29/05/15

5 Best Practices to Redesign Your Insurance Product Development Process Successfully

Process FlowEvery insurer has a diverse portfolio of products to sell and service. If your product fills a niche with limited competition, is in demand, or you do better than your competition, you’re golden. We find that so many insurers struggle to define their process for getting to and maintaining that “sweet spot.” If your company is looking to redesign its product development process, you can increase the likelihood of arriving at your own product “sweet spot” by integrating these five best practices into your strategy.

1. Secure the right executive sponsorship, backing and support

I know… this seems to be a standard mantra these days in any blog post, article or whitepaper to do with projects. Is it easier said than done? Probably. Is it necessary? Absolutely.Securing the right sponsorship for any process development or redesign project is absolutely crucial. Without it, projects can flounder and eventually lose steam no matter what great ideas are being generated or level of energy and organization a team has. The right executive sponsor should provide the authoritative support, funding, and credibility the project will need to be successful. Look to your chief product officer, chief actuary, or head of product development to start.

2. Assign a champion and a ‘Know-it-All’ team

Once executive sponsorship is in place, assembling a class-A team should be next in line. First, someone to ‘champion’ or drive the product process to be developed needs to be designated. This should be someone who knows enough about the product development cycle to be dangerous, but also knows how to delegate and manage the product development process timeline, its team and solicit innovation.Second, a team to redesign the process needs to be allocated. ‘Know-it-alls’ in this context don’t signify people who are full of themselves, but is a collection of people who can skillfully represent each stage of the company’s product development life cycle AND are creative, knowledgeable and open-minded enough to explore new design theories. Include representatives from Operations, Technology, Compliance, and Marketing as members of this core team.

3. Come up with a game plan

Call it what you will… Governance Model, Team Charter, Success Framework

  1. – the plan should reflect the entire team’s input on
  2. – the challenge or opportunity facing them (depending on your outlook)
  3. – the components and flow of the product development process model
  4. – how the model will be administered

This will establish boundaries and guidelines that the team will work within that they collectively created and put the rubber stamp on.

4. Align the product development process with the company’s strategic goals

This best practice seems to be common sense, but amazingly it is so often overlooked. Many times, teams involved in large, high-impact, enterprise-wide projects do not even know what their business unit’s strategic goals are, let alone the company’s. Ideation, development, and delivery of products are sure to be embedded in the company’s strategic goals and objectives. Similar to the best practice on securing executive sponsorship, if strategic alignment is not taken into consideration, the project could end up being directionless and ultimately flounder or fail. A strong suggestion here is for the team to come up with a core, manageable (6-8) set of process design principles that consider the company’s relevant strategic goals and objectives.

5. Share the process: communicate!

As tiring as the term ‘transparency’ may be, it is indeed a friend, not a foe. Communication is critical to any process redesign, and it would be wise to expect resistance if you’re redesigning a product creation and delivery model. Expect to ruffle some “but that’s the way we’ve always done things” feathers. Make sure your team has a strategy and a communication plan for sharing what’s happening before, during, and after the process model redesign with impacted parties. The old adage ‘tell them what you’re going to tell them, tell them, tell them what you told them’ is very effective in this best practice.

Any process redesign effort is going to experience bumps and challenges because the goal is ultimately to introduce change, which, let’s face it, most people resist – even ‘good’ change. However, these best practices will help your organization embrace the new process more readily and seamlessly, and six months down the road, the new process will have become the process that will catapult you to your own “sweet spot.”

Dive even deeper into the challenges of product development and expansion. Watch the recording of the webinar “Overcoming the Hurdles of Product Portfolio Expansion” that is jointly hosted by NEOS and Milliman.