Swiss Re is one of the three largest reinsurance companies on the planet. As a leading wholesale provider of insurance, reinsurance and other insurance-based forms of risk transfer, Swiss Re employs over 14,000 people in countries across five continents to deliver over $30 billion worth of premium value.
To maintain its leadership in the market, Swiss Re’s corporate strategy is to be an unrivaled knowledge company; specifically, “to take the lead in developing techniques to estimate losses in changing or even unknown areas of practice, and sharing the benefits of that knowledge with our clients.” One example is the first issuance of a weather-indexed parametric insurance policy for a hydroelectric power company in Brazil. This policy helped the company mitigate its risks associated with Brazil’s severe drought of recent years. The amount of disparate data to consider in assessing risk for such a project is staggering, so making sense of that data is critical to the success of Swiss Re’s strategy. “The kind of risks we have today are so different than the risks we had twenty years ago,” says Rainer Baumann, Swiss Re CIO.
Knowledge: A Strategic Asset
To be able to insure and reinsure projects like the hydroelectric plant in Brazil, Swiss Re depends on teams of experts who create knowledge about risk assessment from mountains of available data. According to Baumann, “we are experts in how to work with data, and on methodologies when we talk about bringing in data – and also in leveraging the latest technologies.”
Baumann identifies particular challenges in making sense of available data, noting that “the majority of information is unstructured. It is unrelated - meaning it comes from very different sources. You need to put it into context. Understand it. We do not employ hundreds and thousands of people [to do this, so] we need to do this in an intelligent way and that’s where our focus is.”
Technology to the Rescue?
Baumann is quick to point out that using technology effectively is critical for making sense of Swiss Re’s data across multiple aspects of the business. One example Baumann cites is, “when we get a claim after something happens, then classically, someone will need to type this information from an email into a system. From that system, someone would review it, and put some more information into another system. However, everything could be extracted more or less, automatically, and then digitized.”
But technology is only part of the solution. If people are unable to use the technology, it is impossible to realize its potential in delivering business value. According to Baumann, “this is the classical adoption problem with the latest technologies…you spend tons of time finding the right information somewhere, preparing it and distilling insights out of it.”
The Digital Workplace Journey
To support the business strategy of fostering collaboration to improve risk assessment, Swiss Re embarked on a Digital Workplace journey. The goal was to provide the tools that employees need to make Swiss Re a leading knowledge company. This includes providing the tools experts need to make the most accurate and efficient assessment of risk, using the mountains of available data.
The Importance of Collaboration
Swiss Re understood that getting people to work together was key to unlocking the value from Digital Workplace technology. Baumann points out that “innovation, for us, doesn’t come from tough, stringent, managed research projects. Innovation comes from the entire company…and collaboration and open problem-sharing discussion are at its core.”
To enable this collaboration, Swiss Re turned to Microsoft as a key technology supplier. According to Baumann, “As part of our digital workplace program, where we embark on adopting the latest technologies, we are on a tough journey on the Microsoft road, with Exchange, SharePoint, and other platforms.”
SharePoint in the Digital Workplace
Part of the tough part of that journey came from the implementation of SharePoint, in what was summarized as an ineffective roll-out of the platform. As Vice President and Senior Enterprise Architect Jochen Kleinschnittger remembers, “we made the mistake of introducing SharePoint as a technical project, thinking ‘let the IT team do the IT stuff, and then the business users will adopt it and will just use it’”.
The adoption of SharePoint was low, so business goals were not realized.
A Human-Centered Approach to the Digital Experience
The learning curve that Swiss Re found themselves on after the unsuccessful deployment of SharePoint was realizing the importance of user adoption for new tools and solutions. For many companies, moving to an environment like SharePoint or Office 365 is often treated as a purely technical project without thinking adequately about what it means for the end user. For Swiss Re, training their users in what to expect and how to use SharePoint was a major step that was missed when they first implemented the platform.
Around this time, Swiss Re decided to employ harmon.ie’s solution as a strategy of putting the human in the center, bringing SharePoint into everyday use for their employees. Swiss Re was accustomed to an integrated work environment from their days of using LotusNotes, where business apps run within the email client. In the Notes environment, harmon.ie had already enabled Swiss Re information workers to capture and share emails and documents in SharePoint. So harmon.ie’s contribution to humanizing the user experience by making it easy for workers to collaborate from the email client was well understood.
The introduction of harmon.ie has been a key component to Swiss Re’s digital workplace initiative, because it has delivered a boost in the adoption rate of SharePoint, as well as an improvement of overall collaboration and employee efficiency across the company. CIO Baumann summarizes the harmon.ie contribution:
“We have as part of our digital workplace program, where we embark on adopting the latest technologies, a strong journey in the Microsoft world with the respective Exchange, SharePoint, and other platforms. Enabling a simpler access to and adoption of these technologies is, on our side, highly supported by harmon.ie. So now you can share documents in a simple way, how you can interact with people, and even on my mobile phone, I can get access to all of my documents wherever I am in the world thanks to our harmon.ie app.”
The harmon.ie Rollout
harmon.ie makes SharePoint adoption simple and fosters collaboration by making it easy for Swiss Re experts to focus on work, rather than using technology. Getting people up and running effortlessly was one of the secrets of harmon.ie’s success.
According to Swiss Re Senior Enterprise Architect and Vice President, Jochen Kleinschnittger:
“We have rolled out harmon.ie as a standard product for everybody. It’s provided to every new person that joins the company—they get harmon.ie on their laptop and Outlook, because it’s helping us move them into the cloud and helping the user experience.”
harmon.ie puts users front and center of its technology and believes that a great user experience and user journey—that fits seamlessly into the company’s culture—is paramount to increasing adoption rates and positively affects productivity.
In fact, it fits so well that Swiss Re does not force their employees to use harmon.ie or provide training. They simply show workers that harmon.ie is a productive way to work by helping them focus on topics. The majority of employees begin using the harmon.ie sidebar right away when they realize how simple it makes bringing the information they need into the place where they are already spending their time—that is, their email client.
A Key Partner for the Journey Ahead
Due to its success in fostering collaboration, harmon.ie has become a key partner in the Swiss Re digital workplace initiative. One of the reasons for this is the robustness of the solution. Swiss Re has moved from SharePoint 2013 to SharePoint 2016, to Office 365 with harmon.ie, but the user experience didn’t need to change. This means that while the company stays up to date with the latest cutting-edge tools across their platforms, their employees don’t have to learn how to use the next version or even adapt to a different look and feel. Furthermore, using harmon.ie, the ability to move from SharePoint 2013 to 2016 and Office 365 seamlessly is a huge plus, precisely because of this seamless integration and consistency across all platforms, including mobile. As Swiss Re moves to the cloud, it also means that workers won’t have to toggle between disparate apps within, and beyond the Office 365 environment.
Having harmon.ie on laptops, desktops and mobile devices is helping improve Swiss Re employees’ user experience. But more importantly, it means Swiss Re experts are able to collaborate and spark the innovation that Swiss Re needs to realize their corporate strategy; to be a knowledge company.
harmon.ie continues to support Swiss Re’s digital workplace journey to the cloud. harmon.ie’s current and future product offerings are uniquely geared to the business cloud environment, helping to bring together unstructured data from many disparate apps in meaningful ways, so people can focus on what’s important, rather than searching for information. As such, it is a perfect fit for Swiss Re’s current and future information challenges.