Recently, I had proof that development backlogs stifle innovation. I overheard someone say “Yes, I’d love to try that… but my hands are tied… Honestly, we’re just running to stand still at the moment.” Obviously no time to try anything new and probably cheaper and more efficient.
That person wasn’t imagining trying to run into a headwind. She was talking about a system development backlog. A better image might be someone trying to make their way up the down escalator when it’s moving.
Over the years, working for many organisations, I’ve noticed how there are two apparently universal constants in Financial Services:
- The number of improvements identified by business always creates a never ending backlog of development projects
- Most IT tasks, once completed, turn out to cost more and take significantly longer than originally anticipated
We seem to accept these “constants” as necessary evils, almost without questioning them. We just get on with what has to be done. But how often have you experienced endless reprioritisation of outstanding work? Do you have valid requests for improvement that never reach the top of the list because they always have to make room for more pressing tasks? Have you reached the point where some people don’t even bother requesting improvements anymore?
90% effort – just to stand still?
In many organisations that rely on older technology, as much as 90% of the development queue can be filled with tasks that ensure business-as-usual. In other words, they have to spend roughly 90% of their development effort just to stand still.
Not surprisingly, this can result in an inability to drive through business improvements as quickly as they’d like. It means an organisation can find itself slow to react to new market opportunities. Even important changes such as improvements to customer engagement can prove hard to implement. At worst, all creativity within the business becomes stifled.
Can we make Development Backlogs a thing of the past?
Well, to be honest, we don’t think so, not entirely. But the good news is that, with the right technology, these barriers to a more efficient and profitable business can be substantially reduced. Indeed, cost reduction and improved differentiation are both highlighted by insurers as the most significant potential gains to be had from the best technologies.
This is because modern insurance solutions are built on flexible component-based platforms that you can configure quickly with little or no development. The business users of such systems find themselves empowered to make changes across the value-chain. From point-of-sale product design, pricing and underwriting rules, through to end-to-end process design and workflow implementation, a business user with the right training can take ownership of it all.
With a modern insurance solution, the traditional dependence on scarce, highly-skilled and expensive IT development staff has been reduced.
Insurance winners will emerge from the companies that can embrace a creative culture. We believe that the same modern insurance solutions can help foster creativity.
For example, it’s widely accepted that the ability to test ideas quickly, before full-scale implementation, can reduce both cost and risk. But we have found that it also encourages innovation and creativity where it’s needed – in the business.
The best insurance platforms enable you to build pilot solutions easily. The members of staff who use such platforms creatively to test-and-learn tend to become more engaged and productive as they see their new ideas tried and tested, not just debated and dismissed as too risky.
Are you still running to stand still?
Development backlogs and the inability to innovate ultimately stifle a business.
Those organisations that are savvy enough to embrace the new opportunities offered by technology can attract the best people, deliver the best solutions to their customers, and emerge as market leaders.