Magpies love shiny things...

Paul Willoughby

You may have seen quite a bit of my face over the last couple of weeks. My profile photo has not only been emblazoned across but has played a ‘starring’ role in demonstrating our touch tables. It’s not my best side but at least people won’t recognise me…

What a whirlwind the last few weeks have been! Generally my work with the Lloyd’s market contains a very ordinary set of project management tasks. Manage a new document repository: tick. Install a data warehouse: tick. Project manage a market utility for electronic messaging, tick. Implement electronic endorsement messaging, tick.

While all critical, these projects are rarely greeted with bags of excitement – and often generate little interest among my esteemed market colleagues. So, I’d be forgiven for thinking that the new document collaboration project could go the same way.

The objective was to create a space where a broker and underwriter could collaborate on one document that sits in a secure repository; theoretically simple but it’s not going to set your world on fire. Stick it on a ‘touch table’ and suddenly you’re a superstar (in my case and being filmed demonstrating the new technology in the middle of the Underwriting Room!)

So how did we get here? The ‘touch table’ project has been an excellent one to lead; the table is specifically designed to allow people to collaborate as if on paper. IBM funded the development and we at Lloyd’s were in charge of promoting it to the masses.

…and that’s where things got a little more complicated. At the moment it’s still a proof of concept - realistically a year away and we have to manage people’s expectations. So while the actual touch table application took less than 30 man hours to build, the question of how to promote the tool had us racking our brains for weeks. How do you pitch it? Get buy in? And manage expectations without people losing interest?

Hopefully we did our job. The table is a proof of concept designed to get people discussing the future possibilities of face-to-face. The results are there to be seen. We had over 300 people see the table with more than 180 of them giving us feedback - 98 per cent of which was positive.

Nearly all saw the benefits and think the table will help us meet our goals of reducing paper in the negotiation phase. We have also had a number of managing agents ask if we could demo the table in their offices. So when it comes to buy in, I think we hit the mark.

The collaboration project now moves into its next stage. How will we take this forward? We still require a collaboration environment but will it be delivered on a touch table? You’ll have to wait and see!

But sadly, the shiny, exciting project is almost over; the touch table is packed up ready to be shipped back to IBM. And I need to clear up another eight projects before Q4. Document Management System anyone? No? Thought not…



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