By: Eric Truntz, Senior Principal
Today, insurance and financial services leaders are developing business strategies that depend more and more on AI, Machine Learning, IoT, and other technologies to maintain a competitive presence in their industries. Typically, adding such emerging technology capabilities to an enterprise requires integrating entirely new tools often with knowledgeable teams to operate them. It is therefore essential to take a strategic, methodical, and thoughtful approach to create and expand emerging technology capabilities in any enterprise and, the first step is ensuring your foundation is rock solid.
In this piece, I outline six steps to take whenever a business strategy requires companies to add robust, emerging technology capabilities to their war chests.
Step One: Identify and publicize the strategic business outcome the technology supports with specifics.
It’s easy to incite an enthusiastic audience with new technology—it’s fun, it’s new, it’s shiny, it’s enticing. However, the most impactful technologies at any enterprise are those that solve a specific business problem or measurably advance a strategic mission. Instead of starting with trendy technology and searching for a compelling use case that suits it, begin by identifying (and championing) a strategic business outcome—a better customer experience, expanded distribution channels, or improved business turnaround and throughput, for instance. Then, collaborate internally to build support and establish a priority and value for the business outcome. Lastly, establish milestones – including adding any missing technical capabilities – and link them to the business value directly. For example, “We’re improving our customer experience by building an analytics capability to identify and analyze customer journeys in sales, increase personalization in administration, and enable virtual assistance in service.” With this linkage in place, it’s easy to connect activities with the expected business return. Without it, “It’s easy to wind up chasing shiny objects that fail to deliver value and a return on investment,” said Nigel Fenwick, a vice president, and principal analyst at Forrester Research.
Step Two: Determine the business metrics that define “win, lose, or draw” for the initiative.
Certainly, no one ever sets out on an endeavor with failure as the goal. Moreover, no one looks back on such occasions with any great fondness. Ignorance and ambivalence to realized or unrealized value are far worse, however. There are instances where failing to hit business metrics of a project will indicate that the emerging technical capability being implemented may require iteration or a shift altogether—as a result of timing, complexity, expense, or other factors. It’s important to determine the KPIs (and check against them often), that indicate if a technology capability is “still worth it.” If it’s not yielding the desired results, pivot or squash it.
Step Three: Search and sift the market for tools to help provide knowledge, application insights, and experiences.
As immersed as someone can be in their own business, it’s essential to keep current with emerging trends, tools, and techniques to help advance your own company’s mission. This could be working with a consultant to identify gaps in your current business architecture, or data-analysis and collaboration tools that could increase the velocity of your projects. As quickly as your business is evolving, so are the tools and people available to advance your mission. Before breaking ground on new initiatives—attend a conference, virtual event, or ask industry colleagues about tools, teams, and techniques they have explored and, most importantly, experienced.
Step Four: Pilot a small, impactful, quick win, and apply business measures—publicly.
Similarly, to step one, identify and promote specific quick wins for the project and publicize expectations for these among team members and other areas of the business. While it’s always nice to have an executive sponsor or project champion, it’s also imperative to get outside of the “stakeholder bubble” and keep others apprised of the efforts and outcomes this technology will afford the company. Promoting these small wins along the way keeps others informed of progress and success, and they’ll be more likely to adopt and champion the final result.
Step Five: Validate the application of the technology to complete the strategic outcome—and measure often.
As the projects that drive the overall business strategy progress, continue to measure against your predetermined metrics outlined in step two—often. Continue to ask, “is this technical capability enhancing our current process or benefitting customers?”, “are we still on target to achieve our desired final goal?” Determine points throughout the process to take a step back and evaluate often.
Step Six: Operationalize the “emerged” technology by weaving it into the fabric of “business as usual” capability development.
Once the technology capability is implemented and the first strategic business project that wields it is delivered, it’s time to make the important shift from emerging to “emerged” and to integrate the new capability into your existing operational portfolio. While this vital step seems less exciting than the innovation that occurs in earlier stages, having a tight, efficient, and complete process for managing this transformation is the gateway to improved business agility in any enterprise. Establish engagement strategies, SLA’s, and governance for all activities. Build momentum and radiate the success realized in the first delivery to other projects across the enterprise.
Continue to build on the momentum of the small wins that were promoted throughout that first project that show value. “Change management is vital to a project. Throughout the entirety of a project, it’s important to inform the end-users of what’s coming, how it will work (and how they will work with it), and why it will benefit them,” said Eric Fairchild, Senior Principal, NEOS.
Approaching this, methodically and thoughtfully will allow the project to pivot and evolve. Like any successful initiative, ensure to start small, revaluate often, and build momentum over time.
Whether it’s project management or digital transformation (and everything in between), consider partnering with a resource that has been there, done that. Learn more about NEOS.