Liberty IT’s Tony Marron talks keeping on top of business transformation

  • How does a modern company not only survive, but thrive, in today’s current climate of constant change and remote working?

    Tony Marron, Senior Director of Emerging Business & Technology at Liberty IT believes spontaneity is just as important as good planning.

    He talked to Sync NI about keeping afloat of emerging tech trends and how his teams are finding (and creating) new opportunities to continue helping customers transform their businesses.

    What exactly does your role at Liberty IT entail?

    Liberty IT operates within Liberty Mutual Insurances’ technology division.

    It’s a Fortune 100 company operating globally. My role is to make sure that we are working on the most digitally transformative, strategic and innovative areas of the business.

    I seek out the areas and opportunities where we can bring our deep technical expertise, emerging technologies and understanding of the business to help our partners literally transform their business operations.

    Presumably due to your line of work, you’ve been busy throughout the coronavirus crisis with many businesses having to completely transform?

    Insurance companies in general have been trying to transform their business for quite a few years. Like every industry, the global pandemic has forced an acceleration for their appetite.

    Our partners want to digitise and rethink insurance. They want to come up with new products and services to satisfy their rapidly changing customer needs. Our customers are looking for services that are frictionless and hyper-personalised to them.

    RELATED: Liberty IT to create 150 new tech roles

    Those things provide us with massive opportunities right across the business.

    We’ve had a deep expertise in innovation for the last seven years. We started small and built up our credibility. In the last few years, we’ve grown quite a bit. Covid absolutely introduced challenges that forced us to rethink, but if I had to categorise those areas into three key points:

    1. Ideation phase

    Typically, when we’re kicking off an engagement, we try to create an intimate setting and bring lots of different groups together in a workshop environment. There’s lots of energy and creativity where the customer is very intimate with what the problems are.

    That creates a lot of interest in those early phases of ideation. We’ve had to completely rethink that. We had an interesting situation three days before lockdown. We had a large ideation session organised in Chicago with lots of individuals from across Liberty Mutual globally and several external companies as well all flying into the one US location.

    Essentially within three days we had to virtualise that. The results were fantastic and parts of the ideation phase went much better. Now we have a template we use and continue to refine for all our kick-off and ideation phases.

    1. Innovation intimacy

    We’ve had to digitise the intimate innovation experience for customers. We’ve had to use tech and design techniques to overcome that intimacy gap as we like to call it. We want to recreate that feeling of excitement to keep customers feeling engaged and a part of that journey, all while working remotely.

    None of the things we’ve come up with to recreate that are ground-breaking in themselves, but when you put them all together, you recreate a completely different experience for our partners.

    The service we’re offering through necessity has been massively enhanced as a result and there’s no going back. We fully intend to keep building on that regardless of what happens in the future.

    1. Team synchronicity

    We’ve had to focus on how we can work as an asynchronous team as we used to spend a lot of our times together huddled round whiteboards and talking in the office.

    We need to work individually but also together and take into consideration people’s different work patterns as we’re all facing different challenges. My kids - like many - are home-schooling for example, so we make sure our work schedule suits everyone’s changing needs.

    Have you found any personal changes within how your own team works since implementing these methods, and have you any advice for other businesses?

    People are a lot more comfortable putting comments into chat now, so we make that part of our engagement process and encourage people to do that. That’s been really powerful as people now have more mechanisms to engage, rather than having to be ‘the loudest voice’ or ‘uber confident’ person. It’s more of a level playing field.

    As an innovation team you do need spontaneous people, but planning and preparation have become more important than ever. It’s easy when you’re in a room to feel like you’ve lost people, or that you need to try something different. It’s a lot harder to gauge that when working in a remote session.

    RELATED: Liberty IT’s Gillian Armstrong discusses the ethical impact of tech and the future

    So, there are a lot of different tools and techniques and technologies. I’d say the thing to focus on is how to engage people remotely. A disciplined structure is key.

    For example, in a physical room you could encourage someone to put something on a sticky note, walk over to a board and stick it up. Now we’ll have a lucid chart at the beginning, and we’ll tell everyone just to write something on a sticky note and drag it over, so immediately they feel a bit more comfortable in engaging with the technology and process.

    Find out more info on Liberty IT on their website here.

    RELATED: What’s it like to work in the tech sector and continue recruiting during a global pandemic?

    About the author

    Niamh is a Sync NI writer with a previous background of working in FinTech and financial crime. She has a special interest in sports and emerging technologies. To connect with Niamh, feel free to send her an email or connect on Twitter.

    Got a news-related tip you’d like to see covered on Sync NI? Email the editorial team for our consideration.

    Sign up now for a FREE weekly newsletter showcasing the latest news, jobs and events in NI’s tech sector.

Share this story