Roles and responsibilities in the digital transformation of industrial insurance

The digital transformation of industrial insurers and brokers is a process that can take several years from decision-making to successful implementation. A crucial component of this process is the effective filling of project roles and the provision of professional advice with a wide range of skills. A clear definition of roles is of central importance. This article looks at the essential roles within the core team that are vital to the success of the transformation.

Short and precise

Clear responsibilities only arise if the roles are precisely defined

Diverse team structures can be decisive for success in complex change processes

The core team needs the support of the entire company

In most insurance and broker houses, a considerable amount of time is required from the decision to transform to successful implementation. This process requires continuous staffing of roles with qualified and available personnel as well as the involvement of professional consulting services with diverse skills. The core team members are usually released from their usual duties and dedicate themselves full-time to the project.

The designation of roles varies considerably within projects and companies. However, clear responsibilities can only be established if the roles are precisely defined. It is theoretically possible for one person to have several roles.

In general, a distinction can be made between roles within and outside the core team. The core team is directly responsible for the operational and technical realisation of the project.


Roles in the core team

Assigning roles within the project team is a primary task in the project organisation that takes place before the actual start of work. This responsibility usually lies with people with decision-making authority for the project, often members of the management team.


The project lead

Project leadership is responsible for the operational success of the project. The strategic project objective is kept in view and the project is managed accordingly. In particular, the project lead is expected to have social, coordination and communication skills. Regardless of whether the project members are managed on a disciplinary basis, they must be motivated, coached and, if necessary, instructed in terms of content throughout the entire duration of the project. The project lead acts as an interface to the decision-makers, stakeholders and external consultants.

Uniting the technical requirements of business and IT in the project and forming a team that pursues a common goal are key tasks of the project leadership. Often, the members of both sides do not know each other, have rarely worked together and pursue different interests. The challenge is to keep the team together, especially when it faces the first major challenges of the transformation.

Project leaders do not need overly detailed expertise in process management or specific knowledge of IT systems. Rather, their work is based on solid basic knowledge in both areas, an overview of the project and the ability to recognise problems at an early stage and take countermeasures. They create the necessary framework conditions so that the project team can work effectively.

Managers and executives in the project, such as the project leadership team, should have social skills in addition to technical expertise. The technical input comes from the project members so that the managers can concentrate on coordinating the project, effective communication and team cohesion.

It is particularly important that managers in complex transformation projects have organisational skills, strong communication and teamwork skills, assertiveness and decision-making power, creativity and flexibility, problem-solving skills, tolerance of stress and ambiguity and the ability to deal with dynamics and complexity.


Project management

In extensive transformation projects, project management is often deployed in addition to project leadership. It acts as a supporting body to the project lead and takes on all organisational administrative tasks. The responsibility lies in ensuring that the project progresses on time, within budget and with appropriate quality and that potential obstacles are eliminated. While the project lead monitors the overall progress, project management is responsible for organising the project and monitoring the defined milestones.

In addition to project management, communication and conflict resolution skills are also required on the part of the project manager to promote the change process. This enables the development of a common understanding of necessary interventions and the unification of the interests and demands of different stakeholders.

In large projects, project management is usually supported by a project management office (PMO), which takes care of regular organisational tasks such as project reporting, invitations to meetings, filing and documentation.


The project team

The project team is made up of a wide range of specialists, including employees from various departments and IT, often supplemented by representatives from other organisational units such as sales and communication as well as external specialists such as IT consultants and implementers. Their expertise in their respective fields ensures the success of the project from a professional and technical perspective.

A diverse selection of technical experts and a diverse team structure from different business areas and socio-cultural backgrounds is advisable. This diversity makes it possible to integrate different perspectives and moods and is crucial for success, particularly in complex change processes, as it contributes to better decisions and challenges traditional patterns of behaviour.

Communication between the project team and various parts of the organisation is crucial to the success of the transformation. The project team alone cannot manage the transformation; the support of the entire organisation is required. The key to project success therefore lies in the successful alignment of the project team and the company as a whole towards a common goal.


Process Owner

Business process managers, also known as “process owners”, play a central role in the team of a transformation project. They are responsible for partial or complete processes of an insurance or brokerage company.

The process owners have detailed knowledge of their business processes and their interdependencies. They specialise in deciding the extent to which processes can be standardised and which individual adjustments are necessary. As part of the transformation, they must agree to all changes to their processes, whereby they should be authorised by the management beforehand.

Business process management is usually carried out by managers at the upper levels of the hierarchy. Their focus is on the end-to-end process, whereby they strive for a smooth and efficient process, but are not specialists in the details.


The key users/process experts

When considering the details of a business process, the key users are also involved as important sources of expertise in addition to the technical experts. They are familiar with the nuances of the process as well as the structures and functions/applications of the IT system used. In their role, they act as a point of contact for their team with regard to specific questions about the process or the respective IT application and also participate in the training of the team.

The key users form a crucial operational basis for a successful transformation. Together with business process management, they design the new processes.


Change management

A digital transformation entails four major changes for insurers and brokers, the effects of which must be managed and positively accompanied by change management: (1) changes in the IT system landscape and functions, (2) adaptation of the strategy, (3) changes to operational business processes and (4) adaptation of the company organisation. To ensure the full effectiveness of a transformation, a fit must be created between the organisation and the new processes with the associated new roles and responsibilities.

One of the main dangers in the change process is neglecting the impact on the organisation and its employees. Answering the question of the impact of the transformation on individuals is crucial for change management to fulfil its core purpose. This requires a fundamental understanding of the technical and functional transformation, a comprehensive overview of complex interrelationships and interactions, as well as the specific information needs of the various stakeholders.

Change management focuses more on the individual and the social structure and less on achieving technical project results within the specified time and cost frame and the required quality.

The activities of change management are aimed at ensuring the effectiveness of the entire project team, promoting the commitment of supporting specialist departments during implementation and ensuring the smooth functioning of the entire organisation with its new processes, roles and responsibilities after implementation. As such, this role is in a positive tension with project management (technical goal achievement vs. acceptance).

The tasks of a change manager are extremely comprehensive and depend on the transformation strategy and the existing company organisation. Key tasks include, for example, coordinating change and communication measures in coordination with HR, communication, strategy, business development and training during the respective project phases, identifying and taking into account internal forces with an inhibiting or favourable effect and training and coaching managers with regard to their role and function in the project and towards their employees.


Communication management

Communication management in the transformation project controls both internal and external communication, plans effective strategies and carries out target group-specific communication measures in order to convey change topics and their effects in an understandable way.

The areas of responsibility include internal communication within the project team and integrated project communication within and outside the company.

Key tasks include managing communication processes, developing and implementing strategies, collaborating with other project areas and internal stakeholders, formulating messages in line with strategic objectives, optimising communication channels, analysing activities and measures and coordinating with internal and external stakeholders.

These measures promote cooperation and teamwork and ensure communication with all parties involved.


The business analysts

Nowadays, digital transformation, often in the form of a combined introduction or upgrade of an IT system, rarely takes place without the involvement of business analysts. These are usually hired by the respective software provider or are specialised in specific software.

They bring the necessary IT expertise to the project. They also have a detailed understanding of the possibilities and limitations of the software as well as the realisation of certain requirements and the optimal connection of other applications.

This specific expertise in the field of IT systems is not usually available internally within the company and it would not be economical to maintain it in the long term. The business analysts provide support in translating and implementing the internal company requirements into the language of the software.

With a high level of technical expertise, the role of the business analyst forms the bridge between the specialist department and IT. They have the task of understanding and analysing the requirements of the specialist departments and recording them in such a way that a development team of software developers and modellers can implement them.


Software development

Software developers basically write code for software that fulfils the requirements of the specialist departments and ensures the overall functionality of an IT system. They design, create, implement and test applications. In IT projects in which requirements can also be technically modelled by specialist departments, they usually develop the more individual requirements together with the business analysts. In this case, code is created for those requirements that cannot be covered by modelling by the business analysts. Software developers usually work in agile working methods in so-called sprints.


Quality management

The establishment of a quality management system (Project Quality Assurance) has proven to be extremely effective, particularly in complex projects. These units are not operationally involved in the project, but instead focus on monitoring and controlling the service or quality provided. They are able, for example, to check the fulfilment of milestones before they are accepted by the project management. Subsequent reworking and corrections can therefore significantly improve the (interim) result. Quality managers are also responsible for monitoring the quality of work and process efficiency and making suggestions for improvement.

Employees with extensive experience in leading positions on large projects are particularly suitable for this role. Whilst the project manager and team are heavily involved in the day-to-day running of the project, quality managers can maintain a critical overview to ensure that all necessary criteria are taken into account.