Connecting business needs with technology solutions can be a complex dynamic for any company.
For many companies, technology adds functionality to systems that support various stakeholders. Leveling up requires exploring customer preferences and then adding new technology solutions to meet emerging and changing needs.
Beyond that, successful integration requires bringing together the right leadership and teams to build a deeper understanding of what is needed, where you are collectively going, and how best to get there. We recently sat down with Farres Moidu, Senior Director of Software Engineering at Central insuranceto explore what that looks like for Central.
The key to successfully connecting business and technology
In his experience integrating business needs and technology, Moidu emphasizes the importance of weighing the opportunity cost against how the team plans to use its time and resources.
“Time often turns out to be more expensive than dollars, making it important to consider how best to use a limited set of engineering cycles. This ranges from developing a fully robust technical solution to something that doubles down on a single part of the experience to a combination of the two.”
While making that call can be complicated, he insists the most critical step for any business is predicting what the customer needs, whether you can deliver on what you promise to build, and how to respond if you end up being wrong about any of these components.
“You can’t come to this kind of innovation through the lens of technology or experience alone; it’s an interwoven relationship. We’re jointly tasked with figuring out where to place our bets.”
How has Central used technology to improve its product offering?
As a billion dollar insurance company serving policyholders for nearly 150 years, there are countless exciting opportunities to elevate Central’s products and enhance the customer experience.
Moidu identifies some key stakeholders looking for this type of support:
- Underwriters, whose job it is to consider how much risk an insurance company is willing to take
- Regional Vice Presidents tasked with selling to local agents
- The claims team, which focuses on serving policyholders
- Regulators who ensure that the company keeps what it promises
Moidu emphasizes that each stakeholder group has its specific technical needs. This has led to many unique opportunities for innovation and creativity within Central’s insurtech division.
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A focus on technical solutions in claims handling processes
As of spring 2023, Modiu explains that his team has been intensely focused on claims stakeholders and their unique business needs. This included finding a new one roadside assistance salesperson to meet its customer service standards.
“This transformation is an important exercise for the business,” he explains. “Our claims team identified pain points and then bought a vendor that they believed could best alleviate those challenges. From a technical perspective, it’s extremely helpful when we don’t have a product solution that stands out. By claims doing their due diligence and making a solid business case for their recommendation, engineers can now focus on exploring integration with the supplier.”
The technical development of Central’s “Business Owners Policy”
The Business Owners Policy (BOP) is another tool Modiu and his team have focused on developing after agents’ feedback indicated a perceived gap between the market and Central’s product offering.
After learning that agents were having difficulty sending certain types of business to Central due to a product shortage, Moidu and his team began working on developing a product to meet those needs.
“We started thinking together about what we want our BOP experience to look like and what the options might be,” he explains. “The first option was to automate everything, which would require a significant time investment and push the launch well into the future. The second option was to filter a narrower set of coverages and details that would benefit most from automation.”
After much deliberation, the engineering team decided to go with the second option, effectively reducing the time and resources they would have needed to build from the ground up. This allowed the BOP tool to go to market much earlier than if they had aimed for total automation.
The importance of a collaborative approach
As Modiu sees it, the strategic application of technology solutions to assist with existing business needs must be seen as the responsibility of both the engineering and assurance sides of an organization. He emphasizes the need for both teams to come together in a spirit of collaboration to get it right.
At Central, for example, the digital product organization (DPO) works closely with the insurance product organization (IPO). Where the IPO focuses on the different ways the organization can build and sell insurance, the DPO specializes in the approach the organization can take to build that technology or create the desired experiences.
“On the IPO side, there are a lot of specific financial and legal details to consider. They work with actuaries on everything from how much risk we’re willing to take to the specific payment amounts tied to different claims,” Modiu explains. “On the other hand DPO focuses on how we communicate with agents and agents’ IT systems to ensure Central ranks at the top of the list when they search for the best solutions.”
The effect of DPO and IPO collaboration on the development of BOP at Central
When it came to developing the BOP, Modiu recalls that the IPO team recognized the gap in Central’s portfolio.
“There was a need in the market and we had an opportunity to develop a product to meet it,” he says.
As a result, the IPO started a dialogue with the DPO about what the product should be, what features it should contain and what the overall user experience should look like. It wasn’t until the two teams agreed that a digital asset was necessary that the technology team got involved and came up with options and timelines.
Modiu believes that it is most effective to integrate engineering into these conversations and is received when the engineering team provides multiple options from which the product team selects the best fit.
“We like to come at product development through a few different lenses,” he says. “First, does the market care about this? Assuming the market wants it, what digital features do we want to add? The biggest risk comes when we know the market wants it and the exact features needed. This simply increases the risk because it usually involves a lot of costs and time.”
Advice for companies starting to connect business needs with technology solutions
With years of experience bridging the gap between an organization’s needs and the engineers who can make them a reality, we asked Moidu to offer some key takeaways to help organizations get started on this process. Here is what he had to say:
1. Don’t run in a silo.
“Technology and business needs should not live and function separately. It’s our job to make sure we’re building the right solutions for specific problems in the market. Product and research teams help us do that by carefully assessing the problem or opportunity, so we don’t make huge and wrong investments up front.
2. Get executive sponsorship early and often.
“For the technology to be successful, top-level executive sponsorship is critical. To fully support it, leaders must understand why this thinking is important and how it will be used. Central’s president and CEO drove many of the initial conversations about where and how technology would fit into our company and what other leaders should expect. He also educated himself by looking at what our peers and leaders in other industries were doing, both of which have been incredibly important and helpful as we’ve undergone such large-scale change.”
3. Don’t underestimate the power of your people.
“People are a big part of the equation. Make sure you have the right leaders and teams at all levels. Look for people who are willing to adapt how they work. It’s important that they understand how things were done in the past may have worked in silos, but that won’t necessarily be the case with integrated teams. Connecting business needs with technical solutions requires a lot of overlap, negotiation, and partnership. You need to deploy people in product and engineering roles that embrace that thinking. You want them to provide different perspectives, but shared values and a mutual goal will ultimately drive success that moves everyone forward together.”
Opportunities to join Central’s technology-focused future
A central part of Central’s IT success depends on hiring the right people and putting together the right team. The company’s IT culture is rooted in the collaborative spirit of a startup backed by 150 years of investment in innovation and proven success. Leadership values what IT brings and goes all in on the technology, teams and talent to make it happen.
Depth of relationships and connections have always set Central apart from other insurance companies. IT development should not take place in a vacuum or silo. As our teams work together to drive technology and innovation at Central, we grow with excitement and purpose. We see the leadership potential in everyone, and we strive to unlock it in those who want to make an impact. Central is a perfect size if you want to build, create, innovate and take ownership of what you do. Our size allows us to be nimble and adaptable, and it provides meaningful opportunities to explore and grow by offering opportunities you likely won’t find at large insurance companies.
If you’re looking for a job where someone will tell you what to do and how to do it, Central is probably not the place for you. But if you feel energized by the opportunity to take something from inspiration to idea to implementation, explore current job opportunities here.