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Life Insurer Sanlam’s Agile Transformation

South Africa’s largest life insurance player transform its ways of working with TCS as its partner

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Founded in 1918, Sanlam is Africa’s largest financial services group, and has created value for various diverse stakeholders for more than 100 years. Sanlam is also one of the biggest globally active insurance groups and is classified as a domestic systemically important financial institution in South Africa. Known for its business ethos, Sanlam contributes to South Africa’s financial resilience and prosperity as a key player.

As an insurer, Sanlam’s success depends on continual innovation, competitiveness, and teamwork to exceed customer expectations. In a highly competitive market, where information systems are strategic competitive assets, Sanlam set out to reduce the time-to-market with business applications and increased productivity in the product development value chain. What it sought was business agility and needed a partner who understood the scale and complexity of its ecosystem, IT & business operations, and culture. TCS, one of the key strategic IT partners of Sanlam, with a global track record of transformation experience, was thus a natural choice for Sanlam’s agile transformation.

With more than 20 years of experience in delivering IT solutions and services for Sanlam, TCS has deep contextual knowledge of the IT estate and domain knowledge of the business applications. To achieve Sanlam’s agility objectives, TCS conducted an enterprise agility assessment and jointly derived the Transformation Roadmap which kicked off Sanlam’s agile transformation and its enterprise agility program. This program was aptly named Kwaito, a form of South African music that brings together traditional and modern music to create a vibrant and energetic experience.

An Agile Adoption Empowering Business Domains and Teams

Given the strategic nature of the transformation, TCS and Sanlam as part of this agile project management jointly identified key trailblazers who acted as change agents and spearheaded the new ways of working. This approach greatly helped to retain the invaluable lessons learned in the past while reimagining the new ways of working.

With the strong support from the Sanlam program leadership team and Trailblazers, TCS was able to apply key enterprise agility levers in Sanlam’s ecosystem and transform key areas in a very short timeframe. To assure the return on investment to Sanlam, TCS executed the transformation program in multiple waves realizing the business benefits incrementally. Through this rolling wave roadmap approach, TCS was able to transform Sanlam’s core policy administration and servicing, quotation, new business, underwriting, actuarial, and claims servicing portfolios incrementally.

Agility and resilience were created by enabling synergy between People, Process, and Technology elements in the value stream. TCS adapted the Scaled agile (SAFe) model as the foundational framework and derived the Target Operating Model for the Sanlam context, scale and complexity.

  • Organized teams around value by establishing development value streams, aligning with business capability and operations

  • Enabled portfolio-level planning and alignment to work towards a common mission via PI Planning

  • Streamlined application lifecycle management to eliminate waste and increase efficiency

  • Established end-to-end capability ownership models applying domain driven design

  • Reskilled people with agile, product ownership, and modern engineering training

  • Established continuous exploration model to support lean agile product development

  • Established behaviour driven development for development teams

  • Embedded continuous integration and continuous delivery pipelines to enable fast integrated learning cycles

  • Advanced Test pyramid orchestration and automation to enable Shift-Left quality resilience

  • Automated actuarial testing and end-to-end insurance policy lifecycle validation


Business Benefits

The results were nothing short of remarkable.

  • 50% faster time to market – Insurance product release frequency has reduced from 6 months to 2-3 months

  • 45% increase in productivity – Compared to the old ways of working, Sanlam’s new-gen teams were able to deliver almost double the productivity

  • 60% defect reduction – The number of UAT defects in the quarterly major release has been reduced by 75%. Defect density has been reduced by 50% in the development cycle.

  • Happier, more motivated employees – more than 60% of the associates felt empowered and directly adding value to the organization,

Having delivered the exciting business benefits, the Sanlam leadership team is building further momentum by taking the Kwaito Program to other portfolios in the group as the vehicle for transformation and to achieve enterprise agility.

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