Policy Administration System Modernization Projects Are All about Your People

The success of policy administration system modernization projects hinges on the alignment, commitment, and engagement of a life insurance carriers’ workforce.

(Image credit: Annie Spratt/Unsplash.)

Less than 30 percent of digital transformations succeed. Although a number of factors such as technology, budget, and resources may contribute, the root cause of the problem could simply be that an organization’s people aren’t in alignment with the transformation vision and implementation plan.

Life insurance companies can’t successfully undergo a digital transformation if their employees aren’t on board. Technology might be the method of upscaling operations and front- and back-office processes, but it’s really the staff who ultimately drive and determine the success and outcome of a policy administration system (PAS) modernization project. If team members aren’t empowered with day-to-day decision making and encouraged to take ownership over the end solution, there’s no amount of technology that will make the transformation successful.

For executives and transformation leaders looking to implement and reap the full benefits of a successful PAS modernization project, there are some key personnel-related questions to consider.

Who are my modernization champions?

Every project needs a cheerleader—someone who will campaign for its implementation and encourage others to get on board. And in no other instance is that more prevalent than PAS modernization. For these projects, the champions don’t have to be executive level employees. If anything, team leaders or managers will be your key advocates as they work closely with the employees who will be using the new technology daily. Additionally, they can assist with making the transition easier and lessening any subsequent growing pains.

The champion leads the building of the business case for modernization. Since PAS modernization ROI can be challenging to quantify in some cases, the role of the champion is to construct the most compelling argument for the project—one that often includes things like new capabilities in product innovation, data availability, API readiness, efficiency gains through automation, a SaaS structure that relieves IT resource demands, etc.

In a similar thread, you’ll need to identify organizational players and business stakeholders who are critical to the PAS project’s implementation. This could include business analysts, system architects, quality assurance analysts, project managers, information technology specialists—essentially, anyone who can assist in measuring the success of each project stage and providing final approvals. Additionally, input from various organizational departments—including underwriting, new business, policy servicing, claims, accounting, and payments—will be critical. Whoever needs to be involved, it’s essential they maintain their commitment to the project. Without it, resource and review bottlenecks may emerge, and the resulting delays can have serious implications for delivery timelines and additional costs.

Most staff members won’t need to dedicate 100 percent of their time to the PAS project, but in the moments when they are needed, they can’t take a part-time approach to a full-time project. Having a plan in place for team members to step in as needed to back up the day-to-day responsibilities of those employees critical to the PAS project is vital for a successful implementation as well as assuring nothing slips through the cracks.

What are employees’ attitudes and concerns regarding this project?

Before embarking on a PAS modernization journey, transformation leaders should conduct an organization-wide temperature check. This doesn’t necessarily mean you need to conduct long interviews with every employee. Instead, consider sending out a short, anonymous survey to gauge employees’ views of the project and see what questions or concerns they have.

Or, set up a kick-off meeting to solicit buy-in from team members who will be impacted. Set context by sharing the digital transformation vision, detailing business needs that are driving this decision. Share the proposed plan and take questions/discuss attendees roles in the plan and their expectations/concerns. Be clear about what the plan will mean for the company and staff in terms of challenges/benefits, employee involvement, changes to processes and reporting that the new system will bring about.

If you find that there are significant unresolvable objections, that could be a sign that your organization isn’t ready yet, and proceeding could damage the company further instead of improving it.

Pay attention to the questions and concerns as well. If the same questions keep popping up, consider holding an all-hands meeting to answer them and provide a space for employees to ask additional ones. Any project concerns should also be heavily weighed. If your workforce is overwhelmingly concerned about undergoing a digital transformation, try to figure out why. The process could reveal pain points the PAS modernization team may not have considered before, and lead to ways that you can make the transition easier on personnel.

Internal marketing will also play an important role in garnering support for a PAS project. Make the project exciting for everyone by giving it a brand, hanging posters on the office walls, sending out weekly newsletters with updates, and rolling out a campaign to rally employees. Doing so can highlight the project benefits and employees will be more willing to think big picture about how their processes fit in a new system and can expand beyond the current legacy system’s capabilities.

Do I have enough people resources to complete this project?

It takes a village to complete a PAS modernization project, and not all life insurance carriers have the in-house talent required to successfully implement it. Smaller carriers with fewer staff shouldn’t fret, though; it’s still possible for them to achieve their digital transformation goals—all they need is a helping hand.

Organizations should first identify what resources and personnel they have in-house and compare them against what they need. Then, they should look for a trusted third-party to bring in for the assist. While it seems fairly simple, not selecting the right technology vendor could prove to be detrimental to a PAS modernization project.

Instead of focusing on the quick turnarounds and speedy timelines, a carrier should look for a technology partner who has the personnel that matches its culture and needs, as well as the expertise and experience that backs up their promises of a successful PAS modernization implementation. This is vital as choosing a partner without the specific expertise or knowledge of the source systems and PAS-related data migration hurdles can create challenges down the road or doom the initiative altogether.

Trust and transparency are other important characteristics to look for and are arguably the most important success factors in any implementation. Without them, you can lose support for the project and create a sense of anxiety instead of excitement.

PAS projects require leaving behind a legacy mindset and refocusing on a personnel-centered one.

Too much is at risk. PAS modernization projects are one-in-a-lifetime undertakings. They can make or break an executive’s tenure at an organization. And yet, too often, many enter these digital transformations with the wrong mindset and siloed thinking. They focus on the technology instead of the big picture and install new systems without proper consideration of how they will be integrated into the organization and its culture.

The success of these projects hinges on the alignment, commitment, and engagement of a life insurance carriers’ workforce. If organizations want their PAS projects to thrive, they need to ensure staff are encouraged to speak up and voice their opinions on ways to improve processes. Without their support, PAS projects have little hope for success.

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Brian Carey // Brian Carey is Senior Director, Insurance Solutions at Equisoft. He has over 13 years experience with life & annuity core policy admin systems such as AdminServer, and OIPA, Oracle’s Insurance Policy Administration system. He holds a Master’s Degree in Information Systems with Honors from Drexel University, and Bachelor’s Degrees in Computer Science and Mathematics from Widener University. Carriers of all sizes know Brian’s passion for developing innovative, automated, sustainable, and cost-effective core system cloud solutions. As Senior Director of Core Insurance Solutions at Equisoft, Carey runs core system modernization strategy, including insurance policy administration, agency back-office, and our cloud solution product, Equisoft/manage. He’s participated in, and led, many implementations that demand an appreciation for the complexities core system modernizations pose, but understands there are great opportunities to mitigate risk and lower costs by taking advantage of the latest technologies.

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