“Lean” best practices—doing things faster, better and cheaper through continuous improvement and measurement—have been a staple of the manufacturing world for years, with impressive results for the companies that implemented them.

Now, it's interesting to see Lean principles advancing into the insurance space as well, in which operational efficiencies are applied to carrier's “manufacturing” operations—in this case, the technology.

A recent article describes how Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. has gained process efficiencies in its IT operations. The company engaged Wipro, which built the Lean machine for Toyota Motor Co., to apply Lean to 17 projects, from application development, demand management, IT service desk, call handling and application maintenance.

The effort was first launched in late 2009, and Nationwide reports about $2 million return for its efforts already.

Mimi Chizever, VP for claims technology at the insurance company, is quoted as observing that the projects were turned around “three or four months,” and serve as good demonstrations of Lean capabilities for the rest of the company.

Speaking at at the Gartner CIO Leadership Forum in Scottsdale, Ariz., Chizever says the ultimate focus of Lean is building work around customer needs.

"Lean does a great job of helping to identify that we're doing the right work with the right way with the right people."

Last year, I published “7 Steps to Lean IT,” reprinted here:

1) Focus on the customer and eliminate waste. “

2) Automate processes.

3) Continuously improve.

4) Empower the team.

5) Build quality in.

6) Plan for change.

7) Optimize the whole

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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