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Reimagine your operations "small"

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November 24, 2015 - There's no shortage of corporate workshops daring attendees to dream big. But what global enterprises most need at the moment is the ability to reimagine themselves small.

Dreaming small begins by asking, “How would we do things if we were just starting out today?" When answered and acted on honestly, this small question permits huge companies to fundamentally transform their business from backroom to front-office, and everywhere between.

Thinking like a "little" big company demands discipline. Small dreamers can draw on all the knowledge, technology, and financial assets that their company has accrued as it has scaled. But to rethink how they deploy these resources they should use zero-based imagining – much like zero-based budgeting – to reallocate people, technology, and capital without regard for yesterday.

Why design matters
The discipline to reimagine operations calls for an acknowledgement that today – with the right balance, positioning, and integration of talent, infrastructure, and automation – large enterprises can be as agile as the nimblest newcomer.

Getting there, however, requires companies to routinely ask the “What if we were just starting out?" question in every situation, then follow it with: “What operating model capabilities are required to be successful, and how do we reinvent our operations based on the visibility it will give us?"

This isn't an easy exercise, particularly where people are concerned. If you were at square one, how many employees would you need: The 1,400 you have now? 1,000? 600?

Encouraging this line of thinking has helped shape the way our clients address their operating model components, and the support they need to make impactful change.

Our history in reengineering and running global business processes has shown that a holistic approach to operational effectiveness delivers impactful results. This allows a better understanding of internal workings, such as processes, technology, data, and controls, as well as how everything connects – from the granular to the macro.

One client's small-yet-big journey
In a recent engagement, a top-25 global insurer was frustrated by its highly decentralized F&A structure and partnered with us for a traditional lift-and-shift initiative. Having seen our operational work, the CFO asked us to deliver incremental value by redesigning and transforming the company's operating model for delivering financial services. Essentially, we were being asked what the company should do if it were “starting out today."

To outpace industry leaders and start-ups alike, this CFO knew his team needed to improve process accuracy and consistency. By applying Lean DigitalSM – a methodology that combines design thinking, Lean principles and practices, and advanced technologies to align initiatives to business outcomes – we provided the standardization and automation needed to ensure consistency.

Making process outcomes more accurate and repeatable led to greater efficiency and effectiveness. This, in turn, generated greater transactional capacity, which could be rechanneled into moving financial planning and analytics beyond transaction processing. By automating record-to-report processes and capturing data from multiple insurance policy and administration systems, information can now flow from processing to the general ledger.

To date, the client's willingness to look anew at how it might structure service delivery has produced savings of over $50 million, proving that the right sort of small thinking can generate some very big returns.

Author: Greg Derderian - CFO Transformation & Consulting Services, Global Lead - Insurance