Eric Peters on April 24, 2013
Our webinar with Fast Track Innovation Director at LV= Insurance, Rod Willmott, gave our audience an in-depth look into his process and strategy for introducing and executing new application-centered business initiatives at the award-winning insurance company. Rod Willmott is an expert in finding strategic ways to move companies forward. His experience launching LV=’s latest multi-component application demonstrates how Mendix gives companies in even the most regulated industries the power to quickly create applications that support broad, brand-level business initiatives.
Willmott began his presentation by discussing the challenges that face LV= as a large organization. He describes the generic problem that organizations of this size face as the “big company disease” – as a company gets larger it becomes increasingly difficult to make things happen quickly and to be innovative, “we’re very proud of being quite innovative – having come from a relatively small base, we wanted to retain that” he adds.
LV= has experienced extremely rapid growth between 2006 and 2012 where the introduction of a new brand, a massive increase in employees, and stronger-than-ever market presence, presented a challenge to innovate. “In order to sustain that growth and innovative approach, we needed to think very hard about how we tackle some of the problems that effect larger companies.” This is where his Fast Track Initiative comes in – the objective of which was to accelerate projects that didn’t fit into the corporate agenda, but were still very important to executive teams. “Like many companies I’m sure, we did have projects that just did not fit the budget and available people, using traditional methods. Legacy systems typically take a lot of planning and agreement to move forward and there is only so much space on the agenda to do it. But many of the objectives that we had as a company were based on the need to change some of those systems, and the key challenge was finding a completely different way to address that.”
Willmott goes on to describe a recent Mendix application that includes components for Web Sales, Customer Self-Service, Back-end Policy Management, Call Center Policy Management, and Claims Management. The initial build took only three months, and the application was delivered within nine months. “I’ve been in this industry for a number of years, and people would tell me that you couldn’t do that. I probably told people that you couldn’t do that in a matter of months” Willmott tells us. He adds, “That is a huge job that takes months or years of programming effort, and I stand here testament to the fact that we did do that – we did two completely different products concurrently over the period of nine months; two products including product definition and all of the application development.”
He goes on to describe his experience adopting the Mendix App Platform, and the shift in strategy wherein business-process experts play an applied role in application delivery. “The real interesting thing about Mendix and one of the big adjustments you’ve got to make in terms of using it is that it isn’t a tool for the technicians. It’s a tool for people with a great knowledge of business process with a technical concept. We have those people, but they wouldn’t be able to get to grips with SharePoint for instance – not the lower level development. So it’s a technical BA domain that allows us to do deep functionality [in Mendix].” Willmott goes on to explain how the Mendix App Platform uniquely supports data and logic layers in addition to the presentation layer, “Its functional benefits come from being able to drive business processes and decision making within those processes as well as the presentation.”
For the first time, LV= was able to accelerate application delivery to the point where IT was moving faster than the business was able to react. “Previously, IT ends up being the thing that inhibits the business. In this case, we almost certainly delivered the technical functionality ahead of the speed that the business could actually react to it, and consolidate on the pricing and documentation and the security capabilities – all of these things being absolutely essential in a regulated industry. The application delivery was running ahead of some of the background processes that needed to be done that were essentially outside of the IT domain.”
Willmott closed his presentation with his personal view that accelerated and collaborative application delivery will be the next step in enabling business innovation. “Many of the analysts groups at the moment are pontificating that in the future, business will be much more in charge of delivery than the large IT departments. And I see that increasingly in this organization and in many others that I look at, because in general, technology barriers are reducing. People are able to create their own systems and their own business solutions and do that by using hosted services in a much different way than when they used to have a much larger dependency on IT departments. Building this kind of capability within large organizations within financial services is really key.”
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