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Using Agile to Innovate Reinsurance Treaty Reviews

October 3, 2018 / Agile, Reinsurance Treaty, Treaty

Across the industry, insurance professionals are looking for new ways to innovate their processes, services, and solutions for better management and business outcomes. Agile project management/methodology can be used to generate new ideas, elevate productivity, and accelerate product innovation.

We sat down with Valentin Makharinets, Director of LOGiQ³'s Project Management Office, to understand how Agile methodology is being used by the LOGiQ³ team to bring the power of artificial intelligence (AI) to reinsurance treaty reviews. Read on to find out how your organization can benefit from this project management style too.

What is Agile Project Management and What Are the Key Components to Making it Work

Agile project management was first introduced to enhance the speed of product delivery. This iterative approach prioritizes transparency and a quick feedback cycle which empowers cross-functional teams to collaborate, coordinate, execute, and iterate in an efficient, and nimble manner.

The key components we are using for the Treaty AI Solution include:

  • Sprints: Sprints are time-boxed, repeatable iterations that take place in a continuous development cycle. We use 4-week sprints, which include end-of-sprint demos of newly developed functionality, sprint retrospectives, and subsequent next sprint planning meetings.
  • Backlog Refinement: This involves reviewing and prioritizing the product backlog – a single, overarching collection of requirements, features, enhancements, and fixes for the target product.
  • Daily Stand-up Meetings: We use daily stand-ups to communicate progress, plan work for the next 24 hours and raise any impediments or dependencies within the team.
  • Open Communication: To keep senior stakeholders appraised of progress, we hold monthly steering committee meetings, seeking direction from the project sponsor and reviewing the product strategy a couple of sprints ahead. This helps us keep everyone informed and proactively raise and address potential risks or issues.

Why Does the Agile Methodology Work Well for the Treaty AI Solution Project?

Agile is an extremely helpful methodology – but is not universally applicable. The decision to use the Agile methodology for this particular project was based on the fact that the solution was being developed in-house, and we knew that it would demand quick turn-around between the technical team and business product owner. We also wanted to be able to accommodate changing business requirements, as this was an innovation project and, therefore, embracing change was important.

There is a critical balance of uncertainty and risk mitigation afforded by Agile. It allows for the reduction of technical risk early in the journey. We had ideas about integrating AI technology and the overall solution roadmap, at the start of the project, but it would have been hard to utilise a fully predictive approach.

How Does Agile Project Management Nurture Innovation?

I like that Agile provides the ability to get it wrong early enough and pivot on the spot to correct the course. The flexibility to see what works and what doesn’t within sprints is invaluable for innovation projects, as we often do not know the full functionality of the end-product at the start.

Agile also works to integrate every stakeholder’s feedback for the best possible product. The ability for immediate inspection of newly developed functionality by the business customer enables a quick feedback cycle, leading to adoptive and incremental enhancements of the end-product.

What Does the Agile Methodology Offer That Wouldn’t Be Possible with Waterfall Project Management?

We’ve experienced a good level of success with Agile that would not have been possible with a waterfall methodology. Given the innovative and highly unpredictable nature of the project, I doubt we would have been able to plan for detailed development over a 6+ month timeline and lock down requirements from the onset of the project.

Also, delaying testing to the later stages, which is common in the waterfall approach, would deprive the business product owner from inspecting and validating the product features early, potentially leading to a rework that is both time-consuming and unnecessary.

When Should Organizations Implement Agile Methodology?

  • When your project doesn’t have a clearly defined scope
  • If the target solution’s functionality is being discovered as it is being developed
  • If you have small to medium-sized, dedicated teams
  • When working on innovative and new technology integration engagements

What is Your Advice for Organizations Looking to Bring Agile to their Teams?

1. Have a cross-functional team - ideally one that is co-located.

Since you are working closely daily, being in the same location physically has obvious benefits. Having members from various, relevant departments also provides right mix of capabilities to move the project forward. For example, our Treaty AI Solution team involves people from business, marketing, IT infrastructure, Business and QA analysts, technology specialists and developers.

2. Work with an open-minded and engaged business customer.

Having the luxury of being able to get it wrong and pivot on the spot means you need a business customer who understands that the end solution might not be what was first envisioned. The business customer also must be extremely engaged to be available to provide immediate feedback and direction to the technical team aligned with the target product vision.

3. Ensure buy-in from the project sponsor.

This speaks for itself – without buy-in from the sponsor, you will not be able to move forward. Make sure everyone is on the same page and ready to take risks and collaborate.

4. Establish a solid level of trust from the senior stakeholders to apply the methodology

This is especially important for organizations who have never applied the agile methodology before. Change and uncertainty can be difficult to get used to – but the payoff can be exceptional. A foundation of trust goes a long way.

5. Agile is a journey

You may not get “all boxes checked” from the start and it takes time to adopt and embrace the new methodology: be patient and nurture continuous learning and improvement within the team.

Thanks to Valentin for sharing his insights on agile methodology and how it has been a success for the Treaty AI Solution project.

Follow the Progress of the Treaty AI Solution Project

Learn more about the tools, methodologies, and technology we’re using to enhance our reinsurance treaty review service with AI through our video series.

You can watch the first update here: Why We're Turning to AI to Analyze Reinsurance Treaties

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Written by
Valentin Makharinets