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The ideas set out here represent our articulation of some of today's real business opportunities. Each idea links to solutions, found here, that directly address how each of these opportunities can be exploited to deliver tangible results for your business.

What if all the data we received could be turned into business effective information?

Insurance companies increasingly experience an influx of data in a vast range of file and content formats, often received via email. This is exemplified by the constant receipt of spreadsheet bordereaux from multiple Coverholders detailing the risks that have been written on their behalf abroad. This data at best is not fully utilised and at worst ignored entirely. Contained within data received is a mass of business information. Continuing with the bordereaux example this information could indicate any breaches of underwriting guidelines, allow catastrophe modelling on exposure location or simply provide an accurate and up to date picture on the policies written. The issue is investing the time in expensive re-keying or re-formatting of each data file received into a common format to allow such reporting. For many, the investment in time and cost simply exceeds the information return that can be expected.

What if communications within the firm were clearly and consistently promoting the same corporate messages?

Effective communication is integral to any organisation, especially in times of organisational change. Effective and consistent communication can help ensure that the need for change is understood and embedded. Whilst communication is often a focus during times of change, it is essential to also communicate during times of stability to ensure that everyone within the organisation is aware that the current activities are generating the expected, and required, organisational results. With the advancement of technology, the forms that communication can take are increasing: emails, tag lines, video-conferences, letters, face-to-face presentations, phone conferences to name but a few. It is essential to ensure that clear and consistent messages are conveyed across multiple mediums to avoid rumour and potential conflict. Managing organisational communication is a significant task and using the most appropriate medium is essential to ensure that messages are conveyed appropriately.

What if every business decision and action was focused upon achieving our central strategic objectives?

Organisations face the constant challenge to ensure that the cost: revenue ratio is efficiently balanced. Striving to reduce costs, whatever the end result, can have as negative an impact as not measuring costs at all. During strategic planning phases organisations plan methods for obtaining the strategic goals of the organisation. It is unusual that these goals will take a revolutionary approach, unless the organisation is going through significant re-organisation and transformational change. The challenge therefore is to ensure that change is iterative and cumulative to ensure that smaller non-transformational adjustments can improve overall efficiency. As a goal, continuous organisational improvement is difficult to achieve because by its very nature to be continuous means that every action or decision has to impact positively upon the organisation. Projects which strive to improve organisational efficiency generally have the impact of improving a specific area, rather than improving the entire method of operations. In contrast, true operational efficiency focuses upon the entire organisation resulting in each decision and action having an iterative and cumulative improvement for the business.

What if projects used one central organisation to control consistency, leaving project managers free to manage?

Often it is the case that organisations undertake a programme of work comprising numerous inter-related projects rather than completing disparate projects sequentially. When such a programme is undertaken, it is possible that each project could use a different method for reporting, communicating and documentation. As inter-related projects, it is usual for the governance structure for each project to be similar, or at least include many of the same individuals. A lack of consistency in the project deliverables and project reporting increases confusion and reduces the ability for synergies between the projects to be established. Additionally, if at the start of each project within a programme the project manager has to establish their own set of principles in terms of reporting, formatting, version control, documentation and communication, the opportunity cost is significant. Project team members working on multiple projects could easily become confused between different project principles resulting in a lack of standardisation within that one project. A consistent approach has to be maintained both within and across projects, within the overall programme of work.

What if the staff who are affected by change decide how the change should be implemented and communicated?

Organisational change is an inevitable component of growing and sustaining a business, but it often leads to unease if managed incorrectly. Within an organisation this unease can result in retaliatory behaviours from staff who feel that change is happening to them, which increases the operational risk for the firm. Conversely, where staff are involved in the change, and drive it forward, commitment behaviours are more pronounced. Change is often driven by strategy, and as such the change initiation is top-down. Generally however, those who are most affected by the change, who understand what impact the change is going to have, are the practitioners, rather than the strategic management. The resultant impression is that change is being enforced, rather than egalitarian, which reduces the acceptance of change and increases the likelihood of resistance, and ultimately change failure.

What if vendor selection was based upon pre-defined requirements using a structured and impartial process?

Implementing a new system can be a difficult and time-consuming activity, with a significant impact upon the business if the wrong system is chosen. Understanding the business needs, and collating these into a cohesive and encompassing set of requirements, by which to define potential systems "fit for purpose", is a challenge for many firms. It's safe to say that you can only choose a system if you are aware of its existence, and with so many systems claiming to be "tried and tested" and capable of meeting all needs, it is easy to get bogged down in the vendor's claims, rather than the system's capabilities. The management of this integral strategic decision has to be rigorous and consider systems that are not merely from legacy system providers, or whose attributes are passed on through word of mouth, to ensure that the right technological system is chosen.

What if we could measure performance in all the areas that contribute to our strategic goals?

Once a company has invested the time in defining its strategic goals the focus switches to the challenging task of orientating all business activity towards the achievement of these goals. Typically this involves key measurements in place to record the purely financial outcomes of performance. As these measures are of outcomes, rather than inputs, there is a significant time lag between implementing changes within the company to measuring the impact of these changes. Building an understanding of the linkage between actions taken directly by management and the impact on strategic financial goals becomes a costly exercise in trial and error. However, if all areas within the company are monitored and measured in direct relation to their contribution to strategic goals then management can quickly identify where meeting a goal is under threat and take remedial action. This holistic view needs to include not only a financial perspective but also the customer's, internal processes, and innovation.

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