Whether the ultimate replacement choice is to purchase packaged software or to custom build a new policy administration application, the decision will have an impact on the organization for at least a decade. Therefore, consider the following:
Customers: Who are they now and who will they be in the future? How will they interact with the company and its distribution channels? What will they want to know? What will the company want to know about them? How much of this information is not available in our current administration systems? Where would the data come from?
Products: What products does the company sell and what products will it sell in five years? To whom will they be sold and how? What changes would be needed to accommodate those products in the administration system or the associated processes? What new kinds and sources of data might we need to market, underwrite and service those products?
Organization: What changes in the organization will be needed to support our customers and products in five years? Will the company consider any acquisitions or divestitures in that time? What distribution channels and business partners would be needed? What transactions and information will be exchanged?
Platform: What technology and expertise do we have in-house to build, manage, integrate and implement a new system? What technology and expertise do we need? Will any other new systems or capabilities be required? How will we analyze and use the new data we will be collecting? How will we know the data is accurate?
With the maturation and increasing acceptance of Web services, services-oriented architecture, rules engines and business process management suites, a tacit assumption that building flexible applications somehow minimizes the need for serious thinking about business strategy and requirements. Anyone who has been involved in a major application development or package installation project will recognize this brand of optimism. Anyone who has been involved in a major project failure will know it's not that easy.
We recommend you think about the future. By the time the system is built or installed, the future will be here. We also recommend you think beyond function to process. Feature and function are inadequate business needs definitions.
March 1, 2007
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