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TAL case study

TAL drives innovation with nimble development partner

Jade Solutions and TAL

  • A new self-service approach to life insurance
  • Five months from the initial idea to launch
  • Jade team members co-located with TAL
  • Project management, UX, software development and architecture, and business analysis

Our work at TAL

TAL, Australia’s largest life insurer, is partnering with Jade to bring innovative propositions to market and stay ahead of new entrants already disrupting international markets. It is new territory that asks developers to hit a moving target. The formula for coping with this level of uncertainty is a one-team approach pitched on creative, nimble ways of working.


“Jade complemented our culture, and added something new to the way we did things. They were passionate about getting the job done.”

Fiona Macgregor
Chief Customer & Innovation Officer, TAL

Out thinking uncertainty

Life insurance is unique. No one really looks forward to using the product, because the benefits are realised after death or injury. Perhaps this is why so many insurance policies are left sitting in the bottom draw.

Such perplexities are familiar territory for Fiona Macgregor, TAL’s Chief Customer & Innovation Officer. At the helm of TAL’s Innovation and Disruption team, Macgregor looks to consumers to fuel new ideas that are stretched, tested, and turned into new products and services.

However, this style of development is riddled with uncertainty, and it requires rapid and frequent releases of partial solutions, so that they can be tested with both customers and the business along the way.

How did Macgregor and her team develop a new insurance product that hit the spot? With the right innovation and software development partner. Macgregor says, “Jade complemented our culture, and added something new to the way we did things. They were passionate about getting the job done – they really wanted to make this thing work and embraced the entire project.”

“Jade’s team not only comes from scrum and agile backgrounds, they offered new ways of doing things within our existing framework,”

Stuart Wood-Rich
Innovation Lead, TAL

Picking a dream team

Stuart Wood-Rich, the Innovation Programme Lead in TAL’s newly-formed Innovation and Disruption team, says TAL wasn’t short of technical firepower in backend and policy systems. “However, we weren’t as strong in frontend development. So we needed an innovation partner who could work with TAL’s technical team to deliver the finished product. And they had to be prepared for our agile delivery method.”

From Jade, two UX designers, two developers, a software architect, business analyst, and project manager teamed up with three developers at TAL’s Melbourne office.

“Jade’s team not only comes from scrum and agile backgrounds, they offered new ways of doing things within our existing framework,” says Wood-Rich.

Down to work

Tools and frameworks like Scrum accelerate development and minimise costs and risks. But in adopting this more iterative development, TAL’s internal stakeholders had to surrender traditional project controls. It was no leap of faith. Formal reviews ensured stakeholders remained in the picture and contributed at critical stages of development. In reality less management control delivered more certainty.

In developing a new online insurance product, Jade and TAL’s joint development team managed infrastructure, architecture, design and deployment. A two-page brief sparked the creative process that followed four one-week cycles of ideation and prototyping. Initial concepts were sketched on paper, validated by internal review, developed into clickable concepts, and then tested with customers.

Development took eight fortnight-long cycles. Jade’s team members were as much a part of the process as TAL’s, even when working with TAL’s internal stakeholders.

“Stakeholders want confidence around timeframes and product definitions,” says Wood-Rich. “But traditional software development wouldn’t let us learn and test along the way. Instead we worked to cycles and delivered priority items and features, and demonstrated our progress every two weeks. It worked extremely well because we picked up problems that we’d have missed otherwise. We’d have ticked all the boxes, but it wouldn’t have worked.”

The end of tradition

Customer needs change quickly, and sometimes they can’t even express their wants. That makes developing new products and services tricky. The best planning and research is no insurance for failure, so agility is critical. Cycles of testing and refinement keep developers close to customer needs and behaviours, uncover flaws, and reveal new opportunities – even features unthinkable at the project outset.

With Jade, TAL’s product development is geared to uncertainty and quick changes that deal with real-world challenges of getting new products to market quickly.

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