“At the heart of agile, is the ability to prioritise and focus scarce resources, time and budgets on the highest value-add deliverables, with the shortest amount of effort,” says Carmen Casagranda, CIO at Cigna.
“After three years of being agile, Cigna has become very good at understanding that we could do anything, but we cannot do everything. Recognising that while our agile planning was enterprise wide, to date we had been focusing primarily on the scarcity of IT resources only.
“We identified that the best way to deliver value for Cigna was to scale our agile approach and prioritise and plan across all business units,” says Casagranda.
Early last year, Cigna embarked on a Scaled Agile (SAFe) programme.
The programme’s objectives were:
Prioritisation: Ensure all deliverables (epics) across the organisation are prioritised and agreed by the senior leadership team, a top down approach.
Focus: Reduce volatility by planning on quarterly Programme Increment (PI) cycles.
Empowerment: Empower delivery teams to plan their own work across the quarter (done across two days before PI commences and managed through Agile practices).
Accountability: Manage delivery and governance in two-week sprints, manage by exception only.
ROI: Ensure resources and budgets across all business units are focussing on the highest value deliverables for Cigna.
A recommendation was made to the senior leadership team that Cigna try adopting agile by end of Q2 17, with the goal of resource planning across all business units involved in delivering prioritised epics and features leveraging the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) principles, says Casagranda.
“We also recommended that we prioritise enterprise wide on a six sprint (12 week or quarterly) cycle to minimise volatility and context shifting and maximise delivery velocity.”
“Structurally, we have moved Product Ownership (PO) across business units, rather than traditionally sitting within the IT team. POs are responsible for submitting, championing and being accountable for the overall delivery of any prioritised epics they submit.”
“The impact has been significant – engagement, visibility, velocity, communication, collaboration, focus. This however requires time, education, training and a strong culture to support change,” she says.
She says the digital transformation programme has delivered additional benefits in several areas.
These included product development. We increased velocity for new product build into sales – exponential improvements from several weeks to less than an hour, says Casagranda.
The operations support time spent on legacy systems was also reduced, saving the company between 100 to 150 hours per month while also improving customer experience with less business interruption.
Omnichannel integration meant all transactions are now integrated into contact centre agent’s queues and skills based routing. This was previously done manually across disparate systems, she says.
Our agents using the co-browse and chat functionality are offering both sales and service support to our customers. We’ve seen 25 percent of these engagements with our customers converting into a sale.
With a core focus on analytics and insight, integrated systems are now able to provide a ‘single source of truth’ with respect to business intelligence data capture and reporting. The migration of old daily batch reports into the Single Source of the truth Data Lake has reduced manual reporting and provided real time dashboards. In addition to efficiency savings equivalent to 10 full-time employee days per month, we have overhauled our data quality, integrity and visibility, says Casagranda.
Carmen Casagranda has been operating as our CIO, CTO and CDO rolled into one, says Lance Walker Cigna NZ CEO.
“Perhaps her biggest impact has been the talent she has built in the team, the culture she has created and the collaborative approach she has instilled that has broken down barriers between IT and the business.
Critical to this has been the adoption of agile as a whole of business philosophy, which is creating benefits for the way the whole business operates. To see our cross functional teams operating like this is a credit to Carmen – her passion, drive and energy,” says Walker.
Incoming Cigna chief executive Gail Costa agrees. “Cigna New Zealand has a strong culture of innovation, collaboration and drive to do and be the best for our customers. Through both Carmen’s guidance and leadership of our IT team, and subsequently the work undertaken to implement our significant digital transformation, is fantastic and a huge achievement.”
Casagranda concludes the practices of Agile are now fully ingrained within all levels of management at Cigna.
All areas across our business continue to assess, review and enhance our Agile approach, she says.
“In each case, for example, when designing a product development epic, our teams are encouraged to design their product suite with the customer experience in mind,” she adds.
“The key is to separate the solution from what we’re trying to deliver and focus on the why. The emphasis is on how we best serve our customer’s needs rather than focussing on the solution or having to consider existing technologies, processes or limitations (decoupled strategy).”
“Changing the conversation enables the delivery teams to focus on solving the problem without being impeded by a possible solution. The delivery teams then use Agile and design thinking practices to design, develop, test and refine a Minimum Viable Product (MVP).”
She ascribes to the oft-repeated quote, that “The only constant is change”, and more so in the contemporary workplace.
“Managing complex change is inevitable across all sectors of business today and across all business units delivering the company’s products and services,” she says.
Overall, the company has also changed its approach to hiring.
“We seek individuals who possess attitude and aptitude to learn quickly beyond their on paper experience,” she says. “Through knowledge transfer and internally-driven agile experimentation, we quickly developed a level of internal expertise far beyond what we had originally thought possible.
“This has also required some tough restructuring decisions to be made to ensure our team have the right skills necessary to take Cigna on the next step of our digital journey.”