Business environments are changing faster than ever in a digitized world. Industrial insurers have to adopt an agile mindset to recognize and seize new opportunities quickly. This requires experimentation, prototypes and shorter cycles of assessing the implications – both from a business and a technical point of view.

If one had to sum up the characteristics of a more and more digitized world in one word, “speed” would be a valid candidate – “change” would be another. What used to take days or weeks in former times – take the exchange of documents across continents for example – is now a matter of seconds. This is the larger backdrop against which the concepts of agility have been developed: Large, fixed plans, bottom-down hierarchies and only sporadic communication don’t work well in constantly changing business environments.

Agility everywhere

A group of software developers has recognized these problems at the turn of the century and wrote the Agile Manifesto in 2001. It presents a set of much discussed and differently interpreted prioritizations like “Customer collaboration over contract negotiation” and “Responding to change over following a plan”. These prioritizations don’t sketch out practices explicitly, but propose a shift in focus on a broader level.

This is one of the reasons why agility has not only been adapted to software development but to several different domains – even to family life. In current debates within the insurance industry, the notion of agility is not limited to specific agile development methods and practices. It’s more about applying some of its principles across all organizational levels. The motto is: less bureaucracy, more iterative approaches, and a strong focus on customer needs.

Prototypes and iterative cycles

Information and communication technologies have introduced new means of staying in touch with customers and partners. They build the basis for establishing iterative cycles with shorter feedback loops. Product design is tightly coupled with market response. That explains why digital point-of-sales are becoming more and more important. They establish faster channels and more direct links to stakeholders and offer ways to measure and improve the effectiveness of product portfolios.

Along these lines, acting agile implies the exchange of information on a much more regular basis and the immediate drawing of consequences. Even for insurance products, a new modus operandi is therefore required. They are created as prototypes and are continually tested, improved, and adapted to current market needs.