Forging your digital path: Don’t discount the power of slogans

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Aflac ups ante on paying claims, with IT’s help

Julia Davis, CIO at Aflac and an MIT Sloan CIO leadership finalist, also talked about how improving customer service — within IT and for company’s policy holders — played an important role in forging a digital path.

The Columbus, Ga., insurance company put a high priority on paying claims quickly, said Davis, who joined Aflac in 2013. “We’re not looking for the float; we want to pay claims,” she said. When she started, an initiative was afoot to reduce Aflac’s four-day pay service, which was done through manual processes, to a single day.

At this point, IT projects typically took 18 months to do, Davis said.  The department worked on mainframes and used a Waterfall approach for development. Her team also had “20 No. 1” priorities, not a good strategy for delivering a business-critical project in timely fashion.

“I went to the CEO of the company and said, ‘In order for us to do this, I need you to take everything off our plate. The other 19 No. 1 priorities have to disappear, and this has to be our mission,'” Davis recounted.

Delivering on Aflac’s One Day Pay service, launched officially in 2015, required a slew of technology-enabled business process firsts, including automatic direct deposit, as well as profound cultural transformation within IT and in parts of the business. (Davis said one of the reasons Aflac did not have automatic direct deposit of claims was that agents loved to put a paper check in their customers’ hands.) Her teams had to abandon Waterfall development for Agile development  — and quickly.  

The One Day Pay service was delivered in five and a half months. “And that started everything. Now that we have figured out this whole process, [the question became] how can we transform the rest of the business,” Davis said.

Read more about Gledhill’s digital transformation journey at DBS in this recap of the CIO symposium opening keynote.