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A 10x Economy: How Applied Fosters Innovation through Openness

  • Written by Tom Needs, chief executive officer, Applied Systems Europe

    The world has seen more digital transformation in the past few years than ever before. Circumstances brought on by the Covid-19 pandemic and the fast-changing technology market have driven organisations in all industries to innovate so they can survive and thrive.

    Applied is no different. As the pandemic progressed and our broker customers needed to quickly pivot to remote working, Applied saw the opportunity to focus on digital connectivity and evaluate ways to open up its technology and culture, enabling more innovative and practical experiences for all stakeholders. Applied has leveraged this worldwide evolution to develop a deep culture of innovation within the company – much like the one called upon by the Department for the Economy.

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    At Applied, we agree that for economies to become more vibrant and valuable, all participants must evaluate current structures and cultures to innovate for future growth. As we outline the components that made up our company’s transformation strategy we hope that other businesses within Northern Ireland may find value to innovate their businesses and support the Department for the Economy’s 10x Vision.

    Fostering a New Partnership Mentality

    When evaluating how we could innovate our technology and processes, we took a hard look at the way we partner with organisations in and outside of our industry. We had to evolve from a “We can provide it all” to a “Let’s work together” mindset to maximise value for our customers and ultimately, the insurance customer.

    This shift was critical to increase productivity and connectivity for our customers that deliver collective value for the broader ecosystem. Additionally, this shift fosters growth across the entire industry and beyond, building on technological strengths and ensuring opportunities for all.

    Applied first focused on its technology to enable open innovation across its product portfolio to achieve this transformation. Using continued investment by CapitalG, the capital investment arm of Google, and an expanded partnership with Google Cloud, Applied modernised workflows and opened secure pathways within its core technology to seamlessly flow data in and out of the system.

    Opening technology allows for faster innovation, enabling small, more frequent product releases that allow our broker customers to realise value more quickly. Cloud technology and API management also create greater flexibility and accessibility, allowing organizations outside of Applied to integrate with our technology quickly and securely.

    Enhancing Customer Experience for Collective Success

    Our strategy is driven by our strong focus on our customers. This transformation has enabled us to rapidly adapt our solutions to meet the changing needs of our customers by leveraging the power and flexibility of our technology.

    A key component of our platform is the open, flexible, API-powered ecosystem that enables customers and partners to seamlessly blend our capabilities into their portfolios, multiplying the impact of our innovation. Extensive configurability within the system enables our customers to design business workflows that map to their sources of value generation, while also making the system adaptive and resilient as customers’ needs continue to change.

    Along with a strong mentality around open technology, we have focused our efforts on the journey our customers embark on when they implement and optimise our technology. Implementation of our technology is a crucial time in the process where we use proven best practices and workflows to accelerate timelines, so our customers can see success faster. We provide them with access to education and training needed to keep productivity high. In fact, we offer more than 3,000 instructor-led courses to meet our customers’ needs from implementation to beyond.

    Implementation and go-live are just the beginning. We create strong partnerships with our customers to deliver strategic customer relationship management, and provide ongoing training, health checks, coaching and consulting with Customer Success teams. All along the way, we provide 24/7 support to our customers, enabling access to a skilled-Applied team member any time of the day or night.

    Encouraging a Culture around Innovation

    At Applied, we knew that none of this transformation could take place without careful attention to driving a culture around innovation. Applied focused its efforts on creating openness and inclusivity, encouraging employees to take advantage of leadership opportunities and to lean into other chances to showcase their brilliance. To achieve this, we committed to innovating in three main areas: empowering employees at all levels, celebrating each individual’s differences, and embracing agility companywide.

    In the belief that real change happens with a top-down approach, Applied empowered leaders and teams to make strategic and operational decisions and serve up ideas on how they can innovate or improve. For example, we implemented a training program for first-time managers that guides managers through the emotional and practical learnings required to successfully transition and lead a team. Additionally, Applied recently created a mentoring program that matched 53 mentor/mentee relationships to build trust, support self-reflection, and develop skills in professional and personal development with the goal that each participant could find new and exciting ways to uncover talents and potential.

    Applied also created a Diversity, Inclusion and Belonging (DIB) Council that fosters diversity throughout our business via our hiring practices, training process and diversity celebrations in the marketplace. The council leads our Communities of Interest (COIs), including Black at Applied, Women in Tech at Applied, , IndispensAbility and LGBTQIA at Applied. Each of these COIs offers employees an inclusive, supportive environment, enhances understanding of DIB, and promotes personal and professional development. Together, COIs are working to become a think-tank to help cultivate business innovation, engagement, and growth opportunities.

    Applied actively works to embrace its culture as it expands, encouraging leaders to become more agile through continued education and training to quickly respond to market demands, customer needs and DIB initiatives. For instance, hiring training is provided for managers to bring awareness to unconscious bias and stereotypes and educate them about behavioural interviewing to help them understand candidates on a more personal level. This helps potential candidates feel comfortable being themselves in the hiring process, whilst encouraging hiring managers to lead by example by promoting inclusivity.

    Committing to Innovation for 10x Future Growth

    Whilst the Department of Economy’s vision for a 10x Economy is ambitious, we are confident that the people and businesses across Northern Ireland have the tools and drive to make this generational change.

    Applied set out to transform its business from the inside out, laying out clear and achievable objectives that started with culture. As any successful business or economy knows, our greatest asset is our people, especially the people who are fulfilled in their roles and career trajectories. So, Applied’s advice to companies that are jumping on board to support the Department for Economy in achieving a 10x Economy is to create a culture of openness that extends to each area of the business, including your people, processes, products, and services.

    About the author

    Aoife is a Sync NI writer with a previous background working in print, online and broadcast media. She has a keen interest in all things tech related. To connect with Aoife feel free to send her an email or connect on LinkedIn.

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