Thriving on diversity

By Merri Mack
Monday, 01 March, 2010

Voice&Data found that nib health fund’s Chief Operating and Technology Officer, Melanie Kneale*, thrives on the diversity of her role which covers human resources as well as technology. The dual roles are a good combination as Kneale has the ability to get things done because the key levers of HR and IT fall into the same area of operations and everything related to execution reports to her so the goals are aligned.

Kneale said, “I love the challenges we face and that I have such a bright and capable team as well as supportive executive colleagues. We also have a lot of fun.” That’s not to say there are not challenges to meet. “We often encounter problems especially in IT, and I have never seen any organisation where IT is not criticised for not being able to constantly respond quicker. In these situations, the best way forward is forward.”

Being flexible and nimble at the same time as managing expectations and delivering on realistic timelines is one of those challenges which she overcomes by constantly looking at new and innovative ways to do things as well as introducing flexibility that is appropriate for the size of business.

“Everyone always wants things quicker - and the more you pick up the pace, so do business demands. It is human nature and typical of an innovative business. With an agile business model and culture, changes originating from the business are constant and the question is how do we make sure we can respond quickly and flexibly?

“We are lucky that we don’t have any major technology impediment to our business. Among the many things we have introduced or are introducing are significant voice and operations technology including call recording, softphone, click to call and chat, imaging, workflow, straight-through processing on an outsourced basis and virtualisation.

It also helps that nib is current with all of its technology. The technology stack is mainly Microsoft and interoperability between nib’s systems is key and working well. “One of our biggest assets is probably the fact that all our systems are tightly coupled. We have not come across any major barriers when integrating with new systems (internal or external). This allows us to choose solutions that meet our business needs without being constrained by technology.”

nib uses whatever technology makes sense that will help the company respond quickly, but in a way that doesn’t compromise the architectural integrity and cause problems further down the line. The company has several of its systems in the cloud, including complaints management systems, some HR systems, as well as some services around email and internet controls. It also uses the cloud to exchange data and perform business-to-business transactions.

All of nib’s ICT systems provide a competitive edge. “It is a case that none would work without the other. Having said that, beyond our core application, our web capability and our call centre technology (through Genesys), is seeing the most change and assisting us to be innovative for our younger target customer group. This drives growth and retention.”

One of the key areas is analytics as it is an information-driven business. Information on customers and claims helps us to predict and drive growth and manage claims costs.

We have a tight strategic relationship with the suppliers of our core systems which have been outsourced. The key is communication - they have a good understanding of our business, we have a constant dialogue on where we are each going, and we involve them in our thinking and planning.

* Melanie Kneale has a successful business career as an executive and board member in the health and financial services sectors. She is currently the Chief Operating and Technology Officer at nib health funds. Her responsibilities cover IT, HR, sales and service, claims utilisation and processing and provider contracting.

Prior to joining nib, Melanie was the Group Executive for Strategy and New Business Development at MBF for three years. She has an Honours Degree in Business Science from the University of Cape Town and is a member of the AICD.

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