A System Driven Company Wide Change Programme

Some real world experiences

The Brief:

To manage a company-wide change programme to replace ageing back office systems with modern technology, re-engineer business processes across the company and re-skill the workforce in preparation for a major expansion of business.

The Work:

The client, a mid-size insurance company of around 450 employees located in 3 UK offices, had become uncompetitive with systems and processes that were more than 15 years old. Little had been done in recent years by way of major change programmes, with IT effort focused principally on shoring up the old technology.

We established a programme management framework following PRINCE2 guidelines and initiated a top-down, ground-up review of current business processes. Existing processes were documented and a cross-company gap analysis of functions and skills was carried out to lay the foundation for the re-engineering work.

Following an extensive review of the software market and a formal tender process, an open-source client-server system was selected as the basis for customization to the client's exact requirements. Detailed business requirements were analysed and documented using joint line department and software supplier workshops to derive an agreed customization programme.
One challenge the client faced was how to re-educate the workforce away from an obsolete, monolithic character-based system to a modern, windows-based client:server system. A model office was set up to act as both the testing environment for the new system and to provide a "sand-pit” in which people from the business community could become familiar with new ways of working, at their own pace and without affecting the live operation.

A further, major challenge for the project was how to handle data conversion. The company operated multiple lines of business of differing volumes and complexity with a total of around 400,000 policyholders and gross written premium of around £150m. Much of the data was unreliable due to its age and the lack of standardized data management rules and a major exercise was carried out to review, cleanse and update records in line with the structure of the new system. A phased data mapping, conversion and validation project was managed over several weeks to ensure that the new system would launch with complete, accurate and robust policy, claims and financial data.

Outcomes:

Following completion of user acceptance testing, the new system was implemented in the agreed time scale and a phased transition from the old system was carried out by line of business over a period of several weeks to ensure that each transfer was robust. Staff buy-in to the change had been a key requirement from Day 1 of the programme and some resistance to change was experienced from older staff. However, with extensive and regular reinforcement of the improvements in working practices that would accrue for each individual, these concerns were laid to rest. The new system and processes were quickly absorbed into the normal business operation and led to a growth in new and unforeseen opportunities for developing new business as the market evolved.

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