At AAIS, we’re continually refining our industry-leading products to better serve our Members, developing new products to respond to a quickly changing industry, and building new processes to deliver the best-in-class service and support our Members have come to expect.
In January of 2013, knowing that we needed to organize our work to respond to growing market demand, AAIS adopted Agile as a new approach to project management. Agile uses an iterative and time-boxed methodology, veering companies away from the inefficiencies of sequential management. Commonly seen in software development, Agile methodology focuses on splitting large projects into smaller, more feasible tasks, which employees complete in short "sprints" of time. Agile centers around three core tenets: iterative development, risk management, and transparency. When learning of Agile, AAIS leaders saw many similarities in our values and knew that Agile would only make AAIS stronger. AAIS utilizes Agile in a unique way by making it central to the entire organization. All AAIS employees participate in the Agile process, creating a strong sense of project management, accountability, and visibility across the company.
Agile has four core values: individuals and interactions over processes and tools, working product over comprehensive documentation, customer collaboration over contract negotiation, and responding to change over following a plan. At AAIS, we hold great focus on the first value, individuals and interactions, because collaboration and our tight-knit culture have aided in our many accomplishments. We know that by working together, making our work transparent across departments, leads to a better, more cohesive end result for the Members we’re proud to serve.
Agile takes a collaborative approach to project management, moving away from sequential methods like waterfall, a step-by-step method of project management which proves to be timely and inefficient. Agile uses the time-box approach, splitting projects into blocks of time called sprints, which vary in length. At AAIS, all personnel use Agile and work in two-week sprints, enough time to see the impact of their work, but keep the primary goal in focus.
Every sprint produces work that is added to the larger project, the want of a customer. The time-boxed approach is proven to increase efficiency and productivity; in the time it would take an organization using waterfall to come up with ideas, one using Agile is already producing a portion of the product. This keeps customers satisfied and ensures that organizations are providing customers with their most current needs; in the time it takes to create an idea with waterfall, customers may have completely different needs.
Agile's division of work allows for more collaboration among teams, easier adaptation/risk mitigation, better quality, and higher customer engagement and satisfaction. At AAIS, teams are cross-functional, meaning they work together. Every week, teams hold stand-up meetings, allowing every team member to update the team on their work and status in their sprint. The strong collaboration skills implemented by Agile prevent the creation of team 'silos'; teams that refrain from collaborating and hand off completed work. The company regularly gathers for sprint planning, execution, and sprint review, where they look back upon the work they did and set high-level strategy and plans for the next quarter. By doing this together, we can ensure we’re all aligned, and that our Members are receiving consistent output and service, no matter what AAIS line they use.
Agile provides excellent tools for product management. However, it also meets the increasing need for a new workforce culture as the rise in remote work gives teams fewer chances to collaborate in person. Agile requires a modern workplace culture, changing the way people interact, collaborate, and do things. To standard, structured, organized work cultures like the insurance industry, significant adjustments are required to shift the cultural mindset.
In the past seven years, Agile has helped AAIS create a culture of empowerment and success. Agile has allowed staff to feel like they're making their own decisions, to plan as they go, stay engaged in the process, and see the significant impact their work has on their organization. Agile's unique approach to organizing project management has helped increase AAIS's efficiency and quickly attend to our Members' changing needs. While already a leader in the insurance industry, Agile has only helped us grow and transform into an amenable innovative space with quick time-to-market.