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The Soft Stuff is Often the Hardest

Imran Ilyas
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 29, 2014

Over the past year, we’ve seen an unprecedented investment by small- to mid-sized carriers in policy administration implementations. Carriers that experience successful implementations will be well-positioned to leapfrog larger, better-funded competitors thanks to improved product flexibility and timeliness, not to mention lower IT costs.

For a transformation of this magnitude, it is necessary to define a targeted organizational change management strategy. Organizational change management is key not only to minimize disruption during the change, but also to enable adoption and realization of the business benefits.

Moreover, our experience shows us that “soft” stuff like change management is often the hardest. Below, we expand on our previous posts by describing some key lessons we’ve learned when defining and executing change management strategies for policy administration system (PAS) implementations:

  • Don’t forget about your customers. Most carriers do not go beyond traditional marketing or sales techniques when managing change with their agents; therefore, they risk lower revenue due to agent dissatisfaction or changes in carrier preference and damage to the carrier’s brand. A structured change management approach aimed at driving adoption of the new systems, while taking into account the needs of both agents and customers, will enable a more successful transition of your agency force.
  • Consistent communication with customers. Sequencing and coordination of communication (i.e., speaking with one voice) is critical for consistent external messaging of the changes. All employees in the organization must be confident in the rationale for change and be able to share consistent messages when speaking with customers.
  • Organization readiness. With any transformation of this size, the company will have to make a number of changes to ensure organizational alignment with the new system. Successful programs identify these necessary changes early in the transformation process and track their implementation prior to going live. This approach helps uncover potential risks and begins transferring ownership of what’s changed from the project team to the individuals who are directly affected.
  • What’s in it for me? PAS projects’ long timelines mean that it’s often difficult to provide any information about the impact of changes on stakeholders until later in the project lifecycle. This tends to result in an active grapevine, but rumors are often inaccurate — if not flat-out wrong. When communicating with stakeholders, be clear about what you know and what you don’t, as well as when you’ll be able to share more information of relevance to employees. Because they are unlikely to be of much interest to employees, avoid simply giving project management updates.
  • Training is not a one-time event. Training program development is critical. The complexity of system, product, rate, role and process changes will make training time consuming and costly, but it is vital to a transformation’s success. To enable effective learning of so much new information, there will need to be additional training after going live.
  • Organizational support is key. Don't underestimate the need for leadership advocacy both during and after going live. Ensure leaders are visible vocal, and supportive of change.
  • Real change management happens after going live. Once the system is live, leadership must hold the organization accountable for new responsibilities, and also must realign processes to support business case realization.

In closing, companies often underestimate the importance of change management, thereby implying to the organization as a whole that it is not core to delivering on the “hard” benefits of the business case. However, getting change management right is critical to a PAS transformation’s success.

Projects that effectively manage the human elements of change are significantly more likely to deliver on objectives and business results. Therefore, while change management may be viewed as the “soft” side of a transformation, the suggestions we make above will help your organization realize the benefits of your investment.

Imran Ilyas, partner with PwC's Advisory Services, co-authored this piece with Debra Mazloff, Kristina Morris and Josh Knipp of PwC’s Advisory Services.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Imran using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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

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