An imperfectly formed strategy that is well
executed is better than a perfect strategy
that never happens or gets badly implemented.
Similarly we are reaching the point in
the core systems world where the choice of
software solutions is less important than
the ability of the implementation team to
execute the legacy modernization project required to get the new system into
Obviously, the previous statement
comes with some strong qualifiers. For
example a workers’ compensation carrier
would be ill-advised to choose a vendor
that has never done comp, but if the comp
carrier has a short list of, say, three well-qualified vendors with modern software
and strong domain experience then the
key differentiator should be execution. The
best solution is of no value if it does not get
implemented. ROI requires go-live.
As we have discussed many times,
core systems legacy modernization is the
hardest thing an insurance IT department
can undertake. These projects are complex, enterprise-wide, of
extended duration, and heavily risk-prone. Therefore the size,
makeup and experience of the implementation team is critical
to the project’s success. Also, by their nature core system replacement projects are not frequent occurrences. It is common
to find the legacy system that is getting replaced is 20, 30 or
more years old.
This raises what we at CastleBay Consulting call the Carnegie Hall Problem. As the time worn joke goes: A man stops
someone on the streets of Manhattan and asks “How do I get to
Carnegie Hall? The stranger answers, “Practice.” If you want to
play at a world-class music venue you have to practice and train
to be a world-class musician. Similarly, if you want to be capable
of executing a major legacy replacement project you need to
have practice and training at doing legacy replacement projects.
The problem is the in-house IT group has spent the last 20
years doing maintenance projects. Playing Chopsticks does not
prepare you for a piano concerto. And just as you cannot sud-
denly figure out how to successfully play Beethoven’s Moonlight
Sonata, you also cannot learn to run a legacy replacement proj-
ect on the fly. Such an undertaking has too many moving parts,
is too broad, too risky, and too visible to learn on the job.
So, what is the answer? Build a team that incorporates three
skill sets that are critical to project success. The three skill sets are:
K Detailed knowledge of the insurance carrier’s business operations, system requirements, and success criteria.
K Detailed knowledge of the new system solution, what it
does, what it does not do, and how to modify and extend its
behavior and integrate it to create a successful solution for
K Detailed knowledge of how to plan and execute all the key
components of a core system legacy replacement project,
preferably accounting for the vendor specifics.
And where do we find these skill sets?
Detailed knowledge of the insurance carrier’s business op-
The best software package in the world is useless if it cannot be implemented