For many organizations, the pandemic accelerated digital transformation efforts already underway, with customer experience and employee experience squarely at the center.
Today, all minds are turned to return to office plans as the future of work, at least for now, appears to be hybrid. The question: How will agile teams that flourished in in-person settings adapt to new ways of working and continue to advance business innovation?
CIO’s Maryfran Johnson sat down with Mojgan Lefebvre, executive vice president and chief technology and operations officer at Travelers, to discuss just that.
Lefebvre joined Travelers in 2018, in a unique leadership role overseeing all aspects of technology and data strategy, cybersecurity, insurance operations functions, and omnichannel customer engagement.
Under her leadership, Travelers has been winning national awards, including two of our own CIO 100 awards for technology innovation, last year in 2020 and again this year. Most recently, she was named to the new Forbes CIO Next list as one of the 50 most innovative technology leaders.
Following are edited excerpts of Lefebvre’s conversation with Johnson on how Travelers is evolving the customer experience and employee experience as part of CIO.com’s Leadership Live series. The full video can be viewed below.
On organizing around product teams:
Mojgan Lefebvre: A couple of years ago, we drove toward setting up our business teams and our technology professionals into product teams that have a very specific set of outcomes they are focused on, which are very aligned to our business strategies across our three business segments and our claim function.
So, defining how we would measure the success of [business] outcomes is how the groups start and then building capabilities and solutions couched in technology and data that drive towards those outcomes and really having that customer centricity perspective. But also understanding the value of building things iteratively starting with the outcome and what the customer wants, what the stakeholder that you’re building for wants, then building the capabilities from there, putting it in the hands of the user, getting the feedback and that iterative approach is how your solution continues to get better. That’s really what’s at the core of agile is customer centricity, an iterative approach and that continuous feedback loop.
We launched this agile transformation in a big way with our business. Our technology teams had been operating in that way for a while, but by definition because we didn’t have the business people in it, we weren’t cross-functional. And so what’s at the heart of agile wasn’t necessarily fully in it. Bringing our business into it was really a big step, and incredibly enough as we launched into that journey, we all went home and so we did a lot of it virtually.
On return-to-office plans.
Lefebvre: I would say many companies were able to leverage digital and technology and not miss a beat, and yet I’d say we were probably pulling from the incredible, deep relationships that we built over the years. There is no doubt in my mind that that human connection is absolutely core—one of the tenets of agile was also co-location. And I think that is absolutely still true. And I’d say technology is not yet there to give you that full experience. It’ll probably come, albeit probably sooner than we think and later than many might claim.
So hybrid, therefore, is at the core of what we’ve decided as an organization. We, of course, wanted to make sure we leveraged a lot of incredible learnings that we had over the last year and a half where tools and virtual and technology capabilities can help you do many things, where you don’t necessarily need to be together. And yet over the last 160 years before, we have learned how as an organization everything around being together and those experiences that you create.
On making hybrid work:
Lefebvre: I’d say the other results of this past year and a half was the fact that we learned how important it is to have the ability to have hybrid meetings, where the experience with those in the rooms and those remote is as good and on equal footing. And I’d say that’s a big change from what might have been in place in the past, where it was all about who was in the room.
And it’s always more about the human behavior and the process before the technology. Because the technology is not going to solve the fact that if you set up a meeting, you forgot to set up that virtual link. So really, some of the basic things [like] ensuring every meeting both has a physical and a virtual place, ensuring that the quality of the sound through the microphones is as good in the rooms as it is remotely. And it’s not going to be easy because some of the technologies still need a lot of work.
On upcoming business and technology initiatives:
Lefebvre: There’s a huge effort that we have around simplifying and modernizing. We have years of things that we have built. There are areas where we may have had a lot of technical debt and probably continue to do so.
How do we drive towards those common extensible set of capabilities built on microservices, really API enabled, to allow us to connect to these newer ecosystems where our customers expect us to show up? It’s not always about them coming to us as an insurance organization, but we need to be embedded in other experiences, where [experience] becomes more and more part of some of the business that they do. When they buy something, the ability to have the warranty or the insurance that goes with it, as I’m sure many of us have experienced when you buy your iPhone and things like that.
And then, of course, continuing to absolutely ensure that we’re advancing in areas of analytics and AI because we know that that’s going to make a big difference [in] how we interact with our customers, whether it’s guiding our operations professionals on what are the next best set of questions to ask or how to categorize the customer who’s calling in or ensure that they’ve got a 360-view of the customer who’s calling and all the interactions with them.