Progresses two-year-old ‘ready for anything’ approach.

Insurer IAG created a “buddy system” that paired technology staff with people in its business divisions to help understand some of the problems created by COVID and how IT might assist.

Executive general manager of enterprise service in IAG’s technology division, David Earls, told SAP’s Accelerated virtual event he viewed the buddy system as “the standout” initiative that IAG had pursued during COVID.

Technology to the rescue

IAG has a few initiatives to choose from here, including a ‘tech drive-thru’ to help staff pick up work-from-home setups, and one-off $400 payments.

Earls said the buddy system saw “everybody in [IAG] Technology sign up to ‘buddy’ with a colleague in one of our business divisions to help smooth their transition to home.”

Buddies were members of Technology “who clearly had basic skills that would help understand the problems that were being faced, and also help to get them fixed for those individuals.”

“I found that we built great relationships across the business, across our teams, and we got a better understanding of the problems that our users were having when we did that move,” Earls said.

“I would call out the buddy system as being probably one of my highlights [in IAG’s response].

“It goes to the heart of the culture at IAG where we really are about making the world a safer place and helping each other.”

Culture driving change

Earls said the cultural piece formed the backdrop of every decision – and direction – taken by the Technology team at IAG.

Earls’ own specific area, enterprise service, is a group function that delivers “efficient, secure and standardised [IT] services across our divisions and geographies.”

“It includes the management and transformation of our people and finance systems to support a data-driven business with increasingly real-time information to inform better decision making for our business and for our customers,” he said.

“It [also] includes our tech support for our colleague experience, enabling them to be ready for anything, [and] our underlying infrastructure and transition to software-defined and cloud-based services.”

Earls noted that COVID was simply the latest in a long line of issues that IAG had to deal with over the past year, including the 2019/20 measles outbreak in New Zealand, Australia’s bushfires, and floods and hail storms.

All of these events “had a massive impact on our business and our ability to react and support our customers in their moment of need,” he said.

The right foundations

For IAG, that meant the company was already building ‘ready for anything’ capabilities for staff.

“We believe we’ve been on this journey for over two years now,” Earls said.

“We already had a backlog of things we wanted to investigate further because we were already on this journey.

“So [COVID] was really an acceleration of that backlog to deliver the extra things that would make this easier and better for our employees and a more engaging experience.”

Earls said that the work this year is mostly focused around improving employees’ ability to work from anywhere.

“We’ve been doing a lot of work this year to ensure that our digital workplace is ready and enabled for anybody to work from anywhere, to have enhanced communication and collaboration from anywhere, and to be able to engage our customers from anywhere,” he said.

“Pre-COVID, our business already made major steps to embrace flexible working and more remote working for our employees. That was a conscious decision by our businesses at every level, because we wanted our people to give their best to IAG when they were able to give their best.

“Thirty (30) percent of our staff were predominantly working from home pre-COVID. We had already created the patterns and the designs that allow us to securely allow people to work from home in a good manner, allowing them to be highly productive, and to communicate and collaborate efficiently with their teams and other teams across the organisation and with their customers.

“COVID clearly was the next step because we’ve gone from 30 percent to high 90s percent working from home on a permanent basis, not on a predominant basis.”


To watch replays where other businesses discuss their responses to the pandemic, visit the event page for SAP’s Adaptive Strategies in a Changed World – ACCELERATED.

This article first appeared on itnews.com.au.