Our IT Director was brought in to oversee a challenging system development and data migration at a large insurer. Using their industry knowledge, transparency and collaboration with the clients team, the programme was achieved after years of delay.
A major global insurer’s Annuities Division undertook this initiative. While the company operated globally, this project focused on one business area but connected to various organizational IT systems.
The initiative’s goal was to introduce an integrated system for a “one-and-done” client service and back-office processing. It also aimed to streamline business processes and personnel for enhanced efficiency and throughput.
Before the Director took charge, the programme had run for almost a year, facing delivery delays and rising costs. Software development issues, like requirement clarifications, and limited understanding of 30-year-old systems contributed to the setbacks. The programme board decided a review was necessary to assess the programme’s viability.
What Our Director Did
The Director was asked to do a review of the programme from a “best practice” governance perspective. This was done with input from the Project Support staff and through interviews with Business Managers, third-party Developers and other relevant stakeholders.
The Director produced a review report which he presented to the board. The report contained key risks and issues as well as immediate solutions and possible areas for improvement. It was accepted in full by the programme board and the Director was asked to take over management of the programme with immediate effect.
After pinpointing issues and opportunities, the Director collaborated with the business and senior management to align the programme’s activities with “best practice.” This led to a total task replanning, team restructuring, and resource reallocation. They enhanced the governance structure, revitalizing the programme board with new PRINCE2-aligned representatives.
The Director presented a new budget to the board, supported by the revised plan, agreed third-party costs, and a change budget for potential adjustments. The board approved this budget and timeline.
The team established a dedicated Programme Room for meetings and presentations, enhancing efficiency and accountability. Charts, milestones, and progress materials filled the room, informing stakeholders and the team, promoting a cost-effective work approach.
Working With The Business
A central project component was revamping business processes for efficiency and scale. This change meant roles would evolve or vanish, necessitating new training. Before the Director’s involvement, employees feared for their job security.
The IT Director collaborated with Business Heads to alleviate these fears. Where suitable, staff joined the program to understand existing systems and ensure the new system met its goals, including smooth data migration. The Director addressed concerns about leaving “comfort zones,” helping employees adapt and contribute significantly. This transition was vital for the project’s success and the business’s growth.
A third-party consultancy undertook the development and had an agreement to get paid upon release delivery. This led them to rush, causing errors and bugs that often required re-testing. This inefficiency burdened the testing team before the Director stepped in.
The Director paused development and payments to address these issues. The result was a longer delivery cycle and a revised testing approach. This included:
- A Release Acceptance Test (RAT) – a five-day test to verify the Release Note’s content. Upon success, the supplier’s invoice was paid.
- A System Acceptance Test (SAT) – a four-week test for full functionality and regression testing of fixed errors.
Implementing the RAT and SAT protocols dramatically improved the cycle of testing and acceptance, while still allowing payment of invoices on a regular basis to keep the project running smoothly.
After this, the Director identified a further volume issue; external consultants were able to “throw bodies” at the development, resulting in releases that had more functionality delivered each time than the business’ test team could handle. The Director resolved this issue by requesting investment in a suite of automated testing tools. This was approved and the tools were installed in the Model Office where they remained post-delivery, greatly improving efficiency at testing level.
The initial findings of the Director review identified that the programme was using internal staff (available from the bench) for determining a migration strategy. The Director removed these resources and obtained the services of an external consultancy who specialised in data migration. The external team brought a wealth of knowledge and a specific set of tools that allowed the programme to successfully migrate all relevant data with 100% accuracy.
Data clean-up after the data migration was also a big factor; a lot of the existing data had errors or missing information (due to lack of integrity checking in the old systems). The tools provided by the external migration specialists assisted with this and made transfer much more complete. Clean-up was done within the business environment and temporary procedures were written to ensure the same errors did not creep in again, before each new data extract was performed.
Model Office Development
Given the significant business process changes, the Director established a Model Office. This space facilitated the new software’s integration with the updated business structures. It first served for User Acceptance Testing, then as a training environment before going live, and later as a pre-production setting for future releases
User Acceptance Testing Implementation
During the User Acceptance Testing, Dress Rehearsals were crucial. The Director organized at least two over long weekends, involving over 100 business resources. These rehearsals tested both the go-live process and its reversal, ensuring error-free transitions.
Under the Director’s guidance, all potential outcomes and pitfalls were preemptively addressed. After two rehearsals, the second was so successful that the business wanted to remain live. The final go-live proceeded flawlessly as planned.
The programme led by the Director was successfully implemented and the final system is still running at the business to this day. A number of satellite systems were subsequently developed that linked to the improved, normalised databases – as set up by the Director – to cover other functions such as Workflow, Image Capturing and New Policy Capture.
The achievement of a “one-and-done” approach increased productivity greatly and the programme became a model for good programme governance across the business and beyond.