Divide and Conquer: Five Phases for Insurance Solution Implementation Success
“Divide and conquer.”
Julius Caesar said these famous words before conquering Gaul (modern-day France), expanding the Roman Empire into Western Europe, and consolidating his power. The Roman Empire would eventually fall, but Caesar was on to something: dividing a long war into a series of smaller battles results in eventual victory.
Instead of territorial conquest, today’s group insurance carriers contend with complex policy administration solution (PAS) implementations, with transformative, on-time, and on-budget engagements the hard-won triumph. Experienced software solution providers know the importance of understanding project objectives and the scope, time, and budget assumptions necessary for project success. They also recognize that the best outcomes result from dividing complicated projects into five distinct phases — analysis, launch, configuration, deployment, and post-implementation review — to achieve the best outcomes.
The Five Phases Construct
The five phases for project success deliver a disciplined methodology that minimizes risk for solution providers and allows clients to achieve the best project and business objectives. Namely:
The initial analysis phase helps solution providers understand the detailed project expectations and resourcing requirements. During this phase, they analyze information from sales discussions and/or the RFP, then confirm and finalize the scope, requirements, approach, migration strategy, timeline, and costs. Solution providers should then clarify the work responsibilities among the client and system integrator resources and establish project staffing by matching a project track lead to a client counterpart, who is co-accountable for the track’s success. Finally, providers should develop a management directive for the initial implementation go-live, with a minimally viable product (MVP).
The launch phase helps solution providers establish governance and team empowerment. Solution providers should use this phase to orient all team members with the project’s scope, objectives, methodology, and operations standards. These standards not only achieve active client sponsor involvement from the business and IT but also facilitate good management decision-making, with a reasonable, big-picture approach. Another key aspect of the launch phase is the client laying the groundwork for team enablement and timely project member decision-making.
The configuration phase is ideally for completing most of the project work, with full client buy-in throughout. A key aspect of this phase for solution providers is dividing the project work into sequential sprints, organized across multiple, functional tracks. These sprints should result in an incremental delivery approach that drives alignment, transparency, early identification of concerns, and buy-in throughout the project by:
- Matching requirements to the correct configuration. For example, trained business users may address user interface requirements through pre-set parameter configurations while more technical users will likely complete the configurations for complex business rules, calculations, and system interfaces.
- Achieving data cleanliness and minimizing client IT involvement for migrations. Solution providers should begin by cleansing and normalizing data for a small subset of employer customer data and then cleansing and normalizing the bulk legacy data. Ideally, the solution provider should minimize the client’s IT resource involvement and empower project associates to complete the migrations over time.
The critical deployment phase is for completing final user acceptance testing, moving configurations into production, and executing client training for successful user adoption. Throughout the implementation, the vendor should collaborate with the client’s leadership to develop a comprehensive training plan that addresses the learning needs of the various users and constituents. For best results, training should include virtual or in-person instructor-led education, train-the-trainer instruction, non-instructor video lessons, and documentation.
After the implementation is complete, the solution provider should assess the project and confirm that it attained its stated scope, schedule, budget, and benefits, to determine how effectively it was run and to learn for the future. The provider should also ensure that the client receives the optimum outcomes from the project. An effective and forward-looking review can reveal strategies for future project improvement and should be compared with the initial concept to determine and confirm effective product delivery.
Effective PAS implementations provide insurers with the innovative technology and digital transformation they need to stand out in a highly competitive industry. With the five phases of project implementation, solution providers have a well-established framework to guide complex projects from initial expectation through completion and final assessment, to provide insurers with the best possible results for next-generation technology modernization and performance.