Experimenting with new ideas; Discarding those that don’t scale up
Sourabh Chatterjee, head – Digital & Technology at Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, shares the digital transformation plan of the company:
Manoj Agrawal: What are the lessons from digital transformation progress in 2017?
Sourabh Chatterjee: At Bajaj Allianz General Insurance, we are on a 3-year transformation journey, 2016-17 being the first year. We have divided our journey into 3 parts – run, transform and innovate - and are replacing the building blocks one by one by using technology. We are working with start-ups who come up with various ideas, however we discontinue working on ideas which don’t scale up. There are some failures, when an idea with a big business promise may not scale up with desired business benefits.
Digital is an overused word that brings lot of expectations from IT to deliver quickly. I feel that not all point solutions scale up since they are not enterprise grade. For instance, our chatbot BOING is such a huge success that it has now become a channel in itself and also a challenge for us to integrate it with entire in the organization. Any huge success creates a new challenge. Start-ups need to prepare for enterprise grade solutions.
What kind of plans are there for 2018?
The year 2017-18 is the year to ‘transform’ for us. We continue to improve and leverage innovations that we started last year. We have the freedom to choose on things we focus on in the current year.
We have an annual operating plan for each year on the activities that will be new and thing that we will continue from the past years. If there is a large business need across the organization, I would rather choose an enterprise grade player. For smaller point solutions, I would choose a start-up over a module from a large player, which costs higher and the delivery of the final product also takes longer.
Small companies are faster as they are hungry for work and need to establish themselves, on the other hand large companies have full stomach and hence deliver late.
What digital innovations are planned for customers that are not digitally savvy?
We don’t believe in everything being digital just for the sake of it. The offline world is going to stay. Hence, we are focusing on omni-channel. For the people in hinterland, we are making things multilingual. Voice is the next big wave in terms of customer service. Many customers are rather comfortable talking to a person and get their things done. Although, when it comes to payment they would prefer using cheque or digital medium. Even the government initiatives like ‘Digital India’ are giving the much-needed boost to companies to provide simple and instant solutions to the customers.
The ecosystem seems to be changing from few large applications to multiple small applications? How will application management change?
Application Portfolio Management (APM) is a continuous journey. There is never a steady state in APM. We revisit our applications every 3-6 months on usage and performance. I feel that planning for applications needs to be robust and there should be no duplication. Developer operations plays a major role in ensuring this.
What is the response from legacy technology vendors to the emergence of startup fintechs?
Big companies understand the strengths and weaknesses of start-ups. Advantage of working with big companies is that they have money and will invest in an idea. They are a safer bet and have a lot of resources. However, working with start-ups is a gamble. They come up with promising ideas, but later lose the momentum and scaling.
How does digital impact the partner linkages?
There’s a need for more partnerships between banks and insurers. In insurance, motor and health are based on ecosystems of garages, hospitals, etc. Offline management for these is gradually shifting towards digital.
Sourabh Chatterjee sees the digital journey to be an omnichannel effort - like multi-lingual, voice interaction