Within the life insurance industry, regulation is constantly tightening and the client service delivery bar is relentlessly being raised. This invariably puts strain on the bottom line and profit margins. To combat these effects, the industry increasingly looks to reduce operating costs by automating processes and enhance administration output by implementing technology. However, along with the plethora of benefits that comes from moving to modern IT platforms, also come potential costs and risks. In order to mitigate these, effective implementation of IT projects is critical.

Like all worthy business activities, the project management landscape must contend with – and satisfy – opposing priorities and views presented from different levels within the organisation. For example, senior management will demand on time/on budget projects that lower operating costs, gain market share and increase shareholder value; whereas line management will seek to improve the likelihood of project success by providing best-practice guidelines through project governance and risk management. Ensuring the successful implementation of IT projects, whilst meeting various stakeholder needs, can be a delicate balancing act.

The right methodology

While all implementation methodologies aim to achieve effective project management and create positive project outcomes, not all will deliver. Choosing an IT vendor that understands its clients’ businesses and that has the ability to craft an implementation strategy to meet the unique requirements of each business is vital.

Some implementation methodologies focus on providing tools and knowledge, offering the project manager an array of devices and proven practices, whilst others provide a more mandated structured approach. For an organisation that may lack the standardisation needed to deliver projects within corporate program management, the more mandated approach may be an appropriate choice; providing project conformity through tailoring varied projects into the same methodology, with all projects undergoing similar structure, governance, terminology and process treatment. However, for an organisation that requires a more dynamic and creative approach to project management, where standardisation is not as big a concern, the knowledge based approach may be more appropriate.

The right vendor

Knowing which implementation approach is appropriate to which organisation is the hallmark of an effective IT vendor.

While the various delivery methodologies each have their merits, the individual challenges and constraints of different organisations will typically lend itself to one methodology more than the other. At Bravura Solutions, we recognise that there are benefits in allowing more than one methodology to co-exist, and so we intertwine the governance methodology with the tools based approach. For example, the PMBOK® methodology provides us with the theoretical knowledge resources that enhance task driven activities, and we leverage off the PRINCE2® methodology for a process model that can be applied directly over a diverse range of client engagements to produce consistency in project outcomes. By taking the best of both models, we become flexible in our delivery approach, even down to the activity delivery level of alternating between traditional waterfall and more dynamic or agile delivery approaches, depending on the needs of our clients.

So how do you choose the right vendor? It’s more than just having a suitable system. The system may tick all the right boxes in terms of features and functionality, however, if it is not correctly implemented, you may be setting yourself up for failure. Look for a vendor that has experience implementing with organisations similar to your own; do they have experience in your geographic region, with your business type, with similar business requirements? If they have worked (successfully) within similar parameters, you can have more confidence that they can produce the results you are looking for, on time and on budget.

To demonstrate, Bravura Solutions’ successful implementation with one Asian life insurance client was a major factor in its being selected with another. Having proven experience in the region served as an indicator that Bravura Solutions could perform and deliver within the Asian ‘paradigm’, and in fact, Bravura Solutions was further commissioned to implement the organisation’s new general insurance software on behalf of another vendor.

Partnering and leadership
In particular, organisations with less experience implementing new IT systems should look for vendors that have proven skill and familiarity; look for a vendor that can partner with you through the implementation process (and beyond) and provide a smooth knowledge transfer. Where the need for change management is required, look for a vendor that can guide your organisation and, importantly, your employees through the implementation process.

Potential results

Getting the implementation of your IT platform right can mean improved operational processes, and enhanced ability to provide customer service. A poorly managed implementation can not only put a drain on the bottom line and resource pool, but also damage an organisation’s reputation with its clients – which can perhaps be the most difficult damage to fix.

How to get the best out of the vendor

The old adage holds true; ‘fail to plan and plan to fail’. The best way to ensure a vendor performs successfully and that the implementation goes to plan is to create a detailed and realistic set of criteria for success. A set of pre-agreed clear, realistic and stable goals will increase the likelihood of successful projects. Make sure you know what you expect out of the project before embarking on it.

A good vendor will take your business objectives and desired outcomes and will keep those in front of the team throughout the implementation process.

Bravura Solutions’ approach

Bravura Solutions has a team of specialist Project Managers and Consultants who work with clients to understand their needs and objectives, providing a complete solution of expert consulting, world class technology and ongoing support and maintenance to ensure business goals are met. Bravura Solutions’ consultants can install, configure and verify all Bravura Solutions and third party software; migrate and convert data from existing systems to Bravura Solutions systems, and engineer and document processes. Bravura Solutions can also provide a ‘shrink-wrapped’ process architecture for start-ups, comprising workflow, procedures, key performance indicators and standards that will ensure the establishment of a highly efficient back-office operation.

About the author

Jon Alder

Chief Operating Officer - APAC

Based in Sydney, Jon Alder has over 21 years of experience in the financial services and IT industries. Jon is responsible for all Wealth Management operational functions across APAC including project implementations and production support. Jon brings to Bravura Solutions a depth of knowledge in project and operational management and the ability to successfully manage client relationships. Prior to joining Bravura Solutions in 2011, Jon was Head of Operations and Professional Services at SS&C Technologies. Jon has also held a number of strategic operational management and project delivery roles in the United Kingdom at Jupiter Unit Trust Managers and BNP Paribas, and in Australia at Mariner Financial and Challenger Financial Services. Jon has a Masters degree in Business Administration from Charles Sturt University and has financial planning qualifications.

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