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he pointed out some of the engineering skills required to build out the functionality on mobile devices and scale them appropriately. "It was really about adjacent skill sets that we needed to foster in our own organization. It was about developing the bench talent we had here and augmenting them with skills in the digital application development marketplace."
There was little surprise that the development team had to include, and in many cases be led by, individuals outside the IT department. "It really took a cross-functional team across Allstate to make this," Phadnis said.
"It wasn't necessarily driven by the people you'd normally think of as part of the IT team. It was driven by people with consumer competencies, insurance product competencies, user experience competencies, all working together and colocated together."
When asked whether the project team disbanded once Drivewise Mobile was complete and released, Phadnis said, "We didn't really think of it as a project. We thought of it as a product, something that would be a living, breathing thing going forward. It doesn't really have an end to it."
With the Drivewise Mobile product team ongoing at Allstate, Phadnis said that the lessons learned are ongoing, as well. "It was very much a learning process. We have a foundation of innovation here at Allstate and we really leveraged on top of that. The element of working cross-functionally and colocating helped us accelerate our learning and the development of our solutions."
Part of the learning process involved melding legacy disciplines with product disciplines tailored for the app-based economy. "There are key elements of our business that require the waterfall-based discipline," Phadnis said, referring to the insurance industry's longtime (and ongoing) reliance on mainframe technology for much of its core data analysis work.
"That being said, we've done a lot of the development work -- not just in the software development space but in the product development space -- where we've combined the agile processes and the waterfall processes to come up with these capabilities for our business."
The new capabilities aren't necessarily those that Allstate would traditionally use when comparing its IT department to those in other insurance companies. "When we think about our customers and think about mobile apps, we don't benchmark ourselves against other insurance companies," Phadnis said.
"You might have an app from one company next to those from another company -- our customers might have the Drivewise Mobile app right next to the apps from Facebook or Uber. So being very sensitive to those industry trends, being very sensitive to the feedback from customers for additional features -- that has been a great muscle for us to exercise and we're very focused on that."
The "great muscle" will continue to be exercised at Allstate if Phadnis is correct in his view of the future. "I see some emerging lessons. One is the continuing tight partnerships and cross-functional needs of various parts of Allstate working together to create this kind of platform," he said. "Allstate is increasingly digital, and the lessons we've learned about bringing together the cross-functional teams to make this kind of product is something that's going to permeate the organization."
That digital focus is at the service of the customer, in Phadnis's view. "From a customer standpoint, we're delivering this mobile product for them. It's something that's starting to emerge across the organization. Within the IT group, how do we continue to make this kind of mobile product available, serving an agent or a customer? That's something starting to take hold to serve our next generation of product and service."