Trade media and conference speakers continue to demand two essential things from insurance companies in Germany: they must continue to go digital and become more agile. But the topic of agility is not that simple.
In recent years, there has been almost an inflationary use of the term "agility" in books, blogs, and talks. This could be because very different perceptions are associated with it to some extent.
Agility is more than a catchword
Agile approaches in project management and (software) development processes are now more than a buzzword. For example, Allianz has had a good experience using agile processes in the development of new products and rates. The company has continued to lose market share in the auto insurance segment. So for nearly three years, it has been putting everything under scrutiny. Since agile methods had been popular in Allianz already, they were easily extended to the auto insurance as well. This is a segment that threatened to become more and more complex due to many factors and optional components. An interdisciplinary team took on the task of better understanding the customers' needs and creating products that offer them true value. With a more regular (product) design process and continuous feedback from policyholders, Allianz came much closer to its goal of becoming more relevant for its customers.
See eye to eye with fintechs
In modern IT development agile forms of work play a big role. The classic approach of working on a product with as many features as possible for a long time no longer applies. Instead, the motto is: frequent and quick, iterative development. The basis is the "minimum viable product". Insurance companies that seek proximity to fintechs have to understand their approach and try to harmonize it with their own processes and product presentations. If the proverbial worlds collide, this will lead to more than just communication difficulties. The success of a project could even be at risk if the insurance company cannot keep up with its partner's speed.
A challenge for the company culture
First and foremost, agile work promises more speed, greater adaptability to changing general conditions, and with that also more innovative capability. But an organization does not become agile by external coaches implementing the necessary work processes. Whether Scrum or Kanban, these are tools that work only if they are understood by employees and used with conviction. This is the management's task: to initiate and accompany a shift in the company culture. But it is precisely this change that usually presents itself as the greatest hurdle in the transformation toward agility, closely followed by the challenge of cross-departmental collaboration and coordination between agile and traditional projects.
Independent work in teams is one of the keys to the agile approach. This requires managers who encourage individual responsibility among employees and create an environment in which mistakes are okay and are part of the development process.
Agile methods create the basis for production innovations and for more streamlined and flexible processes in insurance companies. They are one of the keys to digitalization. But only if agility reaches the management level too.
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