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  • Ahead in the Cloud: Bringing Agility to an Insurance Business in Japan with Drew Flynn

    October 17, 2022
  • Drew Flynn, CTO at NN Life Japan discusses agile-driven business process. The discussion covers migration to cloud, AI, and the implementation journey.

    Hosted by Chad Watt, researcher and writer with the Infosys Knowledge Institute.

    “I think every organization's starting point is different, so every organization's journey will be different.”

    “In our cloud transformation we focused on three key areas, people, processes, and platforms.”

    “Using cloud platforms has allowed us to solve customer problems in a faster and more innovative way.”

    - Drew Flynn


  • NN Life Japan is in the middle of a full cloud driven transformation. We're coming to the end of the first large migration off the metal boxes onto the cloud. After that, we're probably going to have to do a bit more rework over the next year or two to move to more cloud native solutions like Saas or PaaS.
  • There were two catalysts that got us onto the path of the cloud. We're part of a greater NN group. CIO of the group at the time, implemented a cloud first strategy that is still current to this day. The second was our own internal transformation to a more agile way of working. So we focused on three key areas, people, processes, and platforms.
  • We realized early on that we would need new platforms that could allow technology to meet the speed of the business. So, the infrastructure we had at that time was not cutting it. It took too long to provision the servers, we had complicated processes and limited features and functions. The cloud promised to solve these issues and provide improved speed and reliability.
  • I think every organization's starting point is different, so every organization's journey will be different. My recommendation would be: start small and iterate learning as you go, and then you need to see what works and what is accepted by your management and staff in your own organization.
  • You need to educate executives and senior leaders with at least the basics of AI. How does it work? What are the potential limitations? After we did that, we have taken the same approach that we had with our Agile implementation. You start small and iterate. You have several use cases bubbling away and you see what outcomes, what insights AI can provide out of those use cases. So really, start small and learn as you go.
  • We have the relevant business users for the different streams, sales, operations involved. And I think what we learned was the first thing you need to do is to understand what the business is trying to achieve with the AI model. What do they want to get out of it? What question or problem are they trying to solve? And then you build your models around that.
  • One way to reduce dashboard fatigue, is you've got to understand how your users are utilizing those reports. When are they engaging with the reports? When are they not engaging with those reports? And if you have that data, at least you could better adapt your reporting to be more relevant for the users' needs.
  • And I think the other thing is you need to have sort of a housekeeping model for the reports that are no longer needed. It's always good to remove them out of the cycle or change them and adapt them so that they're relevant to the business needs.
  • Using cloud platforms has allowed us to solve customer problems in a faster and more innovative way. For example, we can easily scale compute resources when the business requires it. We can run AB testing simply using cloud solutions. And especially for Japan, we have a more robust infrastructure in case of a natural disaster.
  • In Japan, there is a seasonality to the work outside of the natural disasters. In the end of March, we have the peak contracting period for the year, so we can scale up the systems there. Similarly, we see another peak in September - the peak for our actual cycle, the business cycle we have here. So leveraging cloud there to spin up more systems or more compute resources when required, helps us a lot.

Show Notes

  • 00:06

    Chad introduces himself and Drew

  • 00:53

    Drew tells about himself and how he started in technology

  • 01:29

    What was your first computer? What was your first game?

  • 01:56

    When did you start working with modern enterprise cloud systems?

  • 02:38

    Today NN Life Japan is in the middle of a full cloud driven transformation. Tell us a little bit more about the catalyst that led up to that.

  • 03:46

    How far along are you on this journey? Are you guys starting out, early stage, mid process, mostly done?

  • 04:10

    Drew talks about the implementation journey, that kind of "how" of this work.

  • 05:07

    So if I want to learn from your Agile and I showed up at your office, I said, Drew, I need all your Agile details. Would that be useful to me?

  • 06:23

    Tell us about Hanko and how you make room for that tradition in a cloud based, agile driven business process.

  • 07:39

    When you think about data and AI, how does an AI practitioner, or a company that's getting into artificial intelligence, really build trust in the outcomes that they produce?

  • 08:22

    Who are you bringing into those discussions? Is it a technology department or is it beyond that?

  • 09:18

    How do you make sure you're producing the right reports and avoiding what I call dashboard fatigue?

  • 10:14

    Let's talk now about cyber security. You are shifting to the cloud. How has your shift to cloud changed your approach to security and cyber security?

  • 13:03

    Tell me what difference this cloud transformation, NN Life Japan is going through, has made thus far for your customers and businesses?

  • 14:09

    So you've got to manage change management, you've got to manage technical changes. How do you keep those squarely focused on customer experience in the bottom line?

  • 16:33

    Are you backing up all your personal devices to the cloud?

About Drew Flynn

Drew Flynn

Drew Flynn serves as NN Life Japan’s Chief Technology Officer. He is responsible for the company’s technology and digital strategies, application delivery, architecture, data & analytics, change delivery, and facilities. His current focus in on delivering maximum speed and reliability to the business.

Drew joined NN Life Japan in 2014 as Head of Corporate PMO, taking increasing responsibilities in the transformation area. As Head of Transformation from 2016 Drew successfully lead the agile implementation and insourcing of IT with NN Life Japan, resulting in reduced dependencies on vendors, and significantly increased speed & efficiency that was critical for the business before taking his current role of CTO in 2022.

Prior to NN, Drew had a successful track record in program management and technology, gained over 15+ years in prominent global companies in the technology and financial industries, in Japan and Asia Pacific.