The Digital Factory at ERGO was founded in 2018 with the aim of establishing agile working and building digital services for our customers. To mark its fifth birthday, we asked the three co-founders Christoph Huckfeldt (overall responsibility), Jeroen van der Sman (Methods & Control) and Marc-Sascha Schuster (Digital Factory Operations) about their mission and methodology.
Congratulations on your anniversary! Please tell us: What was your goal when you started five years ago?
Christoph: Thank you very much! In a nutshell: "To drive forward digitalisation at ERGO". When the launch of the Factory took place in autumn 2018, we broke new ground. There were already some initial approaches to agile working at ERGO. With the Digital Factory, however, our aim was to go one big step further - namely to establish agile working and create the right conditions for it.
Marc: But of course, a working method alone is not a success model. We didn't want to experiment somewhere on a technical green field, but rather deep into the operative reality. That is why we have been designing digital end-to-end processes from the customer perspective for our customers, services for our agents and digital solutions for our colleagues in customer service for five years. Our work makes services and processes easier, faster and accessible at all times for our customers, colleagues and brokers.
Jeroen, you drive agile working at ERGO. Tell me: agile working - weren't those the teams that had table football and Xbox in the office?
Jeroen: Of course there are companies that design their offices this way. But that's not really the core of agile working. I would describe it like this: Agile working is about delivering added value and collaborating, finding solutions together and learning from mistakes. If you approach this in a structured way - i.e. with a suitable method - and at the same time place a strong focus on the target group of the solutions to be built, then you already have a pretty good picture. But to be able to work in this way, you need an environment that promotes cross-disciplinary and innovative work. This is what ERGO offered us.
We even had the opportunity to experiment a little - and that's why we deliberately chose premises outside the ERGO campus, namely on Prinzenallee here in Düsseldorf.
How many colleagues are active in the Factory in total?
Jeroen: As a core team, only around 20, but this is where the "collaboration" aspect comes into play, as we provide overarching skills in the Digital Factory. For example, our business architects and our IT architects, who know our systems inside out. Or our expert for customer needs (user experience), who knows the best way to find out what our customers actually want - and how we can best organise the process to achieve this. And then, of course, our creative workshop facilitators, who guide our colleagues in the department through design thinking processes on the way to new digital services, and so on and so forth ...
Marc: ... and then we also have colleagues who have more specific skills. For example, from the care application process. Or the website developer. Or the robotics expert. Or from the automotive year-end business. ur topics are incredibly diverse - and the right colleagues for each topic join our virtual team temporarily. This means that, as a rule, far more than the 20 people mentioned above work on the topics of the Digital Factory - and do so cross-functionally at all seven ERGO locations in Germany and sometimes also with the foreign companies. For our collaboration in this extended Factory team, it is not important which unit the colleagues are assigned to, but that we create cool services together!
When we portrayed the Digital Factory at //next a few years ago, it was seen as a symbol of agile, forward-looking work at ERGO. How does that work in practice?
Jeroen: Good cooperation between the different areas at ERGO, in particular the ever closer integration of IT and business, is very important for the success of agile work. We are very proud of the fact that we are constantly realising this well with the Digital Factory. We work methodically according to the so-called value stream model.
Which milestones and projects over the five-year success story have been particularly exciting for you?
Marc: I brought three examples with me: firstly, the online care application, which makes life a little easier for older people. Secondly, the new motor vehicle change service, which always shows customers their current contract and no-claims bonus and allows them to calculate various contract changes directly online and then apply for them immediately. We have also built this great service for our brokers so that they too can calculate changes to existing motor insurance policies independently and apply for them directly if they wish. And the third example is our "Online legal protection notification form" service, which allows customers to enter the requested data in an online form via a QR code on ergo.de. We have also received some great feedback on this! One customer wrote to us: "I gratefully accepted the online service and tried it out straight away: great!"
Christoph: We have now surveyed around 60,000 customer feedbacks in order to build good and simple digital services and improve their use. We are a strong driver of ERGO's ambition to become the leading digital and most customer-friendly insurer by 2025.
Thank you very much!
Interview: Ingo Schenk