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Covid-19 underlines need to invest in IT

By Jack Maina | October 14th 2020 at 00:00:00 GMT +0300

As the Covid-19 pandemic reaches every corner of the globe and with no proven vaccine not yet in sight, the world has been pushed into a new era. While every sector has been disrupted, nowhere has the change been as dramatic as in the corporate world.

Firms are aggressively and proactively re-examining and re-aligning their business processes and strategies to the ‘new normal’ to ensure that their value propositions are not compromised.

It is the unique reset season and there is no going back anytime soon.

Covid-19 has ushered in an entirely new era of work, workplaces, worker and customer engagement challenges. For example, more than half of employees are working from home. This is not a temporary situation — it is the fourth industrial revolution that is underway.

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Truth is that the process shifts we are currently witnessing were already boiling over and Covid-19 just fast-tracked them. Working from home or remote working, for example, was already business-as-usual for many organisations.

Firms like Google, Microsoft, Morgan Stanley, JPMorgan, Capital One, Zillow, Slack, Amazon, PayPal among others were also already experimenting with the idea and ironing it out even before Covid-19.

But with Covid-19, what was an occasional perk for a number of employees in some organisations has become an economic necessity for all organisations overnight.

Change approach

Working from home presents a new dilemma especially for companies where clients can only be served during one-on-one meetings.

In a world where face-to-face meetings are not encouraged, what gives when customer service demands some level of one-on-one interaction?

A term that is quickly gaining ground in many organisations is the ‘new digital normal’. This is a platform which allows for remote working, customer interaction and engagement and automation with little or no contact.

It is hard to demonstrate the ‘new normal’ locally without mentioning what Britam Insurance launched six years ago.

Faced with a changing customer base, Britam realised that it needed to change its approach to business processes and maximise on the use of Information Technology (IT) to drive insurance products uptake and also address key internal business processes.

The need to drive business growth using IT saw the firm embark on a journey to re-evaluate its business strategy to incorporate the changing demands of customer needs or risk losing clients to more responsive global insurance firms.

In 2011, Britam launched a digital transformation programme, dubbed Programme Jawabu, to drive efficiency and increase productivity while at the same time addressing the issue of third party data integrations and back office inefficiencies.

After decades of ‘manual’ dominated insurance and investment processes, Jawabu marked a turning point in digitisation of products and services for the insurance and investment sectors.

Before this turn, the insurance sector had under-invested in IT as a way to drive growth compared to banks.

The IT platform has ensured regional expansion, differentiated customer experiences, product diversification and entry to new market segments primarily through IT or digitisation.

Since launch, the IT platform has attracted over 10,000 new customers through the digital channels and serves an average of 30,000 customers through the self-service portal and App.

Britam’s services are available to both customers through the website and mobile app as well as intermediaries through the financial advisor and partner portals.

The Jawabu IT platform covers the entire business applications portfolio from customer engagement systems — front-end systems that are accessed by clients and intermediaries to enterprise applications — back office applications addressing the need of support services such as human resources and finance.

The IT platform has enabled effective scaling down of physical branch operations, promoted working-from-home for over 85 per cent staff during the Covid-19 pandemic and hastened digitalisation and automation of contact-points with customers and intermediaries.

The digital channels/portals allow customers to directly purchase products and transact online without having to visit a branch.

The pandemic has demonstrated the importance of companies investing in IT and online capabilities.

-Mr Maina is the Group Chief Operating Officer, Britam Holdings Plc


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