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This is a post by Guest Author Carrie Grahn of American Family Insurance.

The following article has been adapted from a webinar presentation given to members of the Society of Insurance Research, the full webinar is available in the member portal.

Today I will discuss the steps, share a few tips and considerations when creating a recurring deliverable. As an example of a recurring report, we will be looking at the topic of “Connected Homes,” which is a disruptive technology that can result in significant changes in a customer's insurance needs and their relationship with their insurance agent and carrier. For these reasons, this topic is an excellence topic.

For some of you, this might be a refresher, some of you, it might be a new topic, and for others, you might see a few different ideas on how to construct your reports.

Some of you might be here to learn about connected home and some might be here to, to learn about a recurring deliverable.

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The Topic of Connected Homes

Those of you interested in connected home understand the associated risk of ignoring it or moving too slowly. Connected home technology can prevent significant damage to homes and reduce insurers' claims payment for things like water damage.

A few stats: in just five years, there'll be 50 billion internet of things devices and by 2030 a trillion. Right now, about 30% of broadband households have a connected device and of those that do, 62% have three or more devices. This trend is growing exponentially, and the numbers are just mind blowing. Some of the numbers differ based on source, but all show incredible growth.

Timeline

Creating Your Deliverable

Let’s discuss creating a recurring deliverable. Sometimes we're asked to track things that are important to stakeholders. Other times we're expected to know about emerging news and technologies. Tracking and reporting are a way to keep people informed and influence decision making. It's a way to increase the visibility of you or your group, let’s face it if you’re in the business of providing CI, you’re always looking for ways to remind your organization the value you deliver and prove your return on investment.

The purpose is to arm the audience with what it takes to produce an insightful report, as well as teach a little something about connected home in the process. The desired outcome is action and impact. Getting the right information out in a timely manner can lead to opportunities and actionable insights. My involvement has informed decisions on investments in incubators, Insurtech companies, pilots, and a rollout of a new program for American Family Insurance called hedge.

Hedge-optimized

 

Today we're going to cover everything from how you come up with the idea to how do you get feedback and adjust - you want this to be a living document. Our Recurring Deliverable Outline Includes:

 

idea-generationIdea generation

If you've ever done any work on scenarios, you know to look for impactful areas of uncertainty. Environmental scanning can uncover some of these topics.

What should you be looking for when scanning?

These could be changes, innovations, value, shifts, new ideas, programs, policies, businesses, consumer goods, and anything new or any change that's occurred.

 

The best scanning hits are solid pieces of information that indicate a plausible change in the future and relevant to one or more lines of your business.

As an example, I looked for patents for technology from the big players like Google, Apple, and Amazon to see what might be on the horizon. Not all of these come to fruition, but there were many early patents on voice control and those proceeded the connected home speakers. So, when the connected home speakers came out, I wasn't necessarily shocked because I had seen some of these patents on the horizon.

In the case of the connected home, what started as an ad hoc question has become a recurring deliverable. I started with a PowerPoint presentation and today that presentation has turned into 10-page Word report. The length and details of your deliverable will depend on the size of your group and your bandwidth.

 

titlePicking Your Title, “You Had Me at Hello”

 

Picking a title. What's in a name? It might sound straightforward. And for my report, it is straightforward - my last report was titled: Q2 2020 Connected Home Update.

I admit it does not sound sexy at all (because it isn’t). But this title does contain three key attributes for my readers: the content, the timeframe, and it's general enough that it can withstand time.

When I was considering a name for this report, I could have chosen from several terms like connected home, smart home or home automation. With the state of the technology in 2014, I decided to use connected home because what we had were connected devices, not necessarily a system of connected devices that you would call a smart home. We're moving more towards smart home today as consumers adopt new devices, technology advances and the cost of these devices continue to come down making them accessible to a larger audience.


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audienceYour Audience

 

I began by looking for potential stakeholders, coworkers I could partner with to define this report and make sure it delivered value from the beginning. I found three, one in business development, one within our ventures area and the last in our innovation area.

From there I asked them what they were interested in and wanted to know. Next, I asked who else in the organization they were working with that might share our interests in Connected Homes.

I began small. I realized there was no sense blanketing the entire organization with a report that most people wouldn’t want to read. The initial audience was about a hundred, all were employees of the American Family.

Today, the audience for our quarterly Connected Home report has grown to over 250 employees from all areas of the company, including our affiliates Main Street America and Homesite. Many readers also share the report with colleagues. A trick to this is to put a note in the email or whatever introductory material you have for your report that asks them to let you know if anyone else would be interested in being added to the distribution list. This helps me gauge what the interest is, how many people read it, and which areas are showing the interest.

topicsStaying Focused Is Important

Determine high level topics and scope. It’s been my experience that given the choice, most of the time your audience will want everything you mention if you ask them. Therefore, we must set expectations at the beginning and evolve expectations as the topic evolves.

Begin by asking them for the types of information, they're looking for. (Pro Tip: The level of your audience’s interest in your topic and amount of actionable information you deliver will dictate the length of the report.)

When I went out to my stakeholders and said, “What areas are you interested in?” They identified:

    • The technology being used in Connected Homes
    • New technology developments
    • What our competition was doing in the connected home area
    • Connected Home market and opportunity sizing and
    • Benefits and challenges in the Connected Home market

frequencyDetermining the Frequency of your report

Frequency. How often your report is distributed depends on how quickly changes occur in the environment. This is particularly true when dealing with new technology. I send out my Connected Home report quarterly, which has proven to be an ideal frequency. Things do change regularly, but not enough to warrant sending a daily or a weekly message to my readers.

However, there are times when I will share a breaking news announcement right away. These are changes so significant that I can’t wait until the end of the quarter. For example, in December 2019, Apple, Amazon, and Google introduced a new consortium with the help of the ZigBee Alliance, called CHip This agreement is a major step towards interoperability among connected home devices, and represents a huge breakthrough, at least among the major players like Apple, Amazon, and Google, who control most of the Connected Home market today. On average I may send a breaking news announcements two or three times a year. I try to limit it to only important announcements.

Format&DeliveryFormat & Delivery Options

Determining your report format and delivery option are as important to your report as the content used to create it. After all, a report that goes unread has no impact on your organization. I choose to send a PDF file to a distribution list and I also posted it on our internal SharePoint site.

You might consider including your report in a newsletter our dashboard if you use a competitive intelligence software tool. Group collaboration sites like SharePoint, Microsoft Teams, or Slack are also an option. When determining the right delivery method(s) think like your audience, are they on the go? If so, you might consider mobile delivery for those that travel and spend a good deal of time in airports and want to get a quick read. A word of caution with mobile delivery, you must consider your reader’s screen size, the need to download, file type compatibility and other access issues if you include links to content protected by a firewall.

You might also want to consider branding your publication, a common look and feel whether it's a template or graphic--something that identifies this work as coming from your group. Also consider adding a watermark to the pages of your report. My report contains a watermark with “enterprise strategy research” across each page of the report, this way readers know the source of the report and where to go with questions. Lastly, improve the readability of your report by including graphics breaking up large blocks of text with bullet points and by calling out key insights and takeaways. Really try to manage your white space, remember your audience like you is busy. The easier it is for your readers to digest your report, the better.

sourcesSources, experts and key players

The next step is determining sources, experts, and, and key players. I began with basic Google searches to see what sources, and experts are were mentioned in multiple articles. I then searched newsletters and industry publications. I attended events and conferences, fireside chats, and webinars. Two sources I use for the Connected Home Report are TechCrunch and Wired. While they are more technology related publications, the often provide insights on connected homes.

Insightful information can be found in Industry publication. Both P&C Specialist (a business intelligence service covering the ‘personal lines’ businesses of P&C insurers) and Coverager (a source for insurance innovation that both creates and curates coverage on topics relevant to insurance professionals) are two of the industry publications where I find insightful information on the topic of Connected Home. Including published articles in my research allows me to watch broader trends in the market and helps me identify what might be important to my readers. Also don't, ignore the up and coming players or those with a unique offering because they might be your next partner or your acquisition.

 


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Competitive Intelligence Tools – Collecting & Discovering

If your CI team is established, chances are you use a software tool to aid in the collection, discovery, analysis and distribution of your insights. At American Family, we use a tool called Knowledge360 (K360 for short) developed by Cipher Systems. Both American Family and Cipher are active members of the Society of Insurance Research (SIR) as past presenters, attendees and exhibitors at the SIR annual conference.

Below is a dashboard I have built to aggregate external content like news, press releases and financial data with our internal documents and our internal field intelligence.

K360 dashboards

As you can see, a dashboard like this allows me to cover multiple related topics including:

      • Connected Home Product Reviews
      • The housing market economy
      • General economic conditions and
      • Specific companies

So, with this one dashboard I can see all the news that has come in the last day, week or month and monitor trends that might impact the Connected Home market. K360 allows me to sort collected information by relevance or by date, which is very helpful. With one view I access multiple internal and external data sources from a single tool. I don’t need to update files or slides because the tool dynamically updates my dashboard based on the filters that I've specified.

Competitive Intelligence Tools – Analyzing

Within the Knowledge360 tool is a feature called Projects. Projects is used by our team to collaborate around a company or specific topic (e.g., The Impact of Artificial intelligence on Connected Homes). Analysts and I then use project information to analyze trends, predict an event, and distribute key competitor analysis to stakeholders in the form of a report.

Projects is also a way for users to collect information on topics and competitors over defined period and build a newsletter style report from the collection. This is something I'm looking forward to doing. By the end of this year, I will be creating a Connected Home newsletter based off the information contained within my K360 projects feature.

Analyzing tools

Competitive Intelligence Tools – Collaborating

Like all CI departments we receive requests from our business. These include ad hoc requests from our executives and from managers in various areas of the company. To keep these requests organized we use the K360 feature Inquiries and create a repository of our ad hoc research requests. With Inquiries our deliverables can be managed and searched by key fields, by the request, the status, the department, or even a key word.

For example, if I remembered we had a request, being developed on the distribution of agents, but I wasn't sure when in the last six years of documents I had referred to it, I can use K360’s Inquiries feature to search and discover all the mentions of that term and all the documents and emails that I've written over the last six years with the searched term.

Collorboration tools

Competitive Intelligence Tools – Sharing

The last feature I use inside Knowledge360 to support my Connected Home Report is called reveal. And yes, it does just want you might think it does...

Reveal is a collaboration tool that allows users to share valuable content found anywhere in K360. It functions like a pin board; users call attention to important news, documents or discoveries. Items add appear in the Reveal section of the tool. You can even pin key discoveries to the top. The items within Reveal can also be added to a Project or a Report with the click of a mouse. This is a tool a that I use often to create my report.

Sharing tools

Your Outline and Context

So, with all your research and analysis completed, you might find yourself asking, where do start? Well start at the beginning is my advice. Don't assume your audience has any knowledge of your topic. The quickest way to lose a reader is using abbreviations, so define all terms and acronyms, and if necessary, put important terms in the appendix, featured in call out boxes or at the end of your deliverable.

That was especially important when presenting on new technology topics. Back in the 90’s when a product manager delivered a presentation on artificial intelligence and machine learning, the term Internet of Things was used in the title of a Proctor & Gamble product manager’s presentation and from that point on it went viral.

Over the years, I've had to learn about ZigBee and Zwave, which are internet protocols, and terms like APIs and SDKs. I have an entire new vocabulary because of my research, and not only do I need to understand these terms, I need to help my readers understand them as well.

Once I understand the meaning of the content I want to collect, I create an outline and begin capturing it. I am a big believer in saving content as you come across it--it will save your sanity. If you wait to the last minute and think you're going to go through three months of articles and reports, you're going to be sadly mistaken. What I do is scan my research environment and use the K360 tool to identify the articles that I want to reference. Next, I literally cut and paste them into a document that I then alter and rearrange.

I use a similar structure for each deliverable. I have pillar sections like insurance and connected home because I know my readers care about what our competitors are doing. However, I allow my outline to change depending on what I come across in my scanning.

Writing Your Executive Summary

The value found in your report comes from analysis. You want to summarize the key points of the report, any results, conclusions, or recommendations and tie them together with themes. Our executive summary is usually proportional in length to the main document. A good rule to follow, your summary length be about 5-10% of your document. So, with my 10-page document, my summary is typically one page.

I try to limit it to one page by design. You want to include enough information that your audience can see the “So what?” point you're trying to get across without them having to read the entire document. So, what does this mean for me? What does this mean for my organization? What does this mean for my industry?

A word of caution: don’t give everything away in the summary. You want your summary to generate enough interest to keep your reader going so they chose to read the entire document but don’t have to read the entire document to receive the value of your report. I know, it’s a balancing act...

Review and Distribution

Review and make any changes needed. I always pass it by a coworker, not just for a grammatical review, but to review the flow of my content. You might want to consider sharing and advanced copy of your report with your sources, experts and stakeholders. It might also be a good idea for you to share your report with any executives who might need to prepare for questions or requests that arise after your report is published.

Feedback

Seek out feedback, not just from your sponsors, but from your audience. It can be formal or informal, you want your report to be a living document. So, you want to make necessary changes to improve the report. Always acknowledge feedback and show your gratitude. I always send short messages to those that give me feedback.

Feedback can not only influence your deliverable going forward, it can also identify developments that your report influenced. These can be decisions, actions, or even inactions. Identifying these helps you demonstrate the value of your report when it comes time to discuss the impact, you’re having at your organization.

Be Open to Adjusting

You will adjust your report over time, things change and you’re going to need to change as well. You might need to adjust the frequency of your deliverable. Or, perhaps you might need to split your report into several deliverables, this has happened to our group as topics like UBI (usage-based insurance) and vehicle technology have become more mainstream topics. As your topic changes, you could identify sub-topics and add new sections.

For instance, when we heard that a company in our organization was interested in how machine learning and AI was affecting the life insurance industry, we created a new section in their report dedicated to this topic.

As the days, weeks and months pass, and you continue your researching, analyzing and collaborating, know that the time will come when you will consider retiring or replacing your report with a more impactful topic. And this will begin the process again.

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