Our journey so far
I joined Direct Line Group as head of digital delivery back in 2013, and Ash, our former head of digital, joined about six months before me.
Ash established exactly what was required at that point in time (essentially to become a digital insurer), and set about devising what was needed to get things up and running.
He inherited the content team from another department, and there were a couple of other people that had joined as well, but in total we were only about a dozen people. According to the plans that Ash had put together we then began to recruit and grow the team.
At the time a project to migrate an online journey for our Motor products had already started. This was to take it from a legacy application to a new technology platform that would enable rapid changes to be made.
We soon moved out of head office, and up the road to where the Motor project was based.
The Motor project was delivered, but before looking at the next project we started considering alternative delivery models as a means of continuously improving how we work, and at the same time I began introducing Agile ways of working to the business.
Growing our capability
We very quickly realised that some engineering capability was needed, and when we were given the go-ahead to build an in-house team we felt like we’d reached the first big milestone. It meant that we suddenly had a team of skilled people at our disposal, sat in the same office. This was enormously empowering, highly efficient and very cost-effective.
From there on things just grew.
The next big milestone was building a new insurance platform in digital. We submitted a proposal, which was very cost effective, and were given the green light to proceed. The team was tasked with delivering the project, and we did it on time, on budget, and it was a great success.
In fact, to this day they’re still optimising that same platform. This gave us real credibility throughout the business, and we went on to deliver a series of projects after that, working very closely with the Technology Services department.
The next major step for us was getting something in the cloud, which we managed to tick off in 2017 when we created a new way to sell insurance policies in high street banks.
We also found the need to really educate people in Agile. A traditional project delivery will say that you need a different person for every aspect of a project, whereas Agile shows that you don’t. It’s a fundamentally different way of working that enables you to question why and challenge things.
As time goes by, it’s getting easier to work in this way, as people are becoming more and more aware of it. By having a department where everyone knows what Agile is, they can support and coach each other and stop others from growing in the wrong direction.
Since Digital started, we’ve gained a lot of credibility. At first we were the ‘new kids on the block’ but now the entire business knows we can do what we say we can do.
Now that we’re more established we get lots of support from different areas around the business. We also have scrum teams that run autonomously and don’t need to be micro-managed. I’m comfortable that our teams have the knowledge and understanding they need to just get on with things.
I want to carry on building on what we’ve got, in terms of maturity of experience and knowledge, but also around resilience, as there are constant changes happening within the business. There’s a level of confidence that I want to continue to grow in the team, around the way people work.
If you’ve got to use brain power on the way that you work, you can’t use it being confident and resilient. So, I want the way people work to become a habit.
The high street bank insurance project put us right at the cutting edge of technology, which I’m really proud of, and I want to carry on pushing that envelope. With our recent move back up to head office, I’m sure that we’ll be able to build better and closer relationships with people across the business and keep moving forward.
There’s definitely a bright future ahead for Digital.