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Expert Tips for Successful Insurance Digital Transformation

By 03.14.24
Reading time: 4 minutes

When it comes to digital maturity, 67% of insurance companies are still stuck at the traditional level according to Forrester’s Future Fit Survey. They aren’t taking advantage of technology to connect their siloed systems and automate their manual processes, making it difficult to meet customer demands and stay competitive in the marketplace. 

In our recent webinar featuring guests from Forrester, Salesforce, and Equitable, we explored the latest trends shaping the future of insurance and how technology is evolving to meet industry demands. Beth Devenney, Head of Sales Engagement & Strategy at Equitable, shared with me the critical components of a successful insurance digital transformation plan, and her insights are extremely valuable for insurance organizations looking to upgrade their systems and processes.

Danielle Laffey: Equitable recently went through a complete digital transformation within a few different lines of business and is continuing down this journey very successfully. Could you give a brief description of what you did and why?

Beth Devenney: At Equitable, the IT organization came to me and shared that our CRM was our top technical debt application. This is not really an award that you want, so we needed to invest to remediate the tech debt and any security vulnerabilities. 

The way that we saw this, there were two options. We could invest in our existing platform and the infrastructure, but with that, we wouldn’t see any added functionality. However, this was the system that our sales teams knew really, really well and loved to a fault. On the other hand, we could pivot to a new system and move the on-prem data sources to the cloud.

This would require a whole lot of change management and a great deal of buy-in and support. So after about two to four months of extensive interviews, demos, surveys, and many conversations, we collectively made the decision to retire our homegrown CRM and shift to Salesforce.

There were many reasons that led us to this decision, but some included the flexibility and the integration capabilities. Unifying the organization with a consistent CRM strategy. The potential opportunities to leverage out-of-the-box AI. Having a true mobile experience for our sales organization was critically important. And then, on the build side, the ease of deployments.

The continued security with the three times a year upgrades was a key driver here. After we made this decision, it took us nine months from ideation to delivery to deploy Salesforce with all required base functionality. We started with base functionality first for our individual retirement sales organization. This was the quickest digital transformation to date at Equitable.

DL: How did you drive the efficiency, focus, and capacity through this digital transformation?

BD: I think about efficiency, focus, and capacity in two different ways. One for my team and then those that we’re delivering the transformation for. As the Head of Sales Engagement & Strategy at Equitable, my team is the suggestion box: What about this? Can we do this? Have you thought of this? Which is amazing and I never want to stop the idea sharing, but it’s really important to create alignment with our key stakeholders. 

What is going to have the greatest impact on the overall organization? We start small, we see success, and we add on to that transformation. My team is always going back — especially to the sales organization — to prioritize and then remain focused on what we say we’re going to deliver.

Saying no is a really important and hard thing to do, but if everything becomes a priority, nothing gets complete. With each digital transformation, at the start we set clear objectives. Key results, metrics, and expected outcomes that align to our overarching organizational goals. Then after we deliver the transformation, we monitor these results every quarter.

DL: What has been the impact of this digital transformation at large for Equitable? What’s happening across the business? 

BD: One of the big drivers of Equitable’s transformation is prioritizing based on impact. While today I’m responsible for the sales strategy specific for individual retirement, much of what I’m determined to drive forward will in the future also benefit group retirement, life insurance, our Equitable fund management team, and employee benefits.

I include many of the leaders within those business lines in our efforts to drive alignment in the future by considering their priorities as well. Every program that could impact these multiple lines is now funneled through one Equitable. We have three pillars of this governance process, each of which is led by our business leaders. 

Those three pillars include improving internal capabilities, so how do we get better quicker and stronger internally at equitable? Then driving new business outcomes. What’s the distribution strategy? Where do we want to grow within the marketplace? And then finally, optimizing the client and the advisor experience. How do we continue to grow with personalization and really deliver timely communications and what our customers and our advisors need when they need it?

DL: As we think about growing and your ongoing digital transformation, what are your short, near, and long-term goals as they relate to that?

BD: Time always moves quicker than the roadmap does. I very much feel that every day. So short term, we’re now 12 to 18 months in on our Salesforce journey. So we’re really reevaluating what we’ve delivered so far and incorporating feedback that we’ve received. Basically going back to the basics. We’re incorporating personalization in our engagement strategies and then deploying really small and impactful automation opportunities. 

Within the near term, we really want to blow up some of our very manual and laborious sales processes and build out further integrations. And then, as I think long term, there’s a variety of different business lines and we have a variety of different Salesforce orgs associated with those business lines. And so our long-term approach right now is evaluation and considering the consolidation of the three Equitable distributors’ Salesforce orgs into one to create alignment on processes, the sharing of data, centralizing decision making, and leveraging a unified team.

This is really where I think we increase innovation, deliver quality, have that true platform stability, and leverage shared experiences. This will also help us reduce duplications. Right now with three Salesforce orgs, if one business line wants to deliver one implementation or an integration, we need to do that two more times within the three that we have. So reducing the duplication of effort, eliminating unnecessary spend and costs. Then our time to market really does decrease when we’re all aligned and moving together as one Equitable.

Learn how our insurance team can accelerate your digital transformation.

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