Like any organization in a legacy industry, insurance companies have to meet digital disruption head-on to stay competitive. For Triglav Group, that means balancing growth and change amid industry consolidation and the company's need to interact with its customers across southeast Europe. So in 2013, as it undertook a customer-focused digital transformation, Triglav elevated its decade-old project management office (PMO), giving it a direct link to the C-suite and the board of directors.
Such access to executive-sponsor support helped the PMO reallocate resources as needed—and gave project managers the authority to influence employee mindsets and make tough calls. While large-scale digitization projects had failed in the past, the more empowered PMO helped develop and reinforce a standardized process for new initiatives to replace outdated systems—while still meeting strict legal requirements. Along with overseeing all of the major projects in the organization, the PMO is an active member of the project portfolio steering committee, which selects strategic projects for the company's one- and four-year strategic roadmaps.
Size: Seven full-time employees
PMO budget: US$10 million
Average project value: US$300,000
“We need to be stable, we need to be safe, we need to be long-term oriented. And at the same time, we need to find times when we can be agile, digital, modern and, let's say, more digital-customer oriented, as we are now,” says Zoran Korenjak, PMP, project director, Triglav, Ljubljana, Slovenia.
The PMO's powerful role in delivering change also reflects a new level of maturity. The PMO's initial charter was administrative, overseeing development of project templates and providing training for project managers for a 120-year-old firm that operates in seven markets across six countries. Over time, the PMO took on more complex projects. It also began providing guidance to business-unit leaders and executives to identify the projects that would deliver the greatest value to the business—and to prevent overlap between project investments.
“We have become the glue connecting all the different departments,” Mr. Korenjak says. “That gives Triglav a strategic advantage.”
—Zoran Korenjak, PMP, Triglav Group
The PMO's enterprise-wide reach helps it manage the pace of change. This comprises the need to deliver projects that expand the company's digital footprint and meet its growth strategy, including the acquisition of smaller firms and greenfield operations. The resulting projects include development of a core IT system to replace legacy systems; implementation of a customer relations management solution to improve customer satisfaction and data management; and rollout of a human resource management system to unify employee record-tracking and development. With so many digital projects, the decision to incorporate agile delivery approaches seemed obvious. But the PMO has executed a careful transition, says Andrej Knap, PMP, vice president for IT, back office and projects, Triglav Group.
Most of Triglav's transformation projects use a hybrid approach, Mr. Knap says. That's because the company has a history of using waterfall, an approach that helps teams stay strongly committed to documenting and measuring every aspect of every project. “Sometimes you still need to have a waterfall approach, especially in big projects that require more oversight,” he says. “So we take a mixed approach when we can.”
The PMO recognizes that agile can help speed delivery and capture customer feedback more rapidly to ensure the final product will meet strategic goals. On smaller projects and prototypes, the team relies on agile to prove an idea quickly or shut down a project if the concept is flawed. “With agile, if we fail, we can fail quickly,” Mr. Knap says.
For instance, a recent project to create a prototype for all-digital insurance operations was shelved after customers didn't respond positively. “We tried it, and we learned what could be done through a quick, simple agile project,” he says. The PMO plans to add more agile methods into its approach as Triglav pursues its digital transformation strategy in the coming years.
Triglav's current focus is completing projects that create an omnichannel customer experience. The goal is to make every touchpoint seamlessly linked and easy to use, while giving the sales team better access to customer and sales data. “We will continue to eliminate silos and join together the operation of all areas of the business as part of our strategic course,” says Jaka Borstnar, director of change and project portfolio management, Triglav Group.
—Jaka Borštnar, Triglav Group
Yet the company's desire to break down silos requires more than just technical savvy, he says. Employees often push back against change, so the PMO has to address culture change issues along with all of the technical challenges. To do this, every project plan includes strategies to engage with end users so teams understand their concerns, and can gather valuable feedback and share their challenges during times of change.
For example, the organization launched an eight-year project to transition to a core IT system with a single database for all non-life-insurance product lines, which represent 70 percent of Triglav's revenues. Meanwhile, each of the Triglav Group branch offices acquired came with its own finance, payroll and IT systems. As a result, the IT network was made up of a patchwork of siloed solutions that couldn't share data and had different user interfaces. The IT-build initiative included 11 interdependent projects to replace those disparate systems with a single centralized solution, and to automate and digitize the business processes for each area.
Triglav's project management office (PMO) is already showing serious ROI since 2015:
The company credits the PMO for several strategic achievements, including:
The transition required buy-in from more than 1,000 agents across the organization who were loyal to their existing systems. “I have seen many financial institutions try to change the core IT system and fail,” Mr. Korenjak says. Even if the technology works, the project can't be a success if end users won't embrace it.
The PMO mitigated this risk by addressing user concerns proactively through training and feedback loops. Mr. Korenjak spent months visiting each office to meet with stakeholders and assuage their fears about the new system. “I was the direct support for all the problems that they had,” he says. He then shared their feedback with Mr. Borstnar, who worked with developers to prioritize changes and make updates that would best meet their needs.
The PMO also provided user training to more than 1,000 agents and maintained the old system over several months to give skeptics time to get used to the new system. “From a project execution perspective, this was a big success,” Mr. Korenjak says. “At the start, everyone was attacking us. But once we finished, everybody called it a victory.”
Creating a strong change transformation is grounded in the PMO's ability to develop an enterprise-wide culture that embraces project management—and can measure its value. Today the PMO has seven full-time employees, including five who have PMI's Project Management Professional (PMP)® certification. Together they oversee an average of 30-50 projects per year, directly managing strategic initiatives and providing oversight to smaller projects led by the business units and functional areas.
“Because we are made up of professional project managers, who have a more sophisticated operation, our team has a lot of knowledge and expertise,” Mr. Borstnar says. “This allows us to deliver results, finish projects on time and on budget, and achieve the desired goals.”
Each project manager reports to the PMO, rather than their individual business unit managers, guaranteeing a high level of consistency in practice and delivery. The PMO team monitors delivery of every project throughout its life cycle and reports progress back to the portfolio steering committee, to ensure transparency and to escalate any challenges that might require intervention by a senior executive. The PMO's engagement with senior management has assisted in providing clarity around project delivery, and it helps teams to stay on track and get support when projects run into trouble, Mr. Knap says. “The PMO creates an environment of transparency and efficiency, and makes it possible to manage risk.”
—Andrej Knap, PMP, Triglav Group, Ljubljana, Slovenia
By establishing baseline metrics in the project plan, and by tracking results once a project is completed, the PMO ensures all projects deliver value to the business, while using this data to inform future project decisions.
For example, in the case of the IT-build initiative, proven benefits included increases in:
■ the number of insurance policies sold from 3 million in 2014 to 3.3 million in 2017
■ the number of insurance products sold online from 12 in 2014 to 18 in 2017
■ the company's online product portfolio by 50 percent since 2013
Furthermore, more than 20 percent of customer documents are now exclusively digital, reducing paper cost and waste. A commitment to proving the impact of projects is a primary reason that Triglav's PMO has achieved such high regard, and it reinforces the value a strong PMO can bring to an organization, Mr. Borstnar says. “Our process for selecting projects, executing projects and tracking the benefits of projects is the real benefit for Triglav.”
Now Triglav is in a prime position for growth. The PMO's digitization efforts have helped the company see a 160 percent jump in online sales— and a 15 percent decrease in operating costs.
“We are making strategy happen,” Mr. Korenjak says. “It's not just on paper; it is directly seen in the results, in services and products, and also in the process of digital transformation of the whole company.” PM
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