(Image Credit: Dollar Photo Club.)
High competition, shrinking margins and tightened laws and restrictions make it especially important for insurance companies to make a good return on investment, more efficiently and more effectively. Implementing project management (PM) best practices helps insurers improve their performance, sell more products and retain customers.
Insurance carriers are becoming smarter at utilizing PM practices effectively while remaining flexible to adapt those practices to demand. But while there has been improvement in the area, it’s essential for companies to continue to improve and stay focused on how best to execute project management methodologies. So, let’s take a look at some best practices for successful project management implementation for the insurance industry:
- Keep your PM as dynamic as your processes
Yes, every project manager will agree that having a solid plan of action from the very beginning is essential. But that doesn’t mean that the plan can’t be modified along the way. You need to be flexible to be able to meet market and customer demands. Always have a Plan B (or even Plan C) ready. Keep in mind that it’s not about making constant changes to the plan as necessary, but it’s about anticipating changes and risks, reacting in a timely manner and adapting the plan accordingly.
Insurers are familiar with risk management, but instead of just identifying the risks for clients, it’s important to identify, assess and mitigate risks when implementing a project—and have an actionable plan ready. Think about what could go wrong and how it could go wrong, what can be done to prevent problems from occurring, and counter measures needed to mitigate issues.
- Keep your project on track
Now that you have a plan and identified risks, how do you make sure that things are going according to plan?
Data is extremely important to measure in the industry. Executives use technology to track metrics, such as the number of policies per client, and to analyze relevant data to improve their product portfolio and to create new products that will cater to a wide range of clients. Analyzing data also helps track whether actual progress is in line with the planned progress, and provides a comparison of actual costs with estimated costs. In short, all these metrics will help in determining whether the project is successful or unsuccessful.
In addition, schedule and task management are key components for employees and underwriting agents, used to maximize the efficiency of client management. Work and workflow visualization tools such as Kanban boards are helpful in planning and scheduling tasks—either created traditionally with pen and paper or on a whiteboard, or through the use of a project management application. For long-term planning, Gantt charts ensure that teams see the big picture and stay focused on their project goals.
- Keep your PM simple
It’s easy to get caught up in (and waste time) trying out new project management or business methods and applications, but it’s important not to forget that project management is used to increase the effectiveness and efficiency of the business and to streamline processes. Project managers need to keep this goal in mind and keep project management simple.
In order to achieve effective simplicity it’s important to have clear project objectives, to set realistic deadlines, and to balance time, cost, and scope. Make sure that these factors are aligned with the overall business strategy and that they are economically and/or technically viable. For example, you might have been eyeing a new CRM software but need to consider whether it’s compatible with the other current applications, and to consider the amount of time employees will need to familiarize themselves with the new software.
- Keep your knowledge transfer transparent
Have a clear documentation system in place so that it’s easy to identify and track which products work for each client. This documentation system can also serve as a knowledge database, which new agents (or current agents) can use to review old contracts and learn the ‘best practices’ from both past successes and failures.
Along with good documentation, project managers also need to make sure that there is a clear communication system in place to avoid misunderstandings and confusions, which can be costly to the organization.
- Keep improving your processes and your product
Staying flexible is essential to remain on top of industry trends, and that’s particularly necessary for processes and products. Competition doesn’t sleep, and in a highly competitive industry such as insurance, it is vital to have and retain a competitive edge, which can be achieved with efficient processes and innovative products.
Sure, your organization’s current way of handling project management might be efficient, but is it really the most efficient way? There’s always room for improvement, and project management methods such as agile and lean can help continuously improve processes. To increase efficiency, decision makers should consider standardizing recurring procedures such as claim management.
As society and demographics are in constant motion, it’s important to adapt your product portfolio to the needs of your clients. Selling insurance to millennials and baby boomers will create different demand, and the product portfolio needs to be flexible and adaptable in order to cater to a wide range of clients.