complexities your organization will face implementing DoL requirements. Further, you are unaware of how well your current business processes align with these complexities or how they can be incorporated. Identify all capabilities your future process must have and use them to conduct a gap analysis of your current state and desired future state.

Redesigning processes early will allow you to adapt quicker and sooner than competitors. It is not too late to begin reviewing how your current state must change for the future. At NEOS, we know that a comprehensive understanding of process gaps and needed capabilities will streamline organizational redesign, decision making and implementation. Read more about assessing your current state in our whitepaper, “Right Sizing Your Current State Assessment.

Make sure you don’t miss next week’s NEOS “Need to Know” by subscribing, which will notify you of our next publication.

Are You Ready to Address DoL Requirements?
A Self-Assessment for Insurers, Part 1

As an insurer preparing for the new fiduciary rule changes, you may feel pressure to implement quick strategies yet find it difficult to know where to start. NEOS has identified 5 “Need to Know” areas for you to help measure how well-informed and prepared your company is to adapt to the changes. The end of each self-assessment will provide next steps and recommendations to help you move through the process. 
Below are a set of questions to assess your organization’s readiness. Give yourself 2 points if you can answer “yes,” 1 point if you can answer “no” or 0 points if you answer “I don’t know” for each letter. Keep track of your total to find out your Foundational Score at the end of the assessment.

Remember to come back each week for another “Need to Know” area to help determine how ready you and your company are.

“Need to Know” #1 – How are product sales currently supported and enabled within your organization?
You must be able to answer this to prepare in the most efficient and cost effective way. A comprehensive understanding of the processes, key actors, technologies, data and selling styles that assist in driving new business is the most foundational information your company needs to recognize where and how required changes will be applied. Employing change effectively will prove tough if you fail to identify and understand your internal and external processes, data, and technology. Critical information will be overlooked, causing decisions to be repeatedly made and unmade, adding time and cost. Filling these knowledge gaps is imperative to streamline design, implementation, and testing. Examine your selling style documentation to answer the following:

  1. Does your documentation identify unique details such as process triggers, enablers, or decision points? 
    If you are like many insurers, you have a general sense of how your products are sold but lack an awareness of the details and nuances of the many operational processes that support the sale of their products. If you do not have any detailed documentation, you do not have an adequate understanding of relevant organizational processes. Gaining this information will give you the ability to design improvements that will meet the requirements of the new rules and improve the user experience for advisers and consumers.
  2. Do you know the differences between each of your selling types? 
    These variations are often overlooked yet knowing them will allow you to make improvements to agent portal characteristics, customer portal features, products, statements, customer service, agent service, and other agent support elements. Documenting the user stories of a varying group will allow you to plan for the different needs of your agents.
  3. Does your documentation include the quantification of various functions used throughout the sale? 
    Since the new rules are applied differently to different functions (marketing, education, needs assessment, lead acquisition, fulfillment, solution design, active selling, service, advising, etc.) you will want to quantify each of these processes for each selling style. Understanding this level of detail will help you determine how to apply the new rules across your departments and roles. It will also provide an in-depth view of interdependent steps within the processes

Look at the answers you have and tally your total.
Strong Foundation = 6  Do you have three “yes” answers? Then you are ahead of the pack and ready to move on to the next “Need to Know” area. You are aware of the key organizational processes that create new business, understand the interactions between them and have a detailed understanding of the nuances for each.
Growing Foundation = 3 to 5  You may have a general understanding of the basic foundation of your selling processes or functions, but are unaware of the nuances or complexities within them. Identifying requirements have been met or system elements that are needed rely on this knowledge. It is imperative that you begin detailed documentation of your organizational processes and user stories, to understand variation and interdependencies of adding new business.
Weak Foundation = 2 or under If you are a member of this group and did not know of or did not have process documentation, it is essential that you take a hard look at your organization and functions that may enable, support or slow it down. Without this information, you cannot assess other “Need to Know” areas, since a majority of new requirements depend on a strong foundational understanding. For this reason, it is imperative that documentation exists before moving forward to other “Need to Know” criteria.

Was your score lower than you expected? It is not too late to begin reviewing the various channels and selling types of your new products. At NEOS, we assist insurers in documenting organizational processes, because we know that comprehensive process information will enable future decision making and implementation.

Make sure you don’t miss the next NEOS “Need to Know” post to assess your Process Complexity by subscribing, which will notify you of the next publication.

Operational Considerations of the DoL Rule Changes

Operation Consideration DoLBy now, anyone in the insurance industry has at least heard about the imminent ruling from the Department of Labor that will expand the definition of “fiduciary” under the Employee Retirement Income Security Act (ERISA). You can search out numerous websites that cover the “what” of the rule, but there are limited resources for figuring out the “how.” And while the obvious implications are to the distribution arms of the business, companies can’t overlook the potentially deep impacts to operations and technology. As companies begin to peel back the layers of this onion, new risks and strategies will undoubtedly emerge. Here are a few of the key operational considerations we see right now:

  1. TIME: Preparation begins now. Even though the rule hasn’t taken effect yet, the DoL is expected to allow eight months, with many in the industry estimating years to comply fully with the various requirements. This means there’s not a moment to spare, and if you don’t have a Tiger, SWAT, or Delta-Force team in place right now, you’re already behind. At the very least, you should be looking at your 2016 operational and IT priorities and budgets to figure out how to accommodate the process and system modifications you’ll have to make.
  2. PROCESS & TECHNOLOGY: Certain processes, like 1035-exchanges, fund exchanges, rollovers, really anything where clients move money around or where clients speak with a customer representative, present a risk to carriers in some cases but not for others. In the past 20 years, many companies have sought to have consistent processes, cross-trained teams, and consolidated metrics. The DoL rule puts all that consistency squarely into question, requiring what some are calling “bifurcation” of process and systems. Start documenting your use cases, prioritizing them for risk, and putting mitigation action plans in place.
  3. CUSTOMER EXPERIENCE: It’s the latest iteration of customer service and voice of the customer. Attend any insurance conference or read any trade publication, and there is at least one session or article speaking to the need for insurers to pay attention to the overall customer experience. Well, your customers’ journeys just got a lot more complicated. If your customer journey maps are up to date, congratulations. If you’re asking yourself what a customer journey map is, check out a few resources. From the time an advisor initiates a conversation to the time, you make the last payment to a beneficiary, the communications and services you provide must comply with the DoL rule. That will impact your customers’ experience.

Barring a last-minute change, this rule will take effect, and insurers will have to make changes. Depending on distribution channels and product portfolio, some will be sweeping and others minimal. The time to start assessing your processes, technology and customer experience is now. The clock is ticking, and eight months goes by in a very short time.

Watch this space for additional thoughts on the DoL Fiduciary rule as we hear more from our clients. Join the NEOS community and receive periodic updates.

The Department of Labor Changes are Coming, Are You Prepared?

Department of Labor It’s no surprise when the regulatory environment shifts. Insurance companies are nearly always adjusting to new regulations and legal interpretations of existing regulations. 2016 looks to be a little different, however, with the Department of Labor’s (DoL) redefining the fiduciary definition to include insurance product sales people, agents and advisers. With the DoL unveiling a final version of the fiduciary rule changes this week, it is not yet defined how the fiduciary definition will be applied to life and annuity products.

Several trends are likely to result. It is difficult to know how the rule changes will affect the industry long term, but there are several actions insurers should accomplish immediately to prepare. The below actions should be underway or started as soon as possible:

  1. Create a User Story Inventory – The first step is to create a user story inventory of interactions between consumers and their sales person. Whether group retirement, individual, or voluntary products, documenting the user story will help insurers understand where the impacts of the DoL changes will be greatest. The goal of the inventory is to make visible the interaction points in preparation for the DoL changes to the fiduciary rules. Documenting the interactions and work streams will facilitate a rapid response when the DoL finalizes the changes. The user story inventory should be gathered by first interviewing key stakeholders from distribution, operations, service, sales, marketing, technology, relationship management, legal and compliance. Gathering all of these touch points in documented user stories will allow you to create a matrix that categorizes each story by several dimensions including:
    • Type of interaction, such as lead acquisition, proposal, selling, enrollment, service, question/response and others.
    • Distribution channel and selling style.
    • Mutual fund or Annuity (type of product(s)) involved in each story.
    • Documentation of the information commonly gathered (and not gathered) during the interaction and where it is captured and stored.
    • Categories of interactions such as ERISA/Non-ERISA, large case exemption/non-exemption, best interest contract exemption/non-exemption, etc.
    • An overlay of the systems that support each user story.
  2. Understand How Your Agents and Brokers Sell – Categorize your sales force into various categories based on the user stories that were developed in step one. By knowing how many sales people fall into each sales story type, you will be able to much more easily identify who will be impacted by the new rules. This will be easier for insurance companies that have captive distribution, but it should be completed by all companies regardless of distribution channel.
  3. Prepare for Product Innovation – Look at your product process to see how prepared your organization is to develop new innovative products. Our experience tells us that many companies are good at creating slight variations to existing products, but have difficulty being innovative with new products. Too often insurers don’t know who is making product decisions, they don’t know their system or operational capabilities, they don’t know how to effectively test products in the marketplace, and they struggle to create products targeted to specific niches. All of these problems are fixable and insurers should immediately begin creating product development processes that will serve them for the next several years.
  4. Seek out new Partners – New innovative distribution partners will be vitally important to identify those distributors that can fuel your growth. To identify these, insurers will need to capture data about distribution partners that indicate the types of partners you value. For example, if you want to find fee-based advisers, you may create a data profile that allows you to track these to identify the best.

While it might feel too late, completing these recommended steps within a couple of months will make you much better prepared to adjust to the rule changes. Putting this off until later, will force your sales, service, and systems departments into rapid tactical solutions rather than finding the advantages through strategic solutions.

Back to the Future State

Welcome to FutureWeekWhen it comes to organizational change, it is no secret that companies struggle to move beyond the constraints of their current environment. After all, companies rarely begin projects with a clean slate. Embedded policies, procedures and traditions not only make it difficult for a company to change, they make it hard for stakeholders to think constructively and creatively when designing future state processes or capabilities.

Often a company stands to benefit by bringing in an objective party that can facilitate, guide, and partner with stakeholders to move beyond current thinking and develop a solution that meets the needs of the organization. While effective change is strengthened by an understanding of the past, the most effective solutions rely on agile and innovative forward thinking. For this reason, NEOS and our clients looking to redesign their organizational process do something a bit out of the ordinary. We time travel into the Future…for a week that is.

In a NEOS FutureWeek, stakeholders participate in an interactive workshop that streamlines process redesign and highlights the most valuable next steps for the organization to achieve its strategy. There may not be a hover board or a time machine but below are just a few of the components that make FutureWeek just as revolutionary:

  1. Core organizational strengths are preserved. In preparation for FutureWeek, NEOS partakes in a combination of current state observation and analysis to provide a foundational understanding of organizational activities, strengths, and weaknesses. This research provides background knowledge on the core business assets that make the company successful and ensures that these strengths are retained in the future state, while weaknesses are addressed.
  2. Desired capabilities are documented. It is all too easy to get caught up in the logistics of a project. For this reason, FutureWeek focuses on capturing WHAT actions you want to happen in your organization, rather than HOW you want them to be done. This is an important distinction that allows further separation from the current state way of doing things. Organizational leadership often misses the mark on thinking outside of their current constraints, limiting themselves to build a future eerily similar to the present. Workshop attendees design and document future state capabilities that address what they will need to be done, instead of how it can be done currently.
  3. Key voices are heard. A car manufacturer would not design a car without speaking to car drivers. Why would a company build a future state process without speaking to the impacted stakeholders? FutureWeek leverages this knowledge that without a broad understanding of user feedback and input, organizational change will be unsuccessful. The workshop engages a wide range of people with experience in varying roles and ranks of the organization. Why is this so valuable? This ensures you are aware of the future you want to develop, not just from a management perspective but from a broad, company-wide perspective.
  4. Impacts are accounted for. NEOS understands that when you change one process the effects will continue to ripple through the organization. Accounting for interdependencies that exist across people, process and technology is necessary for ensuring a successful transformation.
  5. Change is empowering, rather than intimidating. Last, but not least, attendees of FutureWeek are a part of an exciting and mind-altering experience. They are encouraged to think creatively about the work they do each day, and provide feedback on how change can be beneficial to them individually and to the organization. In other words, stakeholders from a range of roles and levels are empowered to design their own future. And even more, they are able to return to the present and ensure their fellow stakeholders to feel confident in the decisions being made going forward.

While planning for the future can often seem like a guessing game, FutureWeek workshops ensure that redesign efforts occur rapidly and produce deliverables that represent the needs and desires of a cross-functional group of stakeholders. Companies across a wide range of industries have experienced this ground-breaking experience at FutureWeek and are beginning to rethink how they deliver value and accelerate their competitive advantage.

NEOS Announces Strategic Partnership with Collibra

Partnership provides clients with best-in-class data governance solutions

Hartford, CT – March 10, 2016 – NEOS, a management consulting firm that helps its clients solve challenges related to data, process and technology, today announced it has formed a strategic partnership with Collibra, an internationally recognized leader in data governance technology.

NEOS has partnered with Collibra to help business leaders implement a more collaborative data governance organization that manages change and promotes business and IT alignment. Through the partnership, clients can expect faster data management maturity improvements, reduced data issues and a lower overall risk exposure.

Ernst Renner says of the partnership, “Together, NEOS and Collibra will offer our clients a complete, end-to-end solution for data management that is built on deep industry business knowledge and a superior data governance framework. We are excited to help bring this much-needed offering to the market.”

Specific to Insurance and Financial Services clients, NEOS aims to develop a framework to help clients rapidly deploy data governance operations in their organization using Collibra. This will provide an “out of the box” solution to increase speed to market and reduce costs for insurance carriers, as well as banking and ratings organizations.

“We are happy to join with NEOS to enable our financial services customers to unlock the potential in their data,” said Felix Van de Maele, co-founder and CEO of Collibra. “The partnership between Collibra and NEOS will accelerate the ability of financial services and insurance firms to access, use and trust their data.”

About Collibra
Collibra is an internationally recognized leader in data governance technology. Collibra automates data governance and management processes by providing business-focused applications where data quality, collaboration and ease-of-use come first, giving all data users the benefits of having easy access to good and trustworthy data. For more information on Collibra, visit

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