The evolution to digital insurer takes many steps, and for established insurers, there is an additional one: addressing the multitude of legacy systems under their roofs.

The effort to move applications from legacy systems to digitally charged ones takes more than simply swapping underlying hardware or adopting cloud instead of on-premises, however. For one, many insurers have IT staffs that are highly skilled in the legacy environment, and may require training and coaching in new skill sets. In addition, corporate management needs to understand that the move to digital can’t and won’t happen overnight. It’s going to take a well-thought-out deliberate effort.

Liberty Mutual Insurance has been on such a journey, and has also gained some valuable insights along the way on what it takes to manage the transformation to digital. In a recent interview at the Pivotal Cloud Foundry event, Justin Stone, director of cloud enablement at Liberty Mutual Insurance, described what needs to be thought through as enterprises embark on the journey.

A legacy-to-digital technology transformation “is all about the people, and giving people confidence in what they’re doing,” Stone explains. “The technology helps that, but part of it just getting proof that you can do certain things, giving them the tools and the freedom to reducing the risks to take a chance to leverage new technology in ways the old technology wouldn’t work.” Stone reports that “dozens” of legacy applications have been modernized, or their functions abstracted through containers.

In addition, Stone relates, the digital transformation process – especially when hundreds of legacy systems are involved – is better managed in bite-sized chunks across smaller teams, rather than any type of big-bang approach. “You can’t do all of it,” he says. “Over time, our applications teams have learned that it’s better to really tackle smaller of chunks of work if they can. We see more confidence in smaller teams that builds to larger teams throughout our company. These teams are tackling challenges they never would have before because of the success they’ve had.”

Again, Stone reiterates, a legacy-to-digital journey takes time. Success in such an effort “comes down to getting people away from the mindset that it’s going to be easy,” he says. “It’s not always easy. It’s not a one-size-fits-all, it’s not factory work. There may be patterns that are repeatable, but each one of those was lovingly handcrafted.”

Both developers and the business are seeing the differences as applications are brought up to date, Stone adds. “One of things were going after is giving the developer hope again. Some of these older applications programmers now have hope that they can leverage new capabilities from these old applications.”

From a business perspective, “were standing up new products in months now instead of years,” Stone continues. “We’re getting enhancements and new features out in days instead of weeks. We’re doing a lot of work in key claims areas -- integrations with some of our key claims systems are allowing faster turnarounds. Also, in the products spaces and underwriting space, we’re touching most of our operations.”

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