by Jennifer O'Brien

CIO50 2019: #26-50 Simon Reiter, Defence Health

Nov 14, 2019
Technology Industry

Simon Reiter
Credit: Defence Health

In 2017, Defence Health’s legacy PHI platform “completely failed for a two week period due to unforeseen capacity issues with the systems code base,” according to CIO Simon Reiter, who whipped into action and helped deploy a tactical remediation program.

Defence Health – which is a not for profit member-based private health insurer – deployed a short term tactical remediation program in parallel to a longer term market scan and request for tender (RfT) to replace the system, Reiter told CIO Australia.

“The tactical remediation involved three streams of work around building an offline switch, uplifting the capacity of the platform and resolving the code issues – all three of these were delivered within a six week period which provided enough capacity for the organisation to continue with the longer term strategy of replacing the core PHI platform,” Reiter said.

“The outcome of this RFT was selecting Oracle health insurance as the first private health insurer in Australia to move away from the legacy Australian platforms. This move to a new core platform led to an organisational wide transformation program to uplift the core insurance engine, digital customer experience, data and robotic process automation.

“This uplift was structured and designed in a way that should Defence Health chose, they could become a BPO to other organisations which would provide an additional revenue stream to the organisation along with future enterprise capabilities.”

Asked how the innovations came about, Reiter said the project initially started as a long term remediation strategy, but quickly transformed into being able to deliver improved operational efficiencies through the automation of manual processes, improved collaboration to customers and internal staff.

“The ability to create a health insurance product has been reduced from three months to one day; the time to process a claim has reduced from three days to three minutes; selling a product has reduced from hours to minutes through online self service digital capabilities.

“These technologies have greatly positioned Defence Health to attract new customers and to support continued growth in a challenging industry which is undergoing a period of disruption and change.”

Reiter said change management was key to overcoming the structural, operational and cultural impacts of the transformation program.

“We created diversified teams which were embedded with the business to create a sense of engagement and participation which then was able to make staff excited and opt into the change, this was key as any new technology which automates processes generally drives FTE efficiencies.

“Once everyone understand how, why and what we were doing and how this would then make their jobs easier and enable them to focus on providing a higher level of customer service and focus to our members, we were able to overcome these obstacles.

“Championing a culture of change was a key theme which was lived and enabled by everyone from the CEO down which was key to the projects success.”

Reiter said the keys to success comes down to “creating a story” and a vision for the future.

“In this case, I developed a vision of the ‘Fund of 2025’ and what this would enable the organisation to deliver.

“This was a key message in getting the board to approve the investment to deliver enterprise-wide $50 million transformation program. Over a period of nine months, I provided regular updates to the board on how the transformation program was trending, key activities, challenges, risks, and benefits we were addressing so that when key decisions were to be made, everyone felt as though they had been involved from the start.

“Over 200 workshops were held with stakeholders throughout the organisations to gather requirements, map processes, understand challenges with a focus on ensuring that we weren’t recreating our current problems in a new system.”

Reflecting on his time as a CIO, Reiter said the biggest lesson he’s learned in his entire career as a CIO is that change is constant, and IT is part of the business.

“We have a duty to educate the business on new and emerging technologies, demonstrate the value of how they are able to support and deliver strategy organisational objectives or minimise risk, or even reduce cost.

“Through the adoption of our transformation program and implementation of the Microsoft Azure Platform, this created a massive uplift in the technological abilities of Defence Health, but at the same time, the organisation didn’t understand how it could use these capabilities to deliver on its strategic plan.”

Indeed, lots of time and effort was dished into making things run smoothly, he said. “We spent a significant amount of time running the executive team and management through a Microsoft Azure/Cloud bootcamp, showing how key technologies would enable capabilities, which enabled us to challenge some of the traditional/legacy thinking to actually build new more efficient platforms and systems.”