Financial services firms, including insurers, are second only to software companies in their take-up of agile. Done well, agile can increase not only the speed of IT product delivery but also the speed of benefits seen by customers, employees, the organization, processes, technology and data. But while many companies understand what agile is and have started rolling out agile projects, results have varied.

Guidewire’s InsuranceSuite—one of the leading insurance software suites helping insurers improve their operational efficiency, speed to market and customer experience—can enable carriers to be more agile and responsive in an industry facing massive disruption.

What does an agile business look like?

Agile can be effective throughout the business, from small changes to projects and large-scale programs. The defining characteristics are:

  • A clear focus on outcomes and benefits.
  • Putting customers and colleagues at the heart of design.
  • A bias towards pace and speed to benefit.
  • Shorter delivery cycles, with more frequent iterations.
  • More time “iterating in live,” rather than getting there.

Applying agile across the organization

For insurers wanting to implement agile, shifts are required in IT, the change function and the business as a whole across multiple dimensions including leadership, talent, collaboration, risk and culture.

Because there is a lot of work to do and it can feel overwhelming, we recommend insurers consider four steps to increase their agility:

  1. Focus on being agile, rather than doing agile. Being agile is fundamentally about giving teams the freedom to work in a more flexible change environment, to quickly progress projects and respond rapidly to user feedback and market forces. It may not be appropriate for every project to work in two-week iterations or hold daily stand-ups, so don’t feel under pressure to implement the methodology. But do promote the message that customers have an increasingly loud voice and influence—all change needs to be responsive to this.
  2. Start small and share success stories. Organizations that have successfully moved to agile start by running a handful of successful smaller agile initiatives and then sharing the results. As successes mount, more and more projects can embrace similar thinking. Collaboration can enable change teams to successfully deliver within this framework. This is when insurers really begin to leverage the multi-speed model and consider areas that might benefit from increased agility, identifying small steps to make the necessary shift.
  3. Tailor your approach by project. Don’t forget that every project is different. No agile model will fit all approaches or is a silver bullet. In some projects it may be appropriate to use a full agile methodology, but in others it could be more effective to start by identifying ways to increase agility within a more sequential approach. Take the time to understand what is appropriate, especially before undergoing massive transformation to introduce new processes and governance structures.
  4. Adopt agile on a forward-looking basis. For projects and programs already in flight, intercept them if you can but don’t slow them down. Apply your move to agile on a forward-looking basis, making the changes that you can in a way that will help speed things up.

At Accenture, we’re always looking for ways to help our clients reduce investment risk, accelerate time to market for new products and services, and support design that delivers better customer experiences. With our recent acquisition of SolutionsIQ—a leading provider of agile transformation services—we have strengthened our capacity to help insurers apply agile principles and practices throughout a Guidewire transformation.

If you are looking to achieve substantial performance improvements including enhanced digital delivery effectiveness, reduced cycle times for software development and greater responsiveness to business needs, Accenture can help.

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