Archive for June, 2016

Agile Software Development: Motivating Teams for Faster Results

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2016

Software firms use agile software development to complete projects for clients with greater efficiency. The typical agile environment requires the use of teams of software developers. Some members may participate in a software development project via telecommuting, and others may work on-site. Teamwork is essential to an agile team’s success. We often get questions on how to make organizations more effective through agile development. One answer is that leaders use motivation techniques to facilitate rapid software production. Agile leaders often serve as facilitators rather than managers. Here, we consider insights from a study in Ireland that addresses motivation in agile teams:

According to High, Conboy, and Lang, “Team members can motivate and influence each other’s behavior through frequent meetings and communications (Das and Teng 2001), such as, the daily stand-up. They can be motivated to develop their skills by learning from more experienced personnel, and encouraging each other to take responsibility for specific areas of the work (Hansson et al. 2006).”

Motivation

Considering the Work Environment 

In agile, a software application gets developed in a series of iterations. Agile team leaders move the team towards results through these short phases. They don’t have months or years to develop their teams into cohesive units. Agile teams might have a few days or a few weeks to execute one iteration. Within a single project, the developers can be different for each iteration. However, the success of the project depends on completion of all iterations. Agile team leaders must feel comfortable working with a range of personalities and motivate them to collaborate in rapid fashion. As a general rule of thumb, leaders can appeal to team members who are intrinsically motivated by offering them a degree of control over their work (even in a brief iteration). They can also use other incentives.

Addressing Employee Motivation

It might seem simple to assign employees their preferred tasks and to offer them opportunities to derive social status from their project roles. On each software project, a team member’s roles and tasks could differ. Leaders can motivate some employees by offering task variety while motivating others by giving them their preferred tasks every time. Several team members may have comparable experience performing the tasks in a single iteration. Leaders must think critically about who is the best person for each role or task.

Maintaining Accurate Skills Inventories

If team leaders will assign employees to their preferred tasks, they need to have an accurate inventory of everyone’s related skills. They should create a team work schedule and establish preferred methods of communication. They should allow more experienced members the time to teach less experienced members. If leaders don’t create these kinds of conditions for a project, then the team members can become de-motivated. They can also lose motivation because they don’t receive enough opportunities to advance.

Moving to Agile  

We recommend that agile team leaders assign a variety of tasks to project members. They should also allow for as much role flexibility and task ownership as the project allows. If every member on an agile team feels challenged and given a reasonable time to complete his or her assignments during an iteration, everyone wins. When one or more team members are unhappy with their assigned tasks and related deadlines, then the entire team may become de-motivated.

Over the years, we’ve seen many IT firms achieve better results by adopting the agile software development process. With a heavy focus on efficiency and quality control, agile teams can satisfy each client and the target audiences who will use their software applications. For more ideas on increasing motivation on your agile team, please contact us today.

How Agile Software Development Supports SOA Solutions

Wednesday, June 15th, 2016

If you are in the insurance industry or software development these days, you are sure to have at least heard about Agile Software Development methods and probably observed or participated in projects which exploited them. As a professional in the insurance industry, you are also probably interested in software solutions that deliver service-oriented architecture solutions for your company.

When you choose one of the several current agile approaches, you will find it is an excellent system to add components that make your insurance services more competitive. There are multiple ways that agile can help insurers to automate and increase ROI, but let’s look specifically at integrating pre-built and custom components and why it matters.aglie2

Using Agile To Produce SOA Components

Under the umbrella of agile, there are specific methods that take the principles and turn them into processes. Of these, Scrum is the leading project management system within agile. Scrum sets a climate of transparency, sets priorities and breaks the work down into “sprints” that last two to three weeks. Teams are usually co-located and meet periodically to report results and receive new instructions. Agile systems such as Scrum follow a cycle of repeated iterations, and they work well with most development projects.

Insurance software is extremely amenable to automation, replacing repetitive manual processes with digital systems that handle tasks smoothly and without interactions. Insurance is an interesting case because it is mathematical and behavioral; it manages risk and documentation and applies the discipline of a profitable business model. Add to the equation the need for a competitive edge and response to the innovations from within the industry and you have a dynamic recipe for demanding software solutions.

Harnessing The Talent Within Teams

The power of the agile approach lies in its ability to bridge old software components and new, to create a smooth operating whole from disparate parts. When your team uses agile, you have a discipline for a marketplace of supporting businesses and startups that are all attempting to add value and have a successful business model that makes insurers more competitive. The companies and startups that provide the supporting software modules most likely develop them using agile.

Rather than conforming to dictated policies and processes, teams concentrate on building working software from the creative energies of the team members. As challenges emerge an agile team will keep the plan in mind, along with the final goal, but they will adapt by responding to changes and focusing on getting the project back on track.

If you use Scrum, you work on a “story” that is the narrative that defines the goal you wish to achieve in a sprint. Stories demonstrate the levels of trust and respect that has to exist between leaders and teams; this mutual respect facilitates the creativity and initiative that makes Scrum and all agile methods so useful in software development.

Speed Is Everything In Software Development Now

Today, the driving force in development is the need for a rapid turnaround cycle that rolls out a desired feature or service before the competition. Your competitors have the same information, and they are working toward the same objectives; the advantage goes to the development team that has the best methods of working together.

The highest priority in extending your business processes is to do it fast before the competition can steal the advantage. You will need to add the capabilities of new components and retain the existing legacy of the systems that have brought you to your current state of development. The discipline of agile development philosophies and methodologies, such as Scrum will help you to make measurable progress in integrating new components

Working with a vendor that specializes in agile development gives you the best tools to integrate additional business process modules into your insurance software architecture. FAST enables users to leverage agile methods to build new applications and extend functionality as end-to-end SOA solutions with ease. Contact FAST Technology to learn how our solutions can help you get the most from your software development efforts.

Big Data for Life Insurance and Annuities Opens Up New Value Propositions

Wednesday, June 8th, 2016

The insurance industry is a profession that is well positioned to benefit from emerging Big Data analytics resources. Big Data is more than a buzzword it is the exploding volume of data that is flowing throughout the information systems of the world and you can integrate it into business processes.

According to a 2014 Cap Gemini report, ninety percent of the data in the world appeared in the last two years, and eighty percent of this is data has no inherent structure, which means that the rate of data creation is accelerating dramatically; the sources are disparate and mostly disorganized. Business leaders are beginning to extract value from Big Data by connecting advanced software that analyzes it for the useful information that hides within it.

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Big Data In The Business Of Life Insurance And Annuities

Big Data has potential uses in the insurance industry because of the available technological capacity to process more data and do it faster than ever before, which means that you can create software to arrive at conclusions from statistical data with greater certainty. Using more data and reaching higher levels of mathematical certainty is something that insurance industry competitors are always seeking.

Applying better tools for statistical analysis is an excellent way to gain an advantage in the insurance sector today.When you bring vast quantities of data under your control and turn it into actionable business intelligence; this is natural for insurance enterprises that already work with life policies and annuities.

Work The Numbers To Create A Big Value Proposition

The insurance industry is transforming business models to accommodate Big Data you can use it to do a diverse range of things. For example, you can personalize policies for clients with no concern for the volume of data involved. There are many ways to improve your value proposition and customer relationship management to transform your operations.

Big Data analytics allows you to restructure your underwriting process and improve the statistical validity of your risk calculations. The Cap Gemini report on Big Data in life insurance points out that analytics are finding use throughout the insurance value chain: In the front office, policy administration and underwriting, and in claims processing for life insurers.

Predictive analytics will help you can discover the data patterns that indicate dissatisfied or disinterested policyholders and develop a program to reduce your customer retention risks. Other opportunities that you might identify include finding undeserved markets, matching new services to existing markets, or cross-selling opportunities hidden in the data.

There are more sources of data to include in underwriting decisions than ever before. One of the core tasks in processing Big Data is finding the patterns and connections in data points that come from disparate sources; this could be from multiple mismatched databases or the unstructured data mentioned above. Your software will have to find the shared features and apply a structure; this might use machine-learning algorithms and add it to your master database.

Add Big Data Functionality One Component At A Time

There are as many applications for Big Data analytics in the insurance business as managers and actuaries can dream up. So, how do your bring big data into your current insurance software platform? You can integrate the functions of Big Data while retaining legacy software that continues to perform useful work.

One of the best ways to add any new features to your information systems is by integrating components that use the service-oriented architecture (SOA). FAST Technologies specializes in SOA for life insurance and annuities companies. Contact us to find out what Big Data analytics and the right SOA can do for your life insurance and annuities business.

SOA Components In Life Insurance – Policy Administration Systems

Thursday, June 2nd, 2016

Service-Oriented Architecture (SOA) is modular software; it comprises components that are the building blocks of services. These components work with insurance applications regardless of what legacy platform companies bring to the table. It is an excellent framework to upgrade business process management systems, without conflicting with existing software capabilities. Using SOA in policy administration produces a client-centered operating system with expanded capabilities while maintaining successful legacy operations.                       service-oriented-architecture-soa

Black Box Components Delivering Open Service Systems

SOA is software architecture that supports operational requirements with components that fit into the system; developers design components to match the purpose, without demanding accommodation. This approach is an alternative to large package software because of the flexibility that it engenders, components fit into a business process management framework that suits the purpose, flexible and customizable, it thrives in projects based on agile methodologies. Under the SOA regime, change is a marginal process that only demands as much effort as it takes to add a unique capability; adding more is like adding blocks one-by-one.

The service defines the functions that a component will represent as a singular purpose, what goes on within is not needed by the system, just the output. The style of architecture in the design of components should align with that of the system as a whole, as well as the business process that it represents.

SOA builds components starting from the interface, describing a business process algorithmically, with rules and goals, and incorporating existing service components. Services are black boxes because users and administrators at the business process management level do not need any insight into the inner workings of the services to receive the benefit of the output. The precise nature of services does demand reliable quality control in the development phase, confirming that services do perform as intended.

Applying SOA To Insurance Policy Administration

Software for insurance companies must integrate policy management to deliver control over the financial aspects of the business as a central feature. The benefit is the ability for insurance companies to have all system information available in an accessible format in real-time, and that supports intelligent underwriting and financial management.

According to IBM, SOA offers dramatic benefits to insurance companies. It facilitates the ability to innovate in response to disruptive changes in the market, and competitive pressures that are growing rapidly. It provides integration of complex procedures while serving customers end-to-end. SOA provides the capability to automate new market channels via the Web, to create seamless organizations with partners, and to deliver business intelligence in real-time.

While it might be desirable for insurance companies to upgrade policy administration by throwing out legacy systems and starting afresh, that is not always possible or even desirable in the real world. That is why SOA is such valuable tool for developers and project teams for the insurance business, as a tool for change management. When developers apply SOA well, it still delivers the capabilities but without loss of standing systems.

FAST Software Delivers Policy Administration Systems For Life and Annuity

In the realms of life insurance policies and annuities, FAST is a dynamic and insurance technology provider. We specialize in SOA solutions that expand capabilities for our clients, without undermining legacy systems. We enable our clients to deliver exceptional functionality and creativity in insurance product design.

FAST clients find that we live up to its name; our approach produces results quickly and efficiently. The insurance industry demands software that is both integrated and innovative while still accounting for the unique requirements of the profession. To experience our service and learn what we can do for your insurance company, speak to the Life Insurance and Annuity software experts at FAST Technology today!