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Virtual Delivery: The New Normal for Core System Implementations

From increasing levels of online purchases to reduced travel to a shift to work-from-home, the insurance industry, like most industries, has been and continues to be impacted by COVID-19. Despite the pandemic, a recent survey of P&C insurers about switching to remote implementations found that when it comes to actual IT project delivery, 58% indicated they have “continued successfully,” 22% of projects were “already remote,” 11% have been “more productive,” while only 9% were characterized as “delayed or strained” (Novarica, 2020). It’s clear that the show must go on, and at Duck Creek, we’re proud to be contributing to the industry’s resilience by providing a paradigm that fully supports virtual delivery of core system implementations.

Historically, we had relied heavily on face-to-face meetings for delivering implementations; however, over the past several years, we’ve embraced the idea of off-site delivery engagements, and many projects we’ve been involved in – whether Duck-Creek-led or led by our systems integrator (SI) partners – have involved a high proportion of Duck Creek staff project time completed remotely. In this post, let’s look at some of the keys to how we continue to excel at delivering our solutions in the new normal of 100% remote work.

See also: Download our white paper for a deeper dive into our approach to virtual delivery

SaaS Enables Future-Readiness

Being a SaaS company has been foundational to our ability to support remote implementations. With Duck Creek software hosted in public cloud data centers and delivered as a service, there is no longer a technological prerequisite to have teams of architects, technical product subject matter experts, and other personnel at a customer’s location to set up physical infrastructure and hardware. Given the advances in automation we are leveraging, we’re able to quickly flip the switch to turn on hardened environments containing the out-of-the-box build of whatever Duck Creek software is licensed. This enables carriers to commence an implementation project immediately after a contract is signed and focus right away on configuring our applications to best meet their needs.

Leveraging Online Communication and Collaboration Tools

For years, our teams have embraced online communication and collaborative authoring tools including the likes of Microsoft Teams, Microsoft Office 360, Azure DevOps, and more to deliver configurations of our Platform that meet customers’ specific needs. Utilizing cloud-based source control, developers hand unfinished configuration output and extensions of carrier insurance products, business rules, and policyholder and agent user interfaces back and forth and submit completed work items for review in real-time. Edits and comments from senior staff may be performed live with developers via screen share so that understanding of methods and techniques is not hampered by distance or location.

While an initial kickoff meeting in person is helpful, we’ve found there are a lot of benefits to remote work, and that turning on your web camera as opposed to having an audio-only meeting is a must. Also, while past engagements may have been dependent on the right architect resource(s) flying in and joining design phase sessions on-premises, the shift to remote work has given architects additional time back and made them more productive – enabling them to not only have more hours each week to get work done but also giving them additional flexibility for scheduling meetings. Remote work also creates a mindset shift; while in the past, it may have been all about who shows up in-person to the “war room,” today, it’s easy to tap into a broader team of staff if needed – whether that be certain subject matter experts or a more diverse set of testers as part of QA.

Delivery Assurance Program

Our Delivery Assurance Program is a service we provide to ensure our customer implementations adhere to Duck Creek’s documented best practices so as to maximize project speed-to-market and minimize delivery cost and schedule overruns, scalability and performance issues, and design rework. For the past several years, Delivery Assurance has been run as a mix of virtual and in-person review meetings, and so providing it in a fully remote model has been something we have been prepared for.

How is that? First off, one piece of the program consists of Automated Delivery Assurance (ADA) reviews, whereby we use tools to run code scans that analyze configurations’ and extensions’ alignment to best practices. Since these reviews are automated, they can be triggered by Duck Creek employees across the globe. Second, our full Product Conformance Reviews not only make use of ADAs, but additionally include our teams of experts, who provide analysis and recommended remediations in terms of data models, DevOps, infrastructure, and industrialization. We’ve found that as long as these meetings are aligned with project inception and major program milestones, these workshops can be run effectively via meeting software and screen share for reviewing and demoing documented deliverables and functional objects.

Adaptability in a Remote World

Given our pre-pandemic experience leading or contributing to core systems implementations where the majority of work was completed with teams working from DCT offices (as opposed to customer facilities), the recent shift to 100% remote implementation projects is something we have embraced. In a time when the pace of change in insurance is accelerating, we recognize that carriers need speed and agility to act on opportunities as they arise, and we are proud to be leaders in helping insurers achieve fast and smooth implementations alongside our SI partners.

Aside from implementations, remote work has been and continues to be baked into various assets of Duck Creek – from our globally distributed SaaS Operations team (including our 24 x 7 “eyes on the glass staff”) to our pivoting this spring from having our annual Formation event in Orlando to making it an ongoing digital event series called vFormation. While we may not have a crystal ball into what the future holds, we look forward to continuing to collaborate with our customers in today’s increasingly virtual world.

Read our Virtual Delivery white paper to learn more about our approach to remote implementations
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Rob Savitsky
Rob Savitsky is a Senior Manager of Product Marketing at Duck Creek Technologies, where he develops marketing strategies, messaging, and positioning for Duck Creek OnDemand and various Duck Creek products. Previously, Rob worked at AIR Worldwide, a Verisk business unit, where he led product marketing for the company’s reinsurance catastrophe modeling application, cyber risk modeling application, and oversaw marketing for Analyze Re (acquired by Verisk on behalf of AIR). Before then, Rob worked in various digital marketing roles at several entertainment, media, and technology companies. Rob holds a B.A. in psychology from the University of Pennsylvania and an MBA from Babson College.