While every organization’s agile transformation will be unique, there are three common approaches for insurers.

In this series, we’ve been looking at what insurers can do in the face of ongoing disruption. We’ve talked about where the industry ranks on the Accenture Disruptability Index (oscillating between vulnerability and volatility). And I’ve shared key actions insurers can take to counter disruption. In this final post, we’ll take a deeper dive into competitive agility and how you can use agility to strengthen your market position.

Agility is a term we hear frequently, but what does an agile transformation look like in practice for insurance carriers? Most insurers I’ve spoken with have embarked on a journey to agility. However, these journeys are not one-size-fits-all. They tend to follow one of three approaches. Each has pros and cons.

The big bang approach

Some insurers have successfully adopted agility with a big bang approach. By this, I mean that they’ve taken an overarching view, applying agility and digital technologies across the entire enterprise. This can be a bit like “ripping the band-aid off.” It can lead to widespread change (and pain) but with a corresponding boost in efficiency and competitiveness.

But often it’s the case that parts of the organization are not ready for wholesale transformation. For example, in terms of talent, not everyone is willing or able to perform in an agile way. There’s added pressure when you have to work in short sprints. And there are areas of the insurance business and components of insurers’ technology ecosystems that don’t require the same level of agility to operate at optimal levels.

While this approach can be highly effective for some organizations, for many there are numerous pitfalls to overcome.

The IT-only approach

Other insurers seek to deliver their products and services in a more agile manner. To do this, they choose to convert their IT organizations to an agile framework. I’ve seen great success with this approach too—enterprise technology groups migrating to a product-based implementation and cross-discipline teams delivering more iteratively.

However, for insurers using this approach, the question is how they know teams are working on the right things. Are they using the right level of strategic thinking? What about prioritization across the business? While there may be improvements in the frequency of delivery, are the right things being delivered? This is one of the challenges insurers should think about before taking this path.

The cross-discipline approach between business and IT

I’ve seen the greatest success with insurers taking a more deliberate cross-discipline approach at the program level. These insurers have pivoted program teams to continuous delivery and continuous innovation—learning what resonates with customers and where things break down during the onboarding cycle. They’ve also built these new capabilities on a core platform that supports agility.

The main lesson we’ve learned from these insurers is that beginning with an agile program makes it easier for teams to pivot to continuous and iterative improvements. Also, by including business stakeholders early on, insurers do a better job of delivering the right products.

To succeed in a climate of persistent disruption, insurers need to be flexible and agile. Insurance executives must embrace intellectual curiosity and have a desire to learn from colleagues, competitors and other industries. Ultimately, tremendous opportunities lie ahead for those willing to follow the data, to look outward and to invest in competitive agility.

If you’d like to learn more about Accenture’s Disruptability Index, read Breaking Through Disruption: Embrace the Power of the Wise Pivot

Or, if you want to discuss how competitive agility could help your business meet disruption head on, reach out to me directly.

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