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The Hunt for Easter Eggs

Clay Ricord
Insurance Experts' Forum, October 1, 2009

If you are a technology enthusiast or know one, you know that some software comes with “Easter eggs”—extra functions hidden somewhere in the program. With the right combination of keystrokes or actions, users can find a software reward of some kind. It might be a video or game within a game or other special functionality that you can use. These are not limited to games: the 1997 version of Microsoft Office contained an Easter egg, a demo of “Flight Simulator” which was a popular game of its time.

There is an interesting parallel in commercial business applications. For many companies, the supposedly obvious features of systems they have bought are just as hidden as an Easter egg is to the average consumer. This happens in both large and small organizations for a variety of reasons. Few organizations want to admit it.

The idea that there are features and capabilities in software that are ready to be used but challenging to unlock is, well, not so good. Two strong forces are at work against the full utilization. First, organizations quickly move back to a steady state after a change. The day-to-day pressure to get work done, to add value to a process, and to get on with the work at hand is considerable. After all, that is why the department exists—to select the risk, issue the policy, adjudicate the claim, and so on. Unless there is something to disrupt that steady state (a pain point), things tend to continue as-is.

The other force is inertia—in this case, moving beyond the current knowledge state. When conducting operational reviews, it’s not unusual for me to hear, “I didn’t know our system could do that.” This gap in system familiarity is understandable. How many applications does your organization use? How many are current within their version updates? How many have a subject matter expert (SME) reviewing changes and features?

The applications and tools available to the insurance market today are very powerful and feature-rich. They also are very flexible in how they interact with users and automate processes.  A new version may bring functionality and changes that make previously unused features a real benefit to the organization. An SME must be able to compare new features (and unused features) to a business area’s current and future needs, and advocate feature adoption where appropriate. In fact, whole systems can sometimes be applied in entirely new areas. This is particularly true of BPM systems.

What can your organization do to better leverage the capabilities of your application investments? Start by asking yourselves the following questions:

1.    Are there SMEs assigned to understand the changes and features in your applications?
2.    Do you know what features you use and what ones you don’t?
3.    Is there an improvement process in place that the business uses to identify opportunities?
4.    Is there a process in place for the business and SME to communicate in an organized, results-focused manner?

The goal is not to try to use every feature of a system because some features don’t fit and others don’t improve the process or outcome. The goal should be to fully use the available tools that will deliver the best operational performance. Take a look—you might be pleasantly surprised to find an Easter egg hidden in your core applications.

Clay Ricord is a senior consultant for The Robert E. Nolan Co., a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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