Christian Muoio - ALTE LEIPZIGER – HALLESCHE Konzern
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The ALTE LEIPZIGER – HALLESCHE Group Enters the Digital Age

Christian Muoio is helping the ALTE LEIPZIGER – HALLESCHE Group to develop its online customer interface, driving digital transformation at the insurance provider. The company has set a new standard in customer communication with the relaunch of its two websites www.alte-leipziger.de and www.hallesche.de. What better reason to take a closer look at the project in an interview!

Interview with Christian Muoio from ALTE LEIPZIGER - HALLESCHE Group

Short and sweet: why was the project started, what is it about and what were the objectives?

Chris: It all started with a technical issue. We weren’t able to maintain our previous CMS as the provider was no longer on the market. Having to act out of urgency is never a good starting point for any project. But the marketing department was planning to relaunch the websites anyway, as they were beginning to show their age and needed a facelift. This provided the perfect opportunity.

We chose Sitecore as the new CMS. The project revolved around implementing the new system and migrating the existing web content.

What do customers expect now in the digital age, and what role do digital touchpoints like websites and apps play?

Chris: Let’s take a simple example that will be familiar to all of us. There’s always that time of year that none of us likes to think about – when the tax return is due. Every year, we open the tax software on our computer, dig out our old receipts and use the files from the previous year to help us. No one enjoys doing this unless you’re an accountant, but we all know we have to confront it sooner or later.

It’s a bit like that with insurance, too: it’s never something that you look forward to. As a customer, I’m not going to want to sit down and get it done unless the provider can explain in plain language why a certain policy is relevant to me. From a purely content perspective, this is relatively easy to do. When we were curating the new content, we were able to simplify a lot of the product pages.

But the important thing for an insurance company is to reach the customer at the right touchpoint with a product that is tailored to their particular situation. For relatively simple products, digitally savvy customers expect to be able to take out the policy online, with a simple application form and rapid process. And customers want real-time processing. In this regard, our websites are relevant touchpoints for product information, so it’s vital that the customer is intuitively guided all the way to purchase.

Customers now expect claims processing, customer service and contact channels to be digital too. With fin4u, for example, we offer our customers a digital way to manage their finances and insurance that gives them an overview of all their policies and the related written communication. From sending the mileage reading for car insurance to changing the mix of funds in a pension, they can do it all digitally. In future, the challenge will be to keep digitalizing services and expanding the automated processes that go on in the background.

But the important thing for an insurance company is to reach the customer at the right touchpoint with a product that is tailored to their particular situation.

What was your role in the project?

Chris: I was the project manager for the requirements side of things. Fortunately, this role allowed me to be close to the action. I was worried that it would be just purely monitoring and reporting to stakeholders, but that wasn’t the case. It’s great to be at the center of things, especially when it comes to the challenge of a new design and implementing it in a new system. The team and I identified, described and bundled the requirements so that these could be handed over for implementation.

What tasks and services did ALTE LEIPZIGER – HALLESCHE Group decide to outsource to a service provider?

Chris: The project involved both redesigning the website and implementing it in Sitecore. Instead of a full-service agency, we looked for a specialist for each task. We chose Unic for the implementation in Sitecore.

What does the ALTE LEIPZIGER – HALLESCHE Group expect and look for in a service provider?

Chris: First and foremost, it has to be a partnership of equals. Even the most creative and technically gifted agency is useless to a client if they can’t communicate openly and be honest in critical situations, or if they are incapable of transparent crisis management. There are always times over the course of a project where everything grinds to a halt because of something that no one had foreseen.

If the agency just grins nervously and pretends everything is fine in these situations, it threatens not only the project but the relationship with the client as well.A service provider that understands how to navigate the risks, anticipates issues and can adapt accordingly will come out on top.

What was it that made you decide to collaborate with Unic at the start of the project?

Chris: It would be naive to say that it was all about first impressions, but this factor was actually quite relevant. After all, you need to have that personal connection for a project of this duration to function properly. With Unic, we also felt in the preliminary phase that they could quickly understand our requirements and our current technical setup, and could suggest efficient solutions.

What were the parts of the project that you valued in particular?

Chris: I was very lucky to have a highly skilled and motivated project team by my side. What really made the project so successful were factors like wide-ranging expertise from experience of past online relaunches, detailed knowledge of the technical side of things, and an excellent feel for user experience and usability.

Beyond this, I really valued their willingness to break the mold and try something new. The best example of this was the fact that this was the first launch where we used the Scrum method. After the first couple of sprints, everyone really appreciated the methodology. The collaboration with our application development and the technical project managers there was also extremely efficient. Here too, I had the feeling that they really understood our key requirements. For our part in marketing, our goal was always to describe these in a way that made them as easy as possible to implement.

Were there any challenges over the course of the project that you had to overcome? What key expertise did Unic provide here?

Chris: There were definitely challenges. I think virtually every project has similar issues to deal with, like making sure that you stay on schedule or the expansion of the scope of the project. There are also challenges that you can only overcome when you can plan skillfully and change priorities in certain phases. The design phase is the easiest part. Thinking about how to structure the modules requires creativity and you need an agency by your side that can create prototypes of these ideas quickly. The design looks perfect when the “Lorem ipsum dolor sit amet” simulates the text modules.

The problem comes when you give these modules to an insurance specialist and they fill them full of words like “occupational disability cover”, “old-age care insurance premium” and, my personal favorite, the “building owner’s liability insurance sum”. We write this as one very long word in German! Which means that the text looks horrible, especially on smaller mobile devices. All the beautiful modules get ruined by our terribly long words.

This means that it doesn’t matter how well the ideas are transferred from the design agency to the IT people implementing them – the problems often don’t arise until the editing phase. When this happens, the client needs to be able to compromise in order to keep any required changes within the defined buffer zone. At many times during the sprint planning, Unic proved to be a proactive partner in this regard, with an eye for design and the ability to flag up certain risks before implementation. In the end, the combination of the service provider’s forward-thinking implementation and the client’s ability to compromise and find a solution in the event of problems meant we were always able to navigate our way around the obstacles.

Are there any lessons that you would like to share with the readers of our blog?

Chris: There are a few, but there are three that I think are particularly important:

  1. You need to clearly define the roles and delegate tasks in a way that is easy to understand. At the start, there is often a tendency to get all team members involved in decisions, such as which design to choose. Deliberate clustering brings more drive. You can base this on functions and elements if you like. People often worry that team members will become uncoordinated, but this is not a problem as long as the overall monitoring works well. Transferring responsibility for clearly defined tasks can also be a huge motivational factor for team members.
  2. Just get started! Obviously, you need to have a good plan, but there is no way that you can have 100% control of everything. Especially when launching a new system, there are certain problems that you can only deal with when the work is in progress. It’s often faster and cheaper to get started quickly and deal with the various elements of implementation that were not taken into account in planning as you go, rather than to go through 23 rounds of design trying to get everything perfect.
  3. Keep it simple, as long as this does not impact on the customer experience. The key thing here is to bridge the gap between meeting your complex, field-related requirements while making the technical implementation as intuitive as possible. With an agile approach, you have to aim to generate some initial results quickly. The best way to achieve this is when they are not overloaded with features. Often, you find that the module requested is ready to use after just two iteration rounds if you don’t make it too complex. Besides, having too many options can make handling the content in the CMS much more difficult.

We would like to thank Christian Muoio for this fascinating interview and the successful collaboration on this project. We look forward to seeing what the future brings.

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