Based in Paris, the project teams are not organized by department but by consumer need, with one focusing on mobility, another on living, and a third currently being set up to address wellness. Each of these “squads” includes a variety of experts: product manager, user experience specialist, digital/customer journey expert, data scientist, IT developer, innovation coach, actuary, and so on. “What brings them together is the solution they want to create to meet an identified customer need. They all share the same unique objective and are fully focused on it. This is very powerful and we are much more effective together,” explained Octavie Dexant, Deputy Managing Director of the AXA-ING partnership for AXA.
An innovative methodology
The squads use agile work methods, which transform the way they collaborate and drive the AXA-ING partnership. Decisions are taken as a group and mistakes are accepted as an integral part of a culture that encourages creativity. In this environment, the manager’s role is mainly to prioritize action. Rituals are introduced to promote co-work: every morning, teams start with a “stand-up” update on project progress, and after each milestone, they review the results, analyzing strengths and any challenges encountered.
ING’s PACE innovation methodology is applied. This includes design thinking, a creative process requiring teams to constantly put themselves in customers’ shoes to better identify their needs, as well as a lean start-up approach to quickly test new solutions. “PACE methodology requires discipline. The process is intense and standardized, focused entirely on customer needs. Nothing is left to chance and this enables us to propose a disruptive market solution to an identified customer problem in just a few months,” explained Suzanne Akten, Managing Director of the partnership for ING.
An ongoing conversation with customers
At the heart of the process, customers are consulted at every step to confirm or challenge the choices made by the teams. Every three or four weeks, surveys or workshops are organized with panels of customers to explore their reactions to the latest planned developments. Representatives of local AXA and ING businesses concerned by the future solutions are also regularly consulted on the fit between the global solution developed and the specific needs of their markets. “We work hand in hand with the countries from the solution design to the launch phases, taking a continuous improvement approach,” commented Yves Masson, Managing Director of the partnership for AXA.
This iterative process continues even after the launch of new solutions. Once a solution is implemented in one country, it is enhanced by feedback before being implemented in another. “This ongoing conversation with customers enables us to find the best possible match for their current and future needs.”