The project team consists of experts from CSS, One Inside and Unic and has created a space that fosters and facilitates exchange between different perspectives and disciplines. Marcel Engelberger, Head of Digital Marketing at CSS, Gerlof Bachmann, Project Management and Design at CSS, Karin Müller, Website Product Owner at CSS, Marco Ippolito, Head of Market and Customer Management at CSS, Dario R. Blarasin, Project Manager at CSS, and Stefan Wohlmann, Senior Project Manager at Unic tell us what the driving force behind their work is and how the team was formed.
Digitally Connected Customers
“Digitally connected customers want everything immediately. They expect the service experience to be consistent across all channels and tailored to their needs.” According to Marcel Engelberger, this is the distinguishing feature of “today’s insurance customer”. Game changers like Uber and Netflix are setting new standards in terms of customer expectations. These best-in-class experiences also affect how users interact with health insurance.
One Step Ahead of Users
CSS’ vision is to always be one step ahead of its users. “We want to surpass our users’ expectations on all interfaces with intelligent, relevant and personal content and services”, Marcel Engelberger explains. “Of course, this is a lot of work: We have to network the silos embedded in our culture and flexibly integrate new channels into the entire ecosystem.” Interaction between channels is essential. At CSS, every channel plays a specific role in the customer journey. According to Marcel Engelberger, in order to achieve individualization and personalization, companies need to be able to consistently identify customers across channels: “We can only support our customers on their journey if we know where they come from, what their needs are and where they want to go. However, creating a valid user profile is a major challenge, not just from a technical perspective, but also in legal and organizational terms.”
It Takes More Than Just AI to Deliver Intelligent Services
“We want an intelligent customer touchpoint in the digital world,” Karin Müller tells us. “For us, intelligent means personal, relevant and needs-based.” CSS aims to personalize its website to such an extent that it gives customers the answers to questions they have not yet asked. It hopes to use intelligent services to identify what stage the customer is at in the customer journey. To this end, CSS monitors data from every channel, analyzing both the past and the present in order to make a prediction about the future. Here, CSS is banking on AI services. However, Marcel Engelberger is convinced that it takes more than just technology to make a customer interface intelligent. To arrive at intelligent solutions, the approach to digital projects must be entirely different. A range of disciplines must come together and the process must be agile, dynamic and responsive to change.
The Principle of Co-creation
It is only when different perspectives interact across disciplines that services become intelligent. For this reason, various experts involved in design, user experience, frontend, backend and analytics worked together on the CSS project from the very start. Throughout the project, people with the requisite skills were brought on board well in advance.
In order to develop ideas, problem-solving strategies, designs and solutions, everyone had to work together very closely, Dario R. Blarasin explains. “This was based on a shared understanding of Vision 2025, which we then rolled back to 2020.”
For Marco Ippolito, one of the key stakeholders of the project, this is a valuable approach: “I consider co-creation to be the only approach that succeeds in bringing every stakeholder in a project along on the journey. By not specifying the solution in advance, but focusing on the common goal, stakeholders identify with the project, are committed and feel responsible.” Karin Müller describes the commitment of project members as unique: “Unic, CSS, One Inside – within the project team, company allegiances went out the window. We were just one team with one vision.”
The experts in the project team are passionate about using digital solutions. They are dynamic and have a flair for new projects and a strong vision, all while being aware that things need to mature before a new path can be found. Bringing expert insight to jointly conceived and developed ideas was not always plain sailing. Everyone had the opportunity to get involved and question and expand on ideas. However, the final decision was always taken by the expert with the highest level of expertise in that area.
As is true of anything, the team development process of storming, norming and performing needs time above all else – time spent together, Karin Müller emphasizes. “You have to get to know each other, trust each other, know who is bringing what to the table.” The regular weekly meeting, where the team met in a dedicated room, as well as shared leisure activities helped the team to bond. For Garry Bachmann, the weekly meeting was particularly key to the project: “A weekly meeting offers the space and time to hold discussions. The fact that we are all in one room creates transparency, openness and trust.” Dario R. Blasarin sees the principles of “speaking before writing and doing everything in person rather than remotely” as having been the main drivers in bringing the team together.
Agile and Dynamic
If you want to develop new and unexpected digital solutions, you must be agile and gradually work towards your target vision. “During such a challenging project, you’re constantly learning new things. The iterative process enabled us to apply new findings quickly and integrate them into subsequent work,” Stefan Wohlmann comments. Marcel Engelberger shares his conviction: “The agile process helps us react swiftly to new findings. Taking small steps can be powerful. We’re continuously analyzing, implementing and then learning and improving.”
Dario R. Blasarin sees no way around taking the agile approach in these sorts of innovative projects: “Within a single year, some of the basic principles may already have changed dramatically. To be successful, you must recognize these changes in good time and embrace them so that you can regroup and reconsolidate.
To meet the requirements, strategies from different agile methods were combined to create a project-specific approach. “As a core team we have constantly kept project management agile and adjusted it depending on the situation,” Dario R. Blasarin explains. “We felt it was important to analyze each situation before deciding on the tools we needed to reach our goal.”
Gerlof Bachmann saw the go-live date and the target vision as guiding lights throughout the process: “Guidelines and structures are also essential in the agile world. They help us to find our bearings in the project and to see whether we are on track.” Karin Müller stresses the significance of sharing a target vision as well: “Scoping plays a key role in the success of an agile approach, especially because of the numerous dependencies within the project team but also with external stakeholders.”
According to Marco Ippolito, rapid prototyping made deliverables quickly tangible for the project’s stakeholders, making it easier to compare solutions and offer practical feedback.
However, an agile approach is also fraught with pitfalls and challenges. For Gerlof Bachmann, the greatest challenge the team faces is coming to a mutual understanding of what agile really means. Stefan Wohlmann felt the main challenge was the sheer number of streams and team members. “We had to find a way of creating transparency and enabling comprehensive communication. Despite this, we wanted to keep the number of votes as low as possible and remain efficient. This required great discipline on the part of the team members as well as a willingness to continue to focus on the essential in line with key priorities. We succeeded in this, primarily thanks to the great flexibility demonstrated by team members. And the team spirit was excellent! We supported each other and nobody was left trying to solve problems alone.”