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Data, ROI and Flat Design – 3 Things to consider when refreshing strategic systems and processes

October 4, 2013

He nailed it from 3 rungs up in the plumbing aisle.  My town’s mayor and local hardware store owner got it right when, while standing on a ladder as we needled him on the Yankee’s sad final collapse he said, “it’s a mark of genius – next year they’ll keep the same team, declare each game an Old Timers Game, and sell out”.

In a confluence of events, the NY Times Sports section had an article this week on how the Yankee’s Manager, Joe Girardi, is an expert at gently easing out aging franchise players.  Then, about an hour later, I was reading an article in Insurance & Technology on how Chief Claims Officers are dealing with an aging group of core claims adjusters, and overall, the claims workforce is ‘transient and aging’.  You can imagine walking into a Claims Processing center and seeing everyone in pinstripes, talking to their agents about increasing autographed picture sales. More likely, you’ll see people processing as hard as they can, being pushed to handle more, faster and using workarounds taught to them by their now retired predecessors. Then they complain using their smartphone social media apps.

Many carriers are rethinking their claims process, from implementing Business Intelligence, to GIS, to rethinking their end to end processes using Lean or Lean like methodologies and not taking the next-gen workforce into consideration.  Too often, so are their consultants.  If you want to laugh at the typical, “synergistic integration”, approach to consulting by instinct, here’s a recent La Quinta commercial, too close to the truth not to be funny,  Each of these approaches, summarized as throwing either tech or abstractly developed efficiency at the problem, will not produce the kind of results needed in a world where your existing and prospective customers, both commercial and personal, are already thinking on a ‘what’s my consistent experience’ basis. Bottom line is your new claims staff will be Millennials, your customers a combination of Millennials and Gen X, and their views of production systems and user experiences are different and ready now, or not, their combined vision is the future.

How then, do you implement a process and system survivable for the next 10 years?  Based on our experience, here are 3 key factors:

  1. Use a data driven approach to figuring out what is wrong in each process.  Since Millennials do not want to assign (or receive) criticism, having a strong and convincing data set will allow them to focus on addressing operational issues. Use a leave behind Operational Dashboard, quickly implementable, end-user driven and action oriented, rather than being an overlay.  Ongoing, Management can reuse this dashboard, launching Alerts and Actions Requests in near-immediate responses to short-term issues.  For example, post Sandy, would it have been useful for a 2 day effort to create a Claims tracking dashboard, allowing for both rapid resource deployment and faster mid-journey process fixes? One thing we’ve learned over the years and 50+ process Improvement engagements, the expression “I wish we knew the facts before we started to spend the money”, is still said too often.
  2. Track any Operational Improvements and the associated technology refresh at a finite level, focusing not only on task completion but on the expected ROI.  Focus on the big data identified ‘big stuff’, not overly worrying about things such as relocating printers (as one company I knew just did with considerable fanfare to the staff’s non-surprise).  Use a central Operational Improvement Tracking and Communications tool for social commentary, task tracking and ROI tracking without relying on email blizzards and static project management tools or RAG reports.  This tool, as with the dashboard mentioned above, should be mobile enabled so Sponsoring Executives and team members on-the-go can see progress.
  3. Everyone now integrates their personal and business customer experience into a single viewpoint, so ensure your new technology is not the logical extension of the older screen design paradigms.  Your best Millennial employees, those who are more than workertrons, will gravitate to those companies where production systems utilize a user interface as close as possible to their other experiences.  For example, some core platform vendors have incorporated integrated streaming video conferencing (via webcams) into their Claims process, which besides being hyper-efficient, is also in-line with a generation’s familiarity with FaceTime, Skype and YouTube.  Same for integrated process flows within a core platform, rather than relying on email and manually checking queues. Vendor selection should therefore include more than the traditional test drive, alternatives should be evaluated as part of the in-house/external world integrated go-forward customer experience.

In addition to screen layout and navigation, design aesthetic also plays a large role. Millennials and Gen X are both very comfortable performing complex and accuracy-dependent functions on the limited real estate of tablets and smartphones.  Thus, the rise of Flat Design, the aesthetic where all extraneous design elements are removed, and complex information is easy to understand.  I noticed recently even the local weather report on the  6AM news now uses a Flat Design principles, so how are we to expect someone to leave their home, go to work and then see nothing but spreadsheet emulation applications screens or remakes of 1990’s screen navigation?   Those firms not employing Usability testing for design aesthetic, as well as for content and the daily functional hierarchy, rarely get application development or vendor selection right for the long term.  Implied are treating corporate usability standards as living documents, updated regularly.

New insurance systems and associated processes will exist for the next 10 years, and both consumers and employees have mature views of technology.  Staff retention will be an issue for those firms trying to preserve, or buy, already dated technology.  As Sparky Anderson, one of only 18 Managers in the Baseball Hall of Fame said, “I’ve got my faults, but living in the past isn’t one of them.  There’s no future in it”.

Richard Eichen is the Founder and Managing Principal of Return on Efficiency, LLC, , focusing on companies, initiatives and products where technology is the primary means of delivery and revenue. He is one of their senior Turnaround, Transformation, Program Rescue and Process Rescue leaders.  As a Change Agent, Trusted Advisor, Program Leader and Interim Executive, Rich has over 25 years hands-on experience reshaping companies, Operations, IT/Systems Integration and strategic initiatives.  He can be reached at, and followed on Twitter, @RDEgrowroe

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