Probing to Identify the Stakeholder’s Real Needs

Characters in the case study: 

Company: BeSecure General Insurance Company Limited

  • Kailash – Appointed Actuary (The stakeholder in the case study)
  • Ajay – Manager – Digital and Analytics Teams
  • Mushtaq – Senior Manager – Digital and Analytics Teams

The Stakeholder’s Pain Point

“Our products are not competitive price-wise, we have not been able to mine the vast amount of data available to us to predict potential products that could cater to our customers’ future needs. And that’s because of you guys! Last week, we delayed revising and repricing a product, since we didn’t receive the trend analysis report from you on time.”

Kailash, the Appointed Actuary, was reprimanding Ajay, a Manager from the Analytics Team, who had been working on a few requests made by the Actuarial Team.

 

Ajay

“Sir, I’ll inform my department head about this. But do you have any idea about why you’ve been facing these delays?” Ajay replied, sounding apologetic, and genuinely concerned.

You should be telling me why”, Kailash snapped back. “All the complex calculations and decisions that the Actuarial team needs to make requires data inputs from your team.”

 

The Business Impact of the Pain Point

Kailash went on to narrate a litany of mishaps that had occurred as a result of delayed inputs from the Analytics team:

  • Delays in meeting deadlines. One example: The pricing decision for a new insurance product was delayed, due to which the product beta launch was delayed by a week!
  • Owing to the beta launch date getting missed, the internal C-SAT scores for the Actuarial Team has plummeted.
  • Delay in receiving trend analysis reports required to make the necessary decisions resulted in a delay in product feature upgrade and pricing revision decisions.

 

The Stakeholder’s ‘Stated Need’

“So, here’s what we expect from you”, Kailash continued:

  1. The first draft of the Trend Analysis reports should be delivered to us at least one week before the next specified deadline so that we have enough time to go through them and request for clarifications or additional information if required.
  2. Recurring analysis reports must be prepared and delivered proactively bi-weekly. Please don’t wait for my team members to remind you; I don’t want them to waste even a minute writing unnecessary reminder e-mails.

 

Please consider all requirements from my team as urgent. And I’m not willing to compromise on any of these requirements or their deadlines.”

A visibly upset Ajay replied even before Kailash was done speaking, “Sir, as much as I’d like to adhere to these timelines, I’m afraid it might not be possible as we’re terribly understaffed and we need to cater to other teams’ requirements as well. Besides, studying trends and providing an all-encompassing analysis report takes times. Of late, your team has been asking us to provide inputs within a day or two, for which we’ve had to put all our other projects on hold. We’re trying our best…”

“Do what you want, but meet my deadlines” Kailash interrupted. “Or, you make sure that my headcount is restored back to the original number.”

“How can I do that, Sir? I’m an Analytics Manager, not the COO”, Ajay protested, smiling.

“That’s your problem.”, Kailash retorted, as he stood up and walked away.

 

Why the Analytics Team could not meet the request:

The Analytics Team could not meet the Stakeholder’s request due to the following reasons:

  • They don’t receive all requirements from the Actuarial team in one go. Sometimes the requirements keep coming in or changing in the days after the original request has been raised. Working and reworking on constantly changing requests took time.
  • Allocating a dedicated resource to the Actuarial team would mean that someone who is currently working on a different project would need to be shifted to service the Actuarial Team’s requirement. This would lead to severe disgruntlement among other teams.
  • The only way to deliver recurring requests on time was to automate them. Automation, though, would take some time and effort, as it required a specification sheet to be prepared along with co-ordination with the Digital team, and their timelines also needed to be taken into consideration.

 

Enter Mushtaq

Mushtaq, a Senior Analytics Manager, and an experienced hand, was entrusted with the responsibility of fixing these issues.

Before talking to the Stakeholder, Mushtaq asked Ajay for details on the case. He asked Ajay about Kailash’s specific needs. “The first thing that I need to understand is if this is a straightforward requirement or something that needs further probing,” he told Ajay.

Mushtaq had also thought about a temporary solution, to begin with; something that could save both the Analytical and the Actuarial team’s time. Maybe a requirements sheet that can capture the Stakeholders’ requirements could work. This could ensure clarity of requirements and cut down on time spent on going back and forth.

After giving it some thought, Mushtaq came up with two solutions; one was a temporary “quick-fix” solution that could work as a stop-gap arrangement, and the other one was a permanent one.

 

Mushtaq Meets the Stakeholder

“Sir, as mentioned in our Analytics head’s e-mail, I’ve been deputed to sort out the Actuarial team’s issues and expectations concerning the analytical inputs”, said Mushtaq.

“Yes, so are you planning on sorting these issues sometime soon, or are you also going to give me lame excuses for not getting the job done?” Kailash enquired sarcastically.

Mushtaq did not respond to the Stakeholder’s taunt. Instead, calmly and in a voice that radiated sincerity, he said. “I’m definitely here to understand your issues and sort them to the best of my abilities….”

As Mushtaq completed his sentence, he looked up and noticed an FC Barcelona poster on Kailash’s soft board and smiled. Kailash turned towards his soft board to see what had caught Mushtaq’s eye and asked “Barcelona fan?”

“Yes”, replied Mushtaq with a broad smile. “Huge fan and I can see that you’re one too.”

Kailash laughed and replied “Yes, of course. Then I guess we’re friends already!”, said Kailash, smiling. “…and now that we’re friends, I guess I can trust you to sort out our issues as soon as possible!”

 

Empathy

“Well, yes, you can! Ok, so I’ve heard about your disappointment. I know you haven’t been receiving your inputs on time, due to which major product revisions, repricing and launches have been delayed. The Analytics Head has mentioned how overworked your team is right now, as a result of the time, they need to spend working long hours and over the weekends as well”.

“Oh, thank heavens, someone understands!”, Kailash said.  “Sorry about my earlier outburst, it’s just that I’ve been frustrated for so long by this issue.”

“That’s alright. I understand”, Mushtaq replied. “I also understand that we need to get this issue resolved immediately. So, may I ask you a few questions regarding your requirements?”

“Yes please”, said Kailash with a neutral tone.

 

Mr Mushtaq Sherlock Holmes

“From my conversation with the Analytics team, I understand you need the trend analysis reports to be delivered at least one week before the next deadline, and you want us to deliver recurring reports on a bi-weekly basis. Now, what I’d like to understand is – what exactly are you trying to achieve through this request? What business outcomes are you hoping to impact through this requirement?”, said Mushtaq.

“Sure…. So, here’s the thing. Currently, we’re working on the beta launch of a product, that’s going to be the next big thing release this year”, said Kailash. “Right now, we’re in the testing stage, where we’re trying out different things; for instance, we’re trying to understand what features need to be changed or introduced, do we need to reprice the products or introduce customer utilisation-based pricing etc. For this, we need various trend analysis inputs to decide what the best decision or course of action would be. If we don’t get these inputs on time, we won’t be able to make product decisions as expected, which would invariably delay the beta launch.”

“I hear you, Kailash. What I’d like to know is how do you see the outcomes that you will receive from the analysis reports being sent to you one week before they will be actually used any different from the outcomes that you used to obtain earlier?”

“That’s a nice question, Mushtaq”, Kailash smiled. “Finally, I have someone who is asking intelligent questions to understand my world better” Kailash went on to share his thoughts on the same.

“I see. There is merit in your thinking, and your request now makes sense.” Mushtaq noted after Kailash finished. “Also, and I ask this question only because I want to ensure that there is no back-and-forth between our teams after the report has been sent to you. What are the various points or aspects that we need to be especially careful with?”

Kailash, really happy now, responded, “Wow, where have you been all this while, when the Digital and Analytics Team kept sending me nincompoops? Well, here are a few points that you must pay careful attention to” Kailash responded, opening his laptop and pointing to an Excel sheet.

“Ok, now I understand the actual requirement”, said Mushtaq. “But Kailash, currently the Analytics team is preparing these reports manually, on excel sheets and believe me, this takes a lot of time and effort.”

““I understand. Why don’t you just dedicate a resource to my team and make it easier for both of us? You can bill the resource to the Actuarial team”, said Kailash.

“ The issue is not billing related. The Analytics team is experiencing a resource crunch at the moment, and everyone is swamped with work. Dedicating a resource to your team may not be possible right now.””, replied Mushtaq.

“Come on, I think you can afford to dedicate one resource to my team. I’m sure it wouldn’t be a problem”, said Mushtaq.

“No sir, we really can’t do that. Dedicating a resource to your team would mean that eventually, other teams will also demand the same. We need to look for a more reasonable solution that’s feasible for both our teams”, Mushtaq replied firmly.

“Ok ok, I understand. But my team is also short-staffed, and it’s quite exasperating that our work is getting delayed only because we haven’t been receiving analysis inputs on time. I can’t let this continue. If I do, I’m going to lose our senior management’s trust. My CSAT scores have been pretty disappointing. This situation needs to be resolved as soon as possible”, said Kailash.

“That’s quite understandable”, replied Mushtaq empathetically. “I think I might have a quick-fix, temporary solution for this issue…

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