by Divina Paredes

CIO50 2019 #6: Chris Trigg, Southern Cross Health Society

Mar 28, 2019
Big DataBusiness ContinuityCareers

Over the past two years, Southern Cross Health Society has invested heavily in its member-facing platform, MySouthernCross, to automate processes that were previously manual and onerous.

This has resulted in significant savings, such as a $564,000 annual saving on print and post costs. The app has also simplified interactions with both members and healthcare providers.

In fact, more than 92 per cent of claims are now submitted electronically, up from 80 per cent a year ago, says Chris Trigg, chief digital officer at the Health Society.

But this is just a facet of how digitalisation has impacted New Zealand’s largest health insurer, which has more than 860,000 members, or around one in five Kiwis.

Southern Cross has provided health insurance for nearly 60 years, but like most industries, healthcare is changing rapidly and so are consumer expectations. Thus the organisation is shifting its strategy towards assuring members of their health and wellbeing.

This means not only continuing to fund timely private healthcare, but also helping them to live healthier lives; protecting and maintaining their most precious asset.

Trigg, as the Health Society’s inaugural chief digital officer, has been instrumental in driving this strategy as strong digital foundations will be critical to the success of products and services in this space.

Driving ‘digital first’

One of Southern Cross Health Society’s three strategic pillars is ‘digital first,’ which Trigg is the key driver of, so the organisation has come to rely on his leadership and guidance from the Digital team.

Southern Cross Health Society’s rate of digital adoption – the percentage of customer channels that are fully digitised – reached 66 per cent by mid-2018, and is on track to achieve the 2023 goal of 95 per cent.

Trigg’s team has also focused on improving digital experiences for the Southern Cross workforce.

“We’ve made a big push towards enabling our people to be more collaborative using Office 365 and are continuing to roll out new capabilities,” he says. “With other investments in services like ServiceNow and Workday, we are empowering our people with contemporary tools.”

Trigg works closely with CEO Nick Astwick and other leaders within the organisation.

He regularly presents to the board, updating them on digital projects, cyber security and presenting the case for new innovations. This high level of influence means Trigg can ensure the digital workstreams are embedded within the overall strategy of the business.

“The Board is fully engaged in our plan to drive adoption of current and new digital services,” Trigg says. “They’re supportive of us pushing boundaries into new services and offerings for our members as we build out our assurance proposition.”

Being well as a strategy

One of the projects launched by Southern Cross under its new strategy is BeingWell, a cloud-based platform that aims to help businesses understand their employees’ wellbeing and provide initiatives for improvement.

Launched in early 2018, BeingWell consists of a consumer-facing mobile app and a hub for HR leaders.

For the employee, the app generates a personal health score, and allows users to set goals and track progress of their physical and mental health.

For the employer, BeingWell will aggregate anonymised data that can be analysed to measure success and provide insights for clients. It can help businesses target specific issues, such as mental wellbeing or smoking cessation.

BeingWell can also integrate with wearable technologies, such as Fitbit, providing the option of fitness tracking.

The multi-faceted app was built in just six months and allowed Trigg and his team to test their newly-acquired agile working skills in a high-pressure environment.

Trigg says some of the challenges they faced were constructing a completely new technology platform with new partners, working through the complexities of wearable integration, bringing to market iOS and Android apps with high quality UX, and learning about cloud and API development and deployment at pace.

Key to all this, he says, was a close relationship with project sponsors and product owners within the organisation. These digital tools complement a range of service offerings that Southern Cross can deliver to business customers.

The MySouthernCross website is also undergoing a major redesign and rebuild, using member co-design principles and new API and cloud technologies.

“The intention is to drive higher utilisation and drive customer satisfaction,” says Trigg.

He says MySouthernCross continues to evolve and gain momentum, with the number of registered users increasing 108 per cent to 267,578 over the past two years.

‘Botman and Robin’

Southern Cross Health Society has developed four bots in the past year to increase business efficiency.

Three were used to streamline internal processes and the fourth was a chatbot to interact with members.

The first internal bot – Dutifully Obliging Robotic Assistant (DORA) – performs structured and repeatable tasks, such as claim reconciliation and data entry. Two other internal bots, Botman and Robin, have been deployed to support claims processing.

The internal bots are part of the business’ wider Simplicity programme, which seeks to enable straight through processing, automate repetitive backend tasks, and digitise business processes.

Meanwhile, the external-facing chatbot interacts with members 24×7 to answer straightforward and frequently asked questions. This is expected to help reduce the workload on the contact centre.

“Whereas most chatbots’ activities are reported on and analysed manually, the Southern Cross chatbot is connected to AI for its activity analytics,” says Trigg.

“It will allow us to speed up the chatbot training and quickly enrich its vocabulary and use the depth of data we have built over the years, so it’s able to answer a wide variety of questions.”

The chatbot will free up staff to focus on tasks that require a more human touch, such as discussing policy options with a member or dealing with complex cases.

“The chatbot and Simplicity programme, along with a new cloud-based interaction platform, open up new capabilities for how we can interact with members and will enable our customer services teams to be more fully informed,” says Trigg.

Communication, culture and continuous learning

Trigg and his leadership team frequently update, interact and ask staff for feedback on digital initiatives via Yammer, fostering a collaborative culture.

After each financial quarter, members of the leadership team give short video updates on the progress made in their respective areas and then take part in a question and answer session on Yammer.

Diversity is of prime importance to the ICT and digital team.

Trigg notes that the digital platforms leadership team has a 50:50 split of male and female, with the overall team around 40 per cent female, nearly double the industry standard of 21 per cent.

Southern Cross Health Society has also attained Rainbow Tick accreditation in January 2018.

Aside from focusing on building a positive working culture, Trigg has helped increase the pace of work by championing agile working methods in the business.

He appointed the business’ first enterprise agile coach in mid-2017, who has helped accelerate agile not just within the digital team but also other parts of the business.

“We’re now in the process of setting up our agile academy for the business. Our goal is to ensure that wherever you are in the business you are equipped with the right knowledge and skills to contribute to the delivery of our strategy,” says Trigg.

Building a great team that is also immersed in a culture of learning has always been important for Trigg. His thinking on this has been fortified by changes in the digital and technology landscape.

“What’s struck me as increasingly important over the past few years has been how critical it is to build strong, diverse and empowered teams to support the business strategy,” he explains.

“As a business’ digital thinking and operating model matures, the need to build new leadership and technical capabilities becomes paramount. Tackling these challenges is key for digital leaders in order to accelerate delivery of the strategy and remain relevant to customer needs.”

In both Southern Cross Health Society and at Genesis Energy, where Trigg was GM IT, he welcomed the opportunity to rebuild his team to meet the changing demands of the business strategy.

“Part of the challenge for new digital leaders is to recognise that the skills and capabilities a business has developed may need to change to make progress,” he states.

“This can be a significant challenge for leaders, so being respectful and caring for people is key. When I look at the value created by having the right team around the table, and seeing the business respond to the new energy and thinking created by change, it validates the need to ensure you have the right leadership in place.”