Interview - Digitising & Automating Insurance Processes


Jason Cripps, Global Automation & Operational Excellence Expert, discusses his experience in digitising & automating insurance processes.


Jason Cripps, Global Automation & Operational Excellence Expert, discusses his experiences and practical insights to deliver ROI and avoid costly mistakes. The interview explores:


Identifying and eliminating waste from complex insurance processes
Effectively using intelligent automation tools to drive up the quality & efficiency of processes
Engaging people on the automation journey and developing a culture that embraces change


Digitising & Automating Insurance Processes

Jeremy: So hello everybody, and welcome to this TINsights video, where we're going to be speaking to Jason  Cripps, who was formerly at Zürich, and was Head of Automation and Operational Excellence there. And we're going to be talking a little bit about how you go about looking at digitizing and automating processes within insurance. So welcome, Jason. And so we ran an event together a couple of weeks ago, and we were we were looking at this this topic, and it was clear in the room that most the majority of the people were at the start of their automation journey, and I just thought perhaps I could ask you - when you're looking at starting automation projects or initiatives, how do you assess which processes, and where you can apply this type of technology, this automation technology successfully? What's your approach to that?

Jason: Yeah. So I mean, we have an approach that first of all looks at just stopping waste within the organization, you could do that by traditional process reviews and methods. So you know, you want to get into automating, you know, complex, wasteful processes, unless you really have to do so, you stat by thinking through that end-to-end process journey stop, and when you're assessing processes, what you're looking for is things that are potentially got some high volume, a what you need to do there is to try and get underneath these very complex, probably fractured processes , and really understand what’s going on within the business, and ideally end-to-end, you know - from the point of request from the customer through to when you deliver whatever the outcome might be to that request from the customer. The process mapping is core to that and really understanding, and you can do that in the traditional way - being a LEAN expert I fully subscribe to that process. You know, I'm sure many people have been in a room of Post-it notes, sticking them up on the wall and mapping it through. And that's great, but that it tends to take quite a long time to do. You tend to get focused and hooked up on some of the things that are probably might not be the biggest problem by volume, but it's the biggest thing that worries your people today. And to then package that together you can miss some things. So this is where the automation tools like process mining and process intelligence can really start to play a part - if you’ve got that digital footprint - and it doesn't have to be a full digital footprint - and actually you could have part of the process tested here, and then it hands off people who do some manual work, then it comes back for something – you can still really use those powerful tools now to automatically map and understand the journey of something that's going on through your business. And that for me is like putting LEAN on speed,  really that you can get to the bottom of what's happening in a process where the constraints are, where the opportunities are for improvement, where the wastes are, and you make sure within days or weeks if you can access that data and information. So those, you know, those are great places, you know - where you start? It's a really difficult one, but looking at the enterprise, you know, you typically would go for areas that might have the highest cash amount running through it from a cost point of view, with the largest number of people, the largest volume of processes. You start in those areas, but you do want to have a good, structured approach to assessing processes, really understanding whether there's an opportunity in that to improve - either from a ‘Just stop doing it, remove the waste’ or to then take it into the automation journey to really drive up the quality and the efficiency of that process.

Jeremy:  So really understanding that the process before you even start to think about this is key and then a good place to start is to look at the kind of the ‘low hanging fruit’ as it were, where can you make a real difference and an impact on that?

Jason: Absolutely – and go a bit wider than that as well, Jeremy – what you want to do - the thing that many people I see get involved in is they pick a process, which actually in isolation looks like the right thing to do; they’ll do a proof of concept on it - especially with the intelligent automation tools and they'll do it all, and then they’ll work the business case in and in general “It doesn't really work in this process, where else do we go?”, and there's nowhere else to take it in the business, so if you're starting the journey, you also want to think a bit ahead of yourself as well. Well, if we put that use case into the business, can we scale it elsewhere to gain at least that first piece of traction? And then you can come back to some of those probably, you know, more niche processes that you've got in the business, because then you've already invested in the technology capabilities in the wider enterprise, and you can start to pick up some of the processes in isolation. So that's the only thing I’d add to that is  that you’ve got to think ahead  of it had this was the where would you go next? And not just look at one case for one solution.

Jeremy: Yeah. So when you when you've identified - you've done that process map and you've identified the process that you'd like to tackle first, I mean - it's all well and good writing this stuff on paper, but you do come across some practical challenges when you when you get into this,, what have been the biggest challenges that you've had to think about it to make sure that the automation is a success? What are the key criteria, do you think?

Jason: Start with the people, the culture and that, within the business, really. So making sure – I always say take the people on a journey with you from the outset, so really get them involved in understanding what the benefits are from automation, why it's good for the business, why it's good for customers and why it's great for employees. So the cultural piece in the business, which if you don't take - and I've seen this happen, where the operation people have got really good solutions, they’ve spent an awful lot of time in a darkened room, and they’ve created what is brilliant from a technology point of view and does It, but they've never introduced the people in the business to it. So what happens is basically nobody understands it, they’re afraid of it, and so they won’t use it. So you’ve invested an awful lot of time, so that People Point is absolutely key in culture. Second thing is what we just talked about, really, you know, just getting the buy-in, making sure you do that proper process assessment - really understand that, and look forward. And then the last thing I'd say is just typically people's worry about “Wow, this is just another piece of technology and tool that we’re going to layer into the business, it’s another legacy item that we've got”, and actually I wouldn't look at it that way. You can use automation as a way - sometimes as a bridge - between you and the old legacy, because replacing systems typically is a long job, is quite expensive and costly, and all those sorts of things to the organisation. So, you know, there's not a lot around and about, and you’re just building another legacy into the business here that we're going to have to cope with. Well - I think it can actually help you to drive and create more efficiency out of your old legacy technology stack, and that by using it efficiently you can create a layer on the front if you want to in order to use your legacy system and optimise that, and the data repository aspect, and run the automation around it, which would cost you quite a significant amount money within the system. So those are some of those things, that there's others within the cultural aspect around resistance to this, you know – that will come – and that’s the ‘Empire Piece’ where people worry that they will lose loads of people and therefore the size of their organization, and again that for me is the wrong way to think about it. Automation if used correctly will actually not - shouldn't - remove all the roles within the business it will create a whole stack of new roles and new opportunities for people, and should enable you as an organization to grow your business, having creative capacity to do more with the same amount of resource, and that's got to be great for everybody, right? Great for the customer and great for your stakeholders, and also great for the bottom line as well.

Jeremy: Yeah, and it's surprising how many times that kind of user - internal user experience - is kind of missed them, bringing them along the journey, and correct me if I'm wrong, but I think you need to involve them right at the start and actually their input will ensure that your project is more likely to succeed than fail because they are the people that are on the front line who need to deal with customers or deal with the process that you are looking to apply automation to. So they're going to have the expert knowledge that you need as either IT or ops people in order to make it work.

Jason: Absolutely - it's fundamental, Jeremy. Like you say first of all the people who are in the operations today, they deliver the customer outcomes. They better than anybody understand the process. They understand where some of those pressure points are, friction points are, where there's opportunity for improvement. If you get them involved up front - and what I've used over a few quite, quite a few times – what I call ‘Seeing is believing’ - do a very quick automation for those people within 24 hours in a test environment to show them what they are (the possibilities). And nine times out of time the focus that you've shown them the capability to, will actually come along and go “Actually that's really good, I've got another 15 problem processes here that just absorb my time, could you get rid of those as well?” So now you've got you got them on a journey. The other thing to think about here is from your own business point of view, in the wider perspective for most people on the skills that they need. Businesses are changing massively and going more digital, and those skills are at a premium. If you can use this thing to drive transformational change through your people as well to reskill them into the digital world, you're not going to be out there competing in what is a diminishing market for this resource where everybody is fighting for digital skills today. You know, this is some very frightening statistics, if you like, about there being 120 million role gap in this space come 2027 – i.e. the likes of your Accentias, WIPROs and Microsoft and others are hoovering these people up – you just won’t have enough in there, so reskilling your workforce for the future is a really  important thing. And that's also why, Jeremy, I totally subscribe to bringing people on the journey, and you know - you teach people of your business today, and actually more importantly in the future as well.

Jeremy: Yeah that's really interesting. One of the things I wanted to ask you about was kind of in-between automation in robotic process automation. So quite - you know - it's an algorithmic kind of process as opposed to intelligent automation and getting to the realms of AI. And quite often those are quite distinct almost siloed kind of areas of thought. Do you think of them in those ways, or do you think of it more as a journey? You know, you start to put in some RPA stuff and then it will naturally progress into more intelligent automation. But tools are developed in that way for them to actually learn as they go along. How do you think about that?

Jason: Yeah. So one way is an evolution. So we started RPA, where it was able to do what I call binary processes. It's simple, rules-based processes. And what you tend to get in an end to end customer journey is a lot of rules-based processes, but they're quite fragmented because you've got the human intervening in between doing a lot of activity. As things have evolved, you know, and the tools around OCR and I suffered from congestion rates or natural language processing, natural language and image rec, all those other tools that you've got, before you get up to machine learning and artificial intelligence tools within the intelligent automation space. It's a continuum that, for me, RPA becomes the orchestrator underneath that. So RPA is still important within that because it can orchestrate and facilitate a process and call out the news, the intelligent automation skills along that journey, to stop you having fragmented, rules-based processes that are going on that get handed off to really stitching that journey together to really then getting you the opportunity to have a straight-through process. Of course, the key challenge in there though, Jeremy, is to choose the right tools along the journey. So there's no point you choosing a machine learning artificial intelligence tool if all you want it to do is to do a basic read of email, if you want it to read the email and understand it, then put it in context, see if there's anything out in the marketplace, then that's a completely different challenge. That's what we were saying before. You pick the right process, but make sure you pick the right intelligent automation tool for the right problem or opportunity. And too many people think they need artificial intelligence all-singing all-dancing tool, which is actually the most expensive way to do it, rather than picking the right tools. And if you can get a platform that's got all of those intelligent automation tools, whether it's process mapping or OCR or natural language understanding all within the same platform, it gives you a much better opportunity to get the return on investment quicker than if you have to go and get lots of separate tools and then sort of integrate those together as well.

Jeremy: Yeah, I can see that. Great. OK, thanks. Thanks for that. I'm just going to I'm going to put you on the spot slightly and see if you can just give me three kind of 'Critical Criteria' that you think you need - 'Cornerstones', if you like - that you need to have in place to make sure that kind of automations are successful. What would you say?

Jason: Yeah. So we set the people piece, right? The people, the culture, the real senior buy-in and understanding to what intelligent automation can really deliver, and invest in that in the proper way. So that's that's one of those. Secondly, would be a good center of excellence or centre of execution or central enabled whatever, you know - there's all different names to it. So some proper governance and controls around how and where you develop automation and how you release it as well, into the organisation. But more importantly, or as importantly is that should be able to enable you to share and understand best practice and do the training through your organization as well. And then lastly, it is to select the right processes to go on that journey. But so the point you made making sure that you understand where next so you don't do in isolation, and think "Right - we're going to have - you know - OCR over here", and then there's no other use case for it that in the business, you know? So really think through that, where's the future going? Where's the scaling of it? There are a lot of examples where you can pick something that I believe is across the enterprise, and I - you've heard me talk about this before, Jeremy - starting with the ingestion of documents and information that comes in every single function in the business, as paper or email traffic or phone calls coming in. Turn that, you know - digitize that unstructured data, then you can really start to drive hat, so using the natural language processing natural language understanding, that's probably the most widest use case that you can have a great place to start from an intelligent automation perspective.

Jeremy: Great. Well, thanks, Jason, as always for your time. It's always great to talk to you about this. As you say, it's a journey, it's going to evolve, and well, and the application of this technology is just going to become greater and greater as our businesses become more and more digital in nature. So thank you for those insights and look forward to speaking again soon.

TINtech London Market 2024 driving change in the Lloyd's and London market

Sign Up to TINsights
Where we share our latest blogs, industry reports and insights

Subscribe here

The Insurance Network (TIN)

Connect with us

Subscribe to receive industry insights, news and more by email

Subscribe here