– Collection and disbursement
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7 recommendations for action for successful collection system integration
A matter for the boss: why central questions must be asked and answered at the beginning
Traditional insurers have long been putting their business processes and thus their system architectures to the test – this is forced by markets and the status quo of digitalization. In addition to outdated systems for the core business, this also affects central peripheral systems, such as for dunning processes or payment transactions. The cross-divisional implementation and integration of new systems or functions is not only a major challenge for IT: All project participants are confronted with functional, process-related and organizational changes. This is where adaptability is an enabling and necessary trait of a company’s leadership.
In order to successfully implement a demanding project such as a collection system integration with standard software, in this case an SAP FS-CD solution for a large German multi-product-line insurer, a project approach tailored to the situation is required – with the following main points of action in particular:
- Clear and broad communication and information channels
- Transparency in project planning
- Setting up a project-specific organization with a) organizational structure (integrating the project into the company organization, setting up roles and responsibilities) and b) process organization (defining activities and processes, implementing the project according to the development process).
- Consideration of training
But how does an optimal changeover work – ideally without any major impact on customers, employees and intermediaries? The following questions help to clarify this:
- Do we perform a “big bang”? That means: Do we convert the new system during ongoing operations, preferably over one or two weekends?
- Do we operate two systems in parallel for a defined period of time? Starting with a partial stock?
- Or do we completely shut down operations for a defined period of time and set up the new system during this latency phase?
Since most insurers will decide on the first option as collections and liquidity operational shutdowns are an unrealisitic choice for any company, insurers should consider the following seven recommended actions for successful collections system integration:
Clarify framework conditions
Prioritization at C-level increases the chances of success
Such a project as the implementation of a new debt collection system must be top prioritized by the board/management. Full attention and goodwill regarding the value contribution of the project significantly influences its success. Ideally, a board or management member will support the project from A to Z and also represent it to other board members of the organization.
Change the perspective
A common language acts as a common denominator. If people with different expertise and diverse perspectives work together in the project planning phases as well as in everyday project work, this can lead to communication challenges and even potential misunderstandings. Worst case, this impedes the progress of work in sub-tasks within the project and can lead to misunderstandings throughout the company.
However, there is a proven remedy for this: the regular adoption of the helicopter view. The key question of the helicopter perspective in conflicts is: “Does what I am doing lead to the goal and is it understandable?” This form of meta-communication is not only helpful. It requires all parties to be willing to question themselves and find good solutions to the project or issue.
Actively involving the management in central decisions has a significant influence on the success of the project. The steering committee should see itself as a friend of the project. A transparent information policy (see framework conditions) is a “must have” in order to regularly inform directly and indirectly affected stakeholders about the project status.
Support is provided by active change management, which prepares the organization’s employees for the change: In an integration project such as that of a new collection system with many affecting factors and points of contact in many departments of the company, implementation and system integration will not proceed completely silently. Accordingly, the employees need active support in the context of the transfer of operations and stabilization.
Communicate in a way that is appropriate for the target group
Direct, transparent and efficient communication is a key to successful project work. The more complex an IT project – such as a collection system integration – the more important it is to have an excellent dialogue between all parties involved, including the management board. Here, it is important to communicate in a way that is appropriate for the project staff / stakeholders and to get everyone involved on board. For external communication to management, a bottom line, factual, relevant meta-level overview with recognition mechanisms is needed. In this way, those involved can quickly and correctly orient themselves. And project progress and results can also be easily tracked and recognized.
Communication into and with the project team requires facts and details tailored to the specific situation. Installing different types of communication paths and methods into the project is one of the key factors for project success.
Accompanying the change
The adaptability of insurance companies to the digital transformation will determine their long-term success. In order for implementation and integration projects, for example in the area of collection and disbursement, to provide a suitable response, these projects need teams that professionally accompany the technical, process-related and organisational changes.
“External communication to management requires a bottom line, factual, relevant meta-level overview with recognition mechanisms; communication into and with the project team requires facts and details tailored to the specific situation.”