Innovating within the Ecosystem House
In June I spoke to Susulita Munshi from Manulife to film our first Evolving Ecosystems. Podcast. Munshi heads ManulifeMOVE, a behavioral program that integrates activity tracking and insurance solutions to motivate healthy habits. The first blog looked at the meaning of data while the second examined how one Developing ecosystem partnerships. In our last blog we have judge the technical aspects of Innovation and development of solutions for such ecosystems.
Setting up an offer like ManulifeMOVE is a complex technical undertaking that distinguishes the insurer as a pioneer in this area. The challenges included: It had to deal with ambiguities, it had to pivot technology stacks, and it had to be in contact with customers much more often than before, often on a daily basis.
“They’re several pivots and, to be honest, there’s never a playbook for them,” says Munshi. “It wasn’t a single road to success – it was constant change. In the early years we had different technology packages to support different offerings in each of our markets, and then we realized that it was actually not feasible to run. “
At this point, the insurer switched from multiple versions of the app, resulting from decision-making at the country level, to a more mature technology model. The focus was on a single app for customers in the region that can be configured by country and function. a single set of microservices for a high daily volume of customers; and a cloud for hosting, development acceleration, and economies of scale.
According to Munshi, the assessment process has not stopped in one important respect: Manulife is continually studying how its ecosystem works and where it can be improved.
ManulifeMOVE has underpinned this agile approach since it was founded. The development team runs in two-week sprints with a new version every eight weeks. What is important, says Munshi, is a mentality of continuous development, maximum transparency across core and broader teams, and maintaining the “start small, start fast, learn and iterate” mindset.
The agile approach has proven extremely valuable to the developers and support teams at ManulifeMOVE. A change in mindset emanating from the top of the team ensures that everyone involved understands the goal, what offerings need to be launched quickly to generate the right value, and how the next evolution can be made even better.
Working in markets as diverse as mainland China, Cambodia and Singapore also brings its own challenges. While each market is unique, Munshi said it was important to identify which aspects were universal and which needed to be configured for local conditions.
“That was crucial because if you haven’t drawn that line, you can go one way or the other,” she says. “You can be too strict or allow so many adjustments that you actually aren’t actually following a single suggestion – and you run into all sorts of problems.”
By drawing this line, Manulife was able to build a single technology stack and back its engine back to API-driven technology, creating a solution that is flexible and scalable. Nowadays, local markets can load products and services themselves, start quickly, measure the response and then refine it.
Working with companies with expertise in related fields was also important, says Munshi, who cites Apple and Google to help ensure that users of their devices get an integrated end-to-end customer experience. Accenture was also instrumental – especially for its role in developing the appropriate operating model, but also as an organization that is familiar with Manulife and one step away. It could therefore put problems in perspective and bring specific skills to the table to help with the continuous iterations of the Manulife solution.
A healthier, tailored future
Munshi summarizes the impact of ManulifeMOVE and explains that success is measured in three categories: How many customers does the app reach? whether the relationship is financially viable for Manulife; and whether these customers are getting healthier.
“We now have around a million customers in the program – which is a huge asset for us – and the majority of them work with us on a regular basis,” she says. “For an insurer, this is a great gain, which leads to a considerable financial advantage for us and a health benefit for our customers.”
Looking ahead, Munshi expects more people to take advantage of the fact that they can measure a range of health indicators on a daily basis if they had to see a doctor beforehand.
“People can measure how well they sleep, how much they run, how high their blood pressure is – pretty much to the minute,” she says.
The consequence of a more conscious population is that the nature of diagnoses changes – evolving into a study of data over time, rather than based on a point in time.
“Customers probably want products that are more bespoke,” she says. “Instead of having very broad products with assumptions from a very broad cohort, people will expect products that are more focused on their needs or on people like them, which means we will see more specialized types of products.” Again, this will bring technical challenges that require an agile, iterative approach that the development of ManulifeMOVE made possible for the company.
For any business looking to develop an ecosystem, the lessons Manulife has learned are illuminating. As we have seen in this series, this includes the careful and careful handling of data and the fluent handling of partnerships, as well as ensuring agility and transparency in technical development. With a similar approach, companies in any sector can take advantage of the opportunities that arise from the development of ecosystems.
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