At NFU Mutual’s Guidewire Centre of Excellence (GCoE), we’re developing and implementing a huge number of transformational projects that will have a major impact on the business. The GCoE supports large-scale, long-term programmes of work that involves extensive business analysis, coding and testing, as well as agile working. We talked to some of the team about the variety of work, the different projects and the diverse challenges involved.

NFU Mutual have been using Guidewire products for 15 years, but recently, the company’s made a major push to upgrade and introduce more Guidewire applications as part of a wider business transformation. Gareth Brown, the IT Lead for the Guidewire Centre of Excellence (GCoE) at NFU Mutual explains that it’s a major area for growth in the business: “When I started, we just had BillingCenter and there was a team of seven or eight people. Now it’s 40 or 50 people and we have ClaimCenter, DataHub, InfoCenter and Vendor Portal in production. We’re also implementing PolicyCenter and the CustomerEngage digital portal as well. The business is making a lot of investment in both the people and the capability. In particular, we’re investing in large-scale change programmes and all the projects require changes to the core Guidewire systems.”

Implementing PolicyCenter – the Bridge Programme
The Bridge programme is the biggest transformation programme at NFU Mutual. Gareth points out that it’s scheduled to take over 5 years to complete and requires a significant financial outlay.

As a Senior IT Workstream Lead, Naomi Clayson manages all the NFU Mutual and third-party partner resource for the Bridge programme. “It’s about organising resources and working with all the different organisations to make sure we have the right expertise when we need it,” she explains. At the same time, she also manages the risk across the entire Guidewire suite of products and manages the relationships with third party testers. “I really enjoy my role because it’s so varied,” she says. “It makes the day more interesting.”

Another aspect of Naomi’s role is making sure that the company’s partners on the Bridge programme, such as PwC, transfer their knowledge so NFU Mutual strengthens their in-house capability. Dan Tew is an NFU Mutual technical lead who sees this at first hand. “I work closely with our two main partners, PwC and Business Agility,” he explains. “We have scrum meetings together, where I guide them on how we want the systems to be implemented and share best practice based on our experience of implementing the other Guidewire applications. It’s about working as one team and sharing our knowledge.”

Dan says that the sheer size and scale of Bridge means there are lots of different opportunities. It’s a sentiment that’s echoed by Gareth Brown, who says “there’s a lot of choice for people joining the team.”

BillingCenter – business integration projects
BillingCenter was the first Guidewire product that NFU Mutual introduced 15 years ago and the company released an upgrade to Version 10 in February 2022. This was a major two-year project to an integral business system, as it manages all the general insurance billings and commission payments to NFU Mutual agencies. Becky Muir leads the BillingCenter team and says that there’s still a lot of work that’s come out of the upgrade. “It was a huge step and now there are lots of projects, because BillingCenter has integral links to lots of different systems.”

Durga Balagee is a developer working on BillingCenter to support and maintain the code. She says it’s a varied role: “From day to day I’m doing coding developments, maintenance and testing, as well as quality assurance and peer reviews. I’m also involved in functional deployment, code fixes and changes, and maintaining the code base.”

For Tracey Westbury, who works in the BillingCenter testing team, it’s the fact that BillingCenter is at the heart of the business that makes working with it so interesting. She says there are a lot of other projects going on that affect BillingCenter. “We need to be aware of those and the implications for BillingCenter,” she says. “For example, we’re involved in integrating BillingCenter with the Bridge programme. We’re also introducing a new digital solution, which will affect how we receive money into the system, upgrading the chip and pin devices that are used in the agencies to receive payments, and modernising the General Ledger. All this feeds into BillingCenter, so there’s a lot going on.”

ClaimCenter – meeting business needs
The business has been running ClaimCenter for four years, to manage claims on all its policies. Like the other Guidewire systems, it links into a all the other business systems. And in a period of transformation for the company, as Becky Muir points out, this means there are a lot of live projects to integrate the business changes. “At the moment, we’re working on lots of different projects to make sure ClaimCenter works in the way the business wants,” she explains. “This involves working closely with the Business Systems Improvement team. We work in an agile way with monthly sprints and some of the BSI team join our scrum teams and advise on the business changes and production support. So, it means there’s a lot going on.”

Agile working
The scale and scope of all the Guidewire projects has led to the introduction of agile working at NFU Mutual. James Taylor is one of the Scrum Masters who’s helping to embed this way of working across the business. “It’s quite a traditional company,” he says, “so it’s quite a challenge. It’s a blend of coaching and managing the teams, so they can get on with their work.”

Laura Jordan, another Scrum Master working on the Bridge programme, agrees. “When I joined NFU Mutual, I went into a team that hadn’t worked in an agile way before. So, it was about supporting people and showing them the value of agile,” she explains. “I think that’s what it comes down to – what’s the value we can get out of agile?”

She adds that NFU Mutual is a unique business, so they’re adapting agile working so it works for them. And she thinks this has helped with its introduction. “I think on the whole, the business is embracing it,” she says, adding: “but they understand there are going to be teething issues. So, the business has adapted quite a bit to take on the agile principles, but they recognise that maybe some of them won’t work for us and how we want to work.” She thinks this is the right approach: “There’s no point in forcing it, if it’s not going to work for the business, so we’re adapting to how it’ll best work for us.”

Huge variety
For Gareth Brown, the range of Guidewire products and the way that NFU Mutual are using them means there’s a variety of opportunities to join the business and work on different types of projects. “There are broad opportunities to work on mature systems such as BillingCenter, or business projects working with relatively new systems such as ClaimCenter,” he says. “Or there are full-scale implementations such as the Bridge programme to implement PolicyCenter. This means you can expect a diversity of work, from small-scale support, to medium-term projects and large-scale programmes.”

Join us on our journey
At NFU Mutual’s Guidewire Centre of Excellence (GCoE), we’re developing and implementing a huge number of transformational projects that will have a major impact on the business. Find out how you can be part of this important and influential project. Take a look at our latest opportunities.