A recent Gartner survey \revealed that 49% of companies are still working without a digital strategy. According to Gartner, “The survey found that that transformation to digital business has been difficult for many life insurance businesses and IT leaders as they try to build the case for innovation and change, but have a traditional culture which has proven resistant to change.”
Many individuals may think that if 49% of companies still don’t have a digital strategy that that is a surprisingly high number. To me, however, that number is very low.
I may be able to relate to this article better than people. I’ve been in the technology industry for almost 19 years I have had the fortune of working with many other companies, both big and small, including consulting firms. Many years ago, I worked for Microsoft as an Account Technical Specialist. My role was to help companies architect technical solutions to help their business run more effectively. The most common characteristic I found in those businesses was a “culture resistant to change”.
One account from my Microsoft years stood out in my mind after reading the Gartner article. They were an insurance company in New England (let’s call them Your Insurance Company, or YIC for short). Initially, my biggest challenge with YIC was securing time with their CIO (for anonymity sake, let’s just call him Joe) to discuss his environment and the business challenges. Once I found out he loved Thai food I would just schedule lunch meetings at his favorite Thai restaurant and it became easier to get his time. During our lunch meetings, Joe shared with me his process and vision for the company specifically around an IT strategy that moved his company onto new applications to become more efficient. Over the period of a few months we would follow up our lunch meetings with a tour of the different departments and discuss the underlying technology they were using and how they support it.
One afternoon I was taken on a tour of their security provisioning department, and Joe highlighted the department’s responsibility for provisioning new accounts and providing them the appropriate access to the systems and resources they would need as part of their role. This entire discussion sounded normal to me right up to the point when I asked, “What software are you using to provision and manage the user’s security access?”
My expectation was that Joe would say Microsoft ILM or some other competitor’s solution, or even some home-grown system. It turned out, however, that they most definitely, had a home-grown system. Basically, the group of 16 people would manually process every request sent to them on paper forms. I almost started to laugh but the look on his face told me he was not joking and my laughter turned to dismay. As he walked me around the department’s open floor of desks I noticed that the people sat face to face with no cubical dividers between them so they could pass paper security requests forms back and forth with each other.
It was like a scene from a 1940s movie, except it was real. The only thing missing was a cloud of cigarette smoke in the air. Joe introduced me to the VP of the department (for anonymity’s sake, let’s call him Bill) and then Bill proceeded to explain the entire long and tedious manual process of how the HR department granted employees access to specific systems. The HR department submitted a paper security form to request the desired level of access for the new user and sent it to the provisioning department via inter office mail. Once the provision request forms were received, a processing manager would open the mail and assign it to one of the 16 employees based on their application focus. They would then process each request by logging into the system in question, and adding the user. In some cases, the user might need access to 5 or more systems and if that admin didn’t have responsibility for 1 of the 5 applications, they must pass the request over to an admin that did. With a smile on his face Bill said, “and for most users, we can have all the user’s accounts setup faster than our 5 day SLA allows.”
After I pulled my jaw off the floor I thought to myself “It will be a slam dunk to get this department to see the benefits of replacing their paper-based process with an automated solution that can provision/deprovision users and integrate with other systems to track changes.”
Again, thinking this was a slam dunk, I had to ask, whether I could schedule some time over lunch so he could join Joe and I to discuss the opportunity for modernizing his process with a more reliable automated process. Bill responded with a resounding, but respectful, “No”. He then proceeded to tell me that “My department has never missed our SLA and we have less than 1% error rate”. I did not want to appear as though I was sparring with him, but I had to follow up with the comment, “But you can do the same job faster and with less than a quarter of the people, have better departmental integration and stop with all the paper forms.” Bill thanked me for my time and closed with a comment, “I like paper and this is how we have always run this process and it works just fine.”
On the way, out Joe explained that Bill’s department had a much higher error rate than 1% and rarely met their SLA commitment. Joe continued to empty all the skeletons out of the company’s closet, by continuing to highlight problems with every department refusing to upgrade applications to new versions and insisting on keeping manual process because most people didn’t want to learn new applications or do things differently. He said frankly, “They have no respect for how IT can help grow the business, and in 2 years I am retiring so it will be someone else’s problem.”
A few years later, after several failed security audits and associated fines and settlements, the company chose to change their business by including a more technical and more integrated approach.
So, long story short, now they have a companywide digital strategy that is a technology-first approach to every process to ensure that records are digitized and data is integrated across systems to reduce mistakes and improve the flow of data to help grow the business. By eliminating internal paper process and integrating systems, they have shortened their internal SLAs and with the cross-department data integration the claims processing for customers has dramatically improved as well.
Technology enables business to grow, whether that technology is an application that streamlines or automates a process or, more importantly, an integration platform like Scribe’s iPaaS that keeps all company systems in sync. Both are crucial to a digital strategy. With just a little bit of vision, YIC could have integrated their systems with a solution like Scribe’s iPaaS. They would have benefitted from having their security database integrated with their ERP and other business applications, which would have avoided all the human error that caused them to fall out of compliance with their SLA and pay the fines. In many cases, however, corporations can resist change and it takes a sizable amount of corporate pain to finally get the organization to change.
Developing a hub and spoke integration methodology with Scribe’s iPaaS gives organizations a number of options to overcome resistance to change. First, Scribe enables more types of people, including business analysts, to develop integrations which gives a company more departmental and personnel options for overcoming any internal resistance. In addition, Scribe lowers the time and cost of integration projects, making digitization and automation less of a hurdle and easier to adopt.
Visit our website at www.scribesoft.com today to learn more about the powerful solutions we offer.