I attended a webinar today, sponsored by Lombardi, featuring Stacie Kenney, a senior business process analyst at West Bend Mutual Insurance, discussing how they used BPM to allow them to tap into new insurance markets. West Bend has been around since 1894 and have a strong customer base in P&C insurance in the Midwest, but you can imagine the legacy processes and systems that build up over 115 years of operation.
They’ve seen significant growth in the past five years, and wanted to get a bigger piece of the small commercial policies market. However, they couldn’t do small commercial policies cost-effectively with their old business processes because the application process is time-consuming for the agents, and the commissions are small relative to the amount of time spent on the application. The underwriters spent a lot of time re-entering data on a variety of systems, including their mainframe policy administration system, a standalone and inflexible workflow system, and Word and Excel forms. They looked at BPM to provide a more agile solution that could more easily adapt to change through rule and process changes, make the referral process during process fast and easy, and provide visibility into operations. She didn’t give a lot of detail on what they actually did, although it was focused on the quoting and underwriting processes, with a focus on reducing the quote-to-issue time from days or weeks down to just minutes or hours.
They use both Blueprint (for process discovery and modeling) and Teamworks (for full process design and execution), and Kenney talked about what they liked about both products. She likes Teamworks because it allowed her, as a non-technical business analyst, to design the actual screens that they would be using, not just sketch a mock-up that would have to be coded by developers. She likes Blueprint for the ability to keep all process documentation in one place, including using it for what-if scenarios by modeling multiple versions of the same process to allow people to see them. Iterative process development was key for them, with playbacks every 4-6 weeks to ensure that the business was fully engaged, and that there was the opportunity to include their feedback all through the development cycle. They did less formal playbacks weekly, and targeted 3-4 month delivery cycles with at least 3 playbacks during that time. Quite an impressive move to an agile-like development cycle, from an organization that had a fairly traditional development methodology prior to that.
They used an architect and a couple of developers from Lombardi’s professional services to get them started and mentor their team; she noted that while anyone could use Blueprint, you do need some developers on the Teamworks side. One of the biggest challenges that they had was getting their heads wrapped around BPM: not just the tools and technology, but BPM as a new way of doing business. She believes (and I agree) that process analysis should be a core competency of any trained business analyst, but there’s some transition to move away from an application development mindset to more of a process focus in order to become a true business process analyst in the context of BPM. BPM shouldn’t be part of an application development project, especially one that has more of a waterfall methodology, since it will tend to lose momentum and you’ll tend to lose the agility benefits that BPM brings.
The BPM project for Small Commercial business was just the start for West Bend, and having it as a showcase project means that other areas are coming to them to request BPM in their areas. IT is also using BPM internally for their “Road to Excellence” program, which is focused on consolidating the functional silos of resources and tools within IT. They are using Blueprint as a collaborative tool to model their IT processes, redesigning 14 processes in 4 weeks; implementation is underway, and they expect to implement their IT processes in BPM by March.
Much of what they experienced isn’t unique to Lombardi, although Blueprint provides some extra benefits over many other BPM vendors through a more collaborative modeling environment and a process documentation repository. However, the BPM philosophy and agile methods that they used can be used with pretty much any BPM product: that’s more an issue of corporate culture than the specific product, as long as it provide model-driven process development.
The original registration page for the webinar is here, and they’ll have a replay available soon.