Life Insurance

CAN YOUR IT OPERATING MODEL STAND UP TO DEMAND? REINVIGORATING IT IS MORE THAN JUST A FACELIFT

The new workforce is on its way to an insurance business near you.

It will likely include a new or increased use of a virtual workforce, since 70% of executives polled believe that is a requirement to stay competitive, according to the Oxford Economics Digital Megatrend Survey, while a survey reported by Fortune indicated a 23% increase in remote job postings between 2013 and 2014. It will likely also manifest itself as humans work side by side with robots to accomplish tasks faster, more accurately and perhaps more safely, such as a drone providing loss information in a fire-ravaged building.

The new workforce will be full of millennials and digital natives embracing technology and demanding more solutions to their digital problems–even as their older coworkers are more reluctant to relinquish the tried-and-true technology they are quite comfortable retaining.

Squarely in the middle of all this change stands the IT organization. It too must change, or it will become the stumbling block that keeps the organization from moving forward.

If you think of IT simply as the individuals who stand between man and machine taking orders, you are missing something. The new, reinvigorated IT operating model actually is structured like a business within the organization.

That requires overcoming the shoe problem. Like the shoemaker whose children are unshod, IT organizations in the data-rich insurance industry often spend so much energy supporting and reacting that it’s easy to overlook some of the fundamental changes underway in technology delivery. It has also been traditional to compare your operations with those of others in your industry–and then stop. But easy or traditional approaches just don’t work well anymore, especially since competition is often from outside the industry. Then there is the growing set of challenges posed by mobile applications for employees, and the needs of virtual employees working offsite or offshore. The new IT operating model must enable the flexibility needed to handle whatever changes occur within the organizations and with the ecosystems to which it belongs.

At its most basic, introducing a new, reinvigorated IT Operating Model can provide a blueprint of how each component within an IT organization functions so there is clear, consensus-driven guidance to delivering services. The model will need to account for new capabilities, including digital, prototyping and incubation, data governance and analytics, and future innovations.

Typically, the IT Operating Model is designed by a four-to-six-person team over an eight-to-12-week period, though this might vary depending on organization size, global footprint and complexity. The team usually works under strong executive-level stewardship, and engages in an assessment of the existing operation, designs an ideal high-level organization, then creates a program to move the entire operation to that ideal. Development doesn’t stop there, though. As with a piece of software, the model needs to be refined, tested and tweaked with a lot of assistance from the executive team. Only then is it ready for prime time.

The model that emerges from this process needs to enable a platform that breaks down silos and encourages a modular architecture with shared services, centers of excellence and communities of practice. Like the models in so many industries, it should replace the software-waterfall approach with new ways to deliver for the business using techniques such as DevOps, a process to encourage communication between software development, technology operations and quality assurance for faster and more useful technology. Cloud computing is now a major tool reflected in innovative IT models in most industries, enabling a company to rent software it actually needs rather than make a purchase commitment, and freeing it from the demands of maintaining a legacy system. Another modern IT practice that IT Organization Models include is Continuous Delivery, where bite-sized software updates are released frequently, rather than in major, but infrequent, releases.

And then there’s Multi Speed IT, where you don’t simply apply the same resources to the competing needs to run your business, adjust to changes and seek out opportunities. Business changes fast these days, and the operating model should enable you to shift gears, readjusting deployment in line with your desired outcome, while taking into account legacy requirements through digital capabilities and everything in between.

It is not only possible, but also desirable to build an IT organization that can respond to shifts in business, workforce and even global priorities. It all starts with the operating model.

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