Avoid a reporting crisis: Useful tips – part 3

Having gone to the time and trouble of identifying and following through on objectives that help transform reporting processes, the last thing companies want, or can afford, is to miss out on the longer-term efficiencies and payback.

As anyone who has ever made a New Year resolution can probably testify, making changes stick is often the hardest part of any transformation. And so it may be for insurers that are attempting to streamline reporting processes in order to meet ever more challenging regulatory and financial reporting deadlines.

The final set of tips in our recent series of blogs, devised from our own experience of client assignments, covers that vital end stage of preventing inefficiencies seeping back into sleek new processes.

Tip 7 – Ensure you realize the benefits

There are two aspects to this.

One is the way that new parts of the process are introduced. Typically, a core objective of a transformation project will be to have less people involved in doing manual tasks, in order to save time and money. Yet, if a change in a component of the process that required three people is introduced and now requires two and a half employees, it still effectively needs three people, but with one only half utilized and unable to be fully redeployed elsewhere on more valuable analysis. The way to avoid this is to break changes to the live reporting environment into chunks of sufficient scale to not only meet interim and ultimate efficiency targets, but to reinforce that what is taking place is truly different and will make a difference.

At the same time, the chunks have to be manageable for those that will be expected to deliver them going forward. That’s particularly the case if there’s new technology involved, so that they are able to absorb and master (and perhaps further improve) what’s required in stages rather than being presented with an overwhelming set of process components to comprehend and act upon in one fell swoop.

The second relates to when a project is deemed to have finished. The natural inclination is to think of this as when the shiny new process is in place, even when parts of the old system may be running in parallel. In fact, our experience shows that it’s advisable to treat project completion as when the old process is fully decommissioned and not in use. That means when all aspects of the old process have been killed off – so no more pet spreadsheets and workarounds survive that might gradually creep back in to the process and compromise the objectives. Only when a company has stopping using old, redundant tools, terminated surplus software licenses, and eliminated the inefficient, ad hoc stuff that used to happen should the project be considered closed.

Tip 8 – Preserve the investment

Companies need to think about how skills, organization structure and rewards support their needs

Hard-earned time and cost savings can easily start to wither on the vine without appropriate ongoing investment in the new process.

This includes ensuring that the core team involved has the initial and ongoing training, in both the process and the technology, to operate efficiently. Linked to this, companies need to think about how skills, organization structure and rewards support their needs, perhaps in relation to peaks of activity. Periodic health checks of the process, including reviews with vendors, are also an important part of establishing a control and continuous improvement cycle.

Moreover, the technology on which reporting processes rely will inevitably move on. Historically in insurance, it has been difficult to avoid spikes in technology costs and business disruption creating outdated and inflexible legacy systems that can hinder broader business progress. That no longer has to be the case if companies position themselves to take advantage of pay-as-you-go cloud computing options, software-as-a-service delivery models, and the new analytics capabilities coming on stream from artificial intelligence and machine learning. This applies as much to reporting as anything else.

Tip 9 – Celebrate success!

No one should pretend that successful reporting process transformation is easy – making a good job of it will take hard work that should be celebrated when it pays off.

It can be done, however, as our next and final blog in this series in the coming weeks will demonstrate with a case study.


 

Richard Waller and Joyce Simmons are directors in the life insurance risk practice at Willis Towers Watson.

About Richard Waller

Richard Waller has over 20 years experience working in and consulting to the life insurance industry with significa…
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