Madhu Malhotra, CTO, Edelweiss General Insurance

Madhu is an eminent Technology leader with two decades of rich experience across FinTech and Telecom domains. She has a proven track-record in leading digital innovations, engineering modernisations & transformations and streamlining cloud initiatives. Prior to joining Edelweiss General Insurance Madhu was associated with Spectra as head of Technology. She was also associated with Airtel for 10 years and held many leadership positions there. While at Airtel Bank, she led the launch of the first payments bank of India, headed the financial inclusion vertical to deliver large scale customer impact and drove Agile adoption and transformation.

 

Agile is an iterative approach to project management and is also widely used in software development. Agile and its various methods help in faster delivery of value by teams to their customers. Organizations that adopt agile practices will be able to achieve speed to market, have superior customer satisfaction and increased efficiency and productivity. Let’s understand Agile more in detail

Busting all myths about Agile

  • Agile is a fad! Organizations have been successfully using Agile since 1993. With such a long history, Agile has clearly passed the buzz stage. Data indicates that about 66 percent of organizations have been found using an Agile process in at least one of their projects. 
  • Agile is only a digital thing. Agile methodology is agnostic about what it is being used to create. It helps sweep aside the limitations of conventional project management whether it is software development or general project management related.
  • To ‘execute’ Agile means the entire organization needs to change. Agile works in a modular way. Any one end-to-end process can be picked up and its transformation benefits can be assessed before going ahead with wider adoption.
  • Agile takes longer with its so many stages, showcases and updates. With Agile, the progress is incremental and transparent, it allows for mid-way course corrections, touchpoints are regular and whatever is being created is being done on a rolling basis. There are no surprises that get unveiled at the very last stage.

Insurance as a Tech outsourced industry

Insurers in general have been outsourcing 25% to 90% of their technology teams on an average. Specific levels may vary as per business needs. Most insurers outsource Tech to meet skills or capacity needs for critical transformation projects or its initial foray into the market. 

Most of the time, tasks are outsourced to partners who specialize in their respective fields. The tasks are expected to be completed faster and with better quality output. This allows Insurers to concentrate on the task of running their business and not micromanaging development teams. 

In today’s digital age, business and market conditions are quite dynamic.  A product feature that may be required today, may not be a priority for tomorrow.  This makes long drawn plans formed by partners on a fixed scope become unpredictable and many a times redundant. In addition to this, a team of outside programmers, no matter how skillful and professional, will usually never have the same motivation to deliver excellence as an in-house team would.

The current times of InsurTech and why Agile is much more relevant now 

Insurance Industry is changing with the change in customer expectations. The customer today is more than willing to switch to BigTechs and new age InsurTechs. Budding InsurTechs are leveraging Tech to bring new innovative products, new strategies built over Data, IOT and AI/ML, to thrive in the emerging Insurance penetration patterns. The pandemic has fueled the Insurance demand further by over 7% globally. Insurtech fundings have also increased over the past two years. The 2021 World InsurTech Research report suggests that traditional insurers will have to change the way they do business because of the stiff competition from their peer Insurtech players. 

The rate of change in the Tech world has also accelerated dramatically over the past 10 years. There is no reason not to expect this quickening trend to continue in Insurance too. Today’s “fast and innovative enough” will likely not be enough tomorrow. In order to remain competitive, Insurers will need to think of out-of-the-box solutions and yet pivot fast. 

The new age and upcoming InsurTechs who want to use Technology to drive their businesses need to be nimble and their Tech teams closer to the problem. They need to involve a greater range of voices from Tech to have insights into different aspects of the business. They need to set goals that are flexible enough to dynamically change as the market demands and needs shift. They need to connect often, assess progress and pivot if required. 

Agile and its methods helps solve all the problems stated above. Agile way of working has proven useful for many InsurTechs who have gone ahead with it. And this has set the stage for InsurTechs relying more and more on Agile along with keeping the product development and engineering inhouse which is closer to the business. Agile brings very high and frequent collaboration amongst the Tech and Business teams which enables quicker development, changing course faster at lower costs and hence giving them a competitive advantage in a fast-paced market.

How can Agile bring about a change in how InsurTechs operate and build businesses  

Insurers at their core are a service and knowledge business. New innovative products combined with a digital footprint can dramatically impact their ability to provide customers with positive experiences. Agile can bring about this difference through ways listed below:

  • Shift from Legacy to Modern technologies– Agile adoption can help fast track paper-to-digital transformations, build analytics and data platform, and quicken an Insurer’s ability to act on new opportunities like new Partner Integrations that arise in the marketplace by making quick adjustments to APIs, products, and services. 
  • Deliver greater value to customers – The best way to provide maximum value to customers is having a sound understanding of changing consumer needs. Agile helps deliver software that is intuitive, rich and does not require large amounts of documentation, is created through quality stakeholder collaboration, and provides relevant products faster through iterative development cycles.
  • Improve time to market – Agile helps development teams to focus on optimizing the services by taking an iterative approach to product development. This approach helps to start small, fail fast, and scale quickly. Insurers can hence adjust to the current market demand for digital innovation e.g., IOT and Connected devices thereby aligning themselves more closely with current customer needs.
  • Improve stakeholder alignment – Agile increases the level of Predictability and Visibility via frequent internal collaboration. Insurers can swiftly identify potential risks, speed up responses and decision-making and reduce bottlenecks and rework. This helps build better alignment between Business and Tech.

It is amply clear that the current times demand Insurers to get faster, leaner, and effective and thereby embrace Agile.  Agile will maximize accountability, allowing faster new products launches and with business and Tech working closely as a single unit, there will be less time spent on alignment and decisioning.

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