If greenfield projects are a pillar of your business strategy, make sure you’ve considered these five components that can make the difference between success and failure.
Greenfield projects are the best way to get urgently needed, innovative insurance products to market. Borrowing from the principles of agile project execution, greenfields encourage us to create products and frameworks without the constraints that limit the evolution of brownfields — our legacy environments. When we build on a clean slate without the need to modify or tear down existing structures first, there are fewer distractions and obstacles, and that can result in faster development, implementation, and success. However, just like other agile methods in project management, greenfields are not a blank check that guarantees success. Your determination to manage risks is just as important as your focus on the desired outcome.
- Set your sights on scalability.
When greenfield projects kick off, “How will we scale this if it’s a raving success?” is not always a priority question. It should be. If an in-demand product cannot be easily migrated to an insurer’s system(s) of record, the cost savings from the greenfield project start to evaporate quickly as migration expenses pile up or policyholder support is limited. The best way to avoid these challenges — and their potential to hamper the growth of a successful product — is to start with agile core systems that can serve as both a system of record and an agile environment for greenfield projects.
- Focus on the core solution.
You don’t have to be everything to everyone at once. Instead, concentrate your efforts on the core customer experience. You can do that by creating a limited set of critical touchpoints that will let you connect to your customers faster, iron out flaws faster, find responses from your target audience faster, and speed up time to market — and profitability — considerably. Define your understanding of success in milestones and measurable metrics.
- Invest in your teams, technology, and governance.
The successful execution of your greenfield beyond your decision to act upon an idea will always depend on engaging the right team with the right technology and the necessary processes. Without experienced and dedicated talent, you can’t get what’s needed even out of the best technology. Carefully considered processes build your governance and build confidence and the chance for a smooth evolution of your greenfield — and reduce the chance of critical and avoidable mistakes.
- Adjust quickly.
Along the same lines as ensuring a new product can scale seamlessly, it’s critical to have an agile approach for adjusting that product as market needs evolve. Changing demand causes the need for innovative new insurance products, and it also drives change in those products over time. New or different coverages, limits, jurisdictions, rating schemes, or other elements will undoubtedly become necessary over the life of a product. Enabling product versioning and variations makes this a more seamless experience, particularly when renewal processes are set to move policyholders to current versions as needed. Anticipate the need for change and build the infrastructure and processes that enable you to change direction. In agile projects, teams that can react to changing requirements faster will always have a greater chance of success than those who remain static. A solid capability to measure and track business goals and target audience behavior is an invaluable requirement to make informed project decisions.
- Acknowledge success — and failure.
This one may sound trivial, yet it is the most difficult to execute. Use metrics of success in a disciplined way and use them to evolve your greenfield. What success metrics and milestones are needed to enter the next conclusive stage? In the same sense, the outcome of a greenfield can be that the desired outcome cannot be achieved. They’re not all winners! Acknowledging failure of a greenfield is also part of a deeply embedded principle to encourage rapid innovation and search for new, transformative customer solutions. Persistence beats resistance, as we’ve learned from examples such as Thomas Edison, who famously didn’t give up on the initially frustrating results from his work on inventing the light bulb and stated, “I have not failed. I’ve just found 10,000 ways that won’t work.”
Innovation will always come from people who deeply understand market and policyholder needs, but technology can fuel those ideas and make them work. It’s a win for policyholders and insurers alike that will continue to push the industry forward.