Ready to Launch: Considerations for Core Modernizations
My Vitech colleagues and I are well aware of how challenging core modernization can be. From first making the case for a new policy administration system (PAS) (see “Making the Case for a New Cloud-Native Policy Administration System”) to selecting the appropriate vendor (see “What Group Insurance Companies Should Consider When Selecting Administration Systems”), I can say with authority that it is a complex and often lengthy exercise. Even after the dust has settled from the winnowing down and ultimate selection of a PAS partner to modernize some or all of your core system, the hardest part is still to come! All the blood, sweat, and tears that have gone into developing RFIs, RFPS, demos, POCs, and contracting have brought you to this eagerly awaited moment of project kick-off. At this stage of the process, there are several pitfalls and “ah-ha” moments that will happen no matter how much you plan, but I wanted to take the proverbial core modernization baton from my fellow SMEs and lay out some considerations that should enable a much smoother process.
“State” of Mind
By this stage, you should have a decent vision of what your future state environment should look like. Of course, as you move along in project scoping, there will be changes and compromises, but your future state vision is what should drive this implementation. All too often, group insurers get stuck in current state mode when designing and thinking about their system of the future. It’s hard for some to imagine that processes can be done a different way now, but you absolutely do not want to replicate your old environment in your newly purchased core platform. Make sure your project team on both the technical and operations side is forward thinking when it comes to scoping how the system will be implemented. This is your time to reflect on all that stinks about your current process and design your solution to clear the air!
Chart Your Course
Consider developing a project charter; this can be your “north star” for the project. This allows the project team to have accountability for the solution they are helping to develop. Your charter should include key resources, cost-benefit analysis commitments, if any, roles and responsibilities, a decision-making structure, and project goals. Amendments are fine, if necessary, but this charter should act as your guide. Seek the buy-in and approval of your entire project team on this charter so when you reach a fork in the road, you have a reference point to help make the decisions to move ahead.
Don’t Forget About Us
Once you have reached consensus on how the solution should work, deciding who will be on the project team and how much of their time will be allocated to the initiative will be a key decision. Resource allocation will likely change and evolve over the project’s duration, but it’s important to ask your vendor partner what SMEs they will need on this project, when they will need them, and for how long. Decisions will need to be made to balance their daily work with project assistance. Keep in mind, you may have too many people who want to be involved because it’s currently the cool, fun project. Resource planning should be done early and often. Consider involving newer team members in project discussions to flesh out any new ideas that might not have been considered. It’s also a good idea to validate your thinking with the folks closest to the daily operations to make sure it will/could work that way. With expectations of long days, tight deadlines, and project fatigue, talk with your project team about what they should expect over the next few months as the project moves along. Setting achievable goals, providing visibility into project status, as well as extra incentives for your project team will keep them motivated and engaged during this journey. Doing team-building activities that are fun and non-project related allows for some group downtime, while also forging team unity.
I have yet to see a core modernization project that goes exactly as planned. Prepare your project team for the turbulent times; they are inevitable no matter how well you plan. It’s important to evaluate progress as you go, to ensure that you continue to build the right solution. Lean on your vendor partner for guidance when tough areas arise, as they inevitably will. There might be weeks where the project goes smoothly, and then suddenly, you hit a speed bump and the wheels fall off. That doesn’t mean everyone needs to jump out of the car and start walking; it means that the team needs to work together to put the wheels back on! It’s also okay to pivot on a few ideas or goals as you get deeper into implementation. Maybe some new information has come up, or your original thought didn’t pan out the way you had hoped. Again, seek the counsel of your vendor partner on any changes to make sure you are looking at the situation correctly.
Large projects like a core modernization take months to complete with involvement from many different teams across a group carrier. Setting early expectations around what the road ahead might be like will be valuable in preparing your project team for the adversity they will surely face as the modernization progresses, while simultaneously balancing their daily responsibilities. It’s likely roles and responsibilities will look different for various sectors once the project is completed, and this could raise a lot of concerns in your organization. It’s essential to keep the communication flowing so everyone understands what the end result of this project is, and what it will mean to them. If you keep your project team and other interested parties in the dark, they will assume the worst, and likely look for new opportunities. Encourage team members to ask questions, or even reserve time each month or week for an open discussion about the project, where people can raise concerns, ask questions, and share ideas. Team morale is often overlooked when the task at hand is a large-scale transformation, so do your best to keep the team engaged and happy with what the end result will mean for everyone. Good luck as you embark on your transformational journey — I promise it will all be worth it when the magical “go-live day” arrives!
To see how Vitech and V3locity, our cloud-native administration, engagement, and analytics platform, can help streamline your PAS operations, expand your offerings and capabilities, and modernize your system’s technology in one integrated solution, click here.