At a venerable old insurance company, the technologists were striving to keep up with the times. Indeed the opportunities for technological advantage were immense – instantaneous quotations, systemic risk analysis, on-line document handling, screening processes.
Every single key opportunity requird some user input, usually from an underwriter. An underwriter’s job is to re-insure risk and some of those risks are highly unusual – like reinsuring a sire horse. Meanwhile, many of the underwriters were old-school and the culture was long-established. When asked to participate in a strategic project by a department of twenty-five software developers, the reaction of the user was just as traditional: “I’m an underwriter, I don’t touch keyboards.”
Nevertheless, involvement was secured in the end. An appetizing buffet was organized at lunch time and the prototypes of the new and evolving software modules were demonstrated during the buffet session. It was quite easy to provide better food for the buffet than what was available in the company canteen downstairs.