Michigan Millers Mutual Insurance realized there was disconnect
between its IT operation and the
various business units that caused
the carrier problems in developing
solutions in an efficient and less
expensive manner. Prior to the implementation ofan ECM solution
from DocFinity, the insurer did
something about the disconnect
and today issues are addressed as
one. Andrew Gamet, ECM/BPM
administration and development
for Michigan Millers, addressed
questions on how the company improved operations and created respect for what everyone in the organization was doing.
Question: Why do you believe there was discon-
nect between business and IT?
Gamet: Michigan Millers was relatively slow-to-start, regarding
where IT was utilized and how extensively. I’ve heard stories
of former executives and board members who argued against
proper IT funding or resources, because they found it pointless
in comparison to actual human experience. In my opinion, any
disconnect was largely due to this mindset. Michigan Millers
is a 135-year-old company with business processes having
spanned the bulk of that. I believe the friction was simply due to
interjecting IT into current processes—possibly to the point of
changing them entirely—when those same processes had been
proven effective. From a human standpoint, hearing “IT can
make it better” can easily, if not incorrectly, be heard as “you’ve
been doing something wrong.” Therefore, IT’s introduction
may have seemed unnecessary and possibly insulting. It took
repetitive use and tangible output before IT was recognized as
integral in the company, even if that initial impression lingered.
Did you bring in someone to the company with
agile experience, or did you send out business
and IT leaders to be trained?
Gamet: Agile had been used at prior workplaces of some of the
IT employees, and was recommended based on those experi-
ences. Members from both IT and the business units were sent
for training and given additional resources to learn its finer
points. These key members were then tasked with spreading
that knowledge throughout applicable parties at Michigan Mill-
ers, to prepare for adoption. While there was some specialized
training for a few, the vast majority of Michigan Millers employ-
ees have a base understanding of the agile development process,
regardless of whether or not they’re actively involved.
What have been the biggest benefits of agile?
Gamet: The primary benefit has been accountability. With
a properly written story and defined goals, IT knows what
needs to be developed and the business unit knows what can
be expected upon delivery. When things go right, everyone is
happy, but when development is hindered, agile makes it clear
where the likely fault occurred. Did the business unit simply not
test or sign off on the work done, or did IT neglect to factor in
an agreed-upon requirement of the story? It’s easier to identify
and move forward, rather than waste time pointing fingers.
Planning is streamlined, based on these experiences.
Secondarily, scheduling and prioritization are now respected
across both sides. The business unit is keenly aware of most
development projects in the works, and members must agree
upon the order of development. This allows the business to ultimately control the development schedule, without overworking
IT or expecting “everything right now.” Both sides are aware of
the work to be done, and when to expect it to be completed.
What is the relationship today between business and IT and how do you keep it fresh?
Gamet: The relationship between IT and the business has improved greatly. With the roles and responsibilities being defined
by the process, we’re all accountable. There is an open dialogue
that takes place where it hadn’t prior. Every Michigan Millers
employee now has an avenue to take to request improvement,
and IT has a method in place to field those requests. Development now requires the cooperation of all parties to be successfully completed. Most importantly though, conflicts have clear
paths for resolution and easily shape the process going forward
and prevent repetition. All in all, these improvements result in a
unified workforce, ready and able for active improvement.
It’s far from fresh at this point; stand ups, retrospectives,
planning meetings, story writing and testing procedures are all
too common. The process does, however, allow for improvements and enhancements to core systems at a regular interval,
in a unified and efficient manner. On all sides, this is constantly
recognized as a positive change. ITA
Eliminate the Disconnect
If a problem as major as a lack of communication between the IT department and
various business units is not corrected, both sides can fail at their mission.