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Why so many digitization projects fail


December 17, 2020   by Greg Meckbach


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Buying technology before thinking through the process that the new technology is supposed to enable is one reason why some projects are not well-executed, an insurance digital transformation leader suggested Wednesday.

“When you start to think about digitizing things, you actually need to know how the process is supposed to work,” said Anna Foat, director of Sun Life Financial’s global digital transformation office, during a webinar hosted by Reuters Events.

Foat described her approach to information technology at an insurance organization.

“I like to ask this question often: ‘Why do we do it this way?”” Foat said during the webinar, titled Insurance in the Digital Age-The Future of Agents and Brokers.

iStock.com/Olivier Le Moal

Don Klingspon, the director of financial services at Microsoft Canada, moderated the panel discussion. He referred to a comment made this past April by Microsoft Corp. CEO Satya Nadella during the software vendor’s earnings call. Referring to a large increase in Teams adoption in the weeks after COVID-19 was declared a pandemic, Nadella said the world had seen two years’ worth of innovation over two months.

During the Nov. 16 Reuters Events webinar, Klingpson asked panelists whether the insurance industry could implement another two years’ worth of innovation; and, if so, what they would like to see in terms of changes?

“We (the industry) have a very refined analogue way of doing business that has worked for us for a very long time,” said Foat. “That is a very deep groove in the record. One thing I sometimes say that drives people bananas is, ‘That is not a process. That is just the current way we do things.’ It has just evolved over time but has never been a thought-out process.

“It’s hard for people to imagine a different way of doing it, if it has been a certain way for so long. Necessity is the mother of invention. Why didn’t we do it before? Because it is hard for people to re-imagine a different process and build tools. It is very easy to say ‘I am going to procure the software.’ That is why you see so many [technology innovation projects] fail. Because people have not done the ground work.”

Klingspon asked panelists how the COVID-19 pandemic has altered digital communication.

“We have noticed with things like digital chat there is a segment of customers who really don’t want to call,” said Mark Hardy, vice president of direct life and health for TD Insurance.

“[Certain clients] are really comfortable interacting with a human, but not necessarily interacting [by] phone,” said Hardy. “And so, [some clients] will even indicate, ‘Look, I was not even going to call you, because you have [a] chat [function] on your website. We need to recognize that to support customers. That applies equally to life insurance or to other insurance products: I want to do it when it’s convenient for me, and how I want to do it, but I do want that human element to support me.”


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