Youi stays agile with in-house software development

IT systems weather the Melbourne hail claims storm

When automotive and home insurer Youi formed less than 18 months ago, its technology head saw in-house software development as a means to stay agile.

The South African-owned company has grown from 30 to 200 staff since opening shop last August and has garnered awards for its online customer service and business strategy model. It handles up to 4000 hits on its website each day and 100,000 unique business users monthly.

Head of IT, Doug Inman, said building software in-house ensures IT moulds to the business, unlike commercial software which he said forces the business to adapt to technology.

“Our [IT shop] is mainly developers and building in-house means we can put in very scalable solutions that are tailored to fit the business,” Inman said.

“We can leverage our business model, whereas if you purchase off-the-shelf, you have to change business processes to suit the tools.

“It makes us more agile than the rest of the market [which] mainly buys commercial tools,” he said.

The company’s developers create software for customers on the website, policy applications for internal staff and a variety of tools and platforms for the contact centre operators, including those for lead-generation and for additional functionality in its Nortel call centre kit.

Its applications passed the test following an influx of insurance claims from the storms that pelted Melbourne with golfball sized hailstones over the weekend.

The focus now for Inman is a return to developing its website with Web 2.0 functionality, which he says will “revolutionise the way it does business online” in-line with a “principle of continuous improvements that will better communicate the brand to customers”, although he stopped short of naming the precise changes.

The company, which is based in Maroochydore, Queensland, aims to create a positive vibe and morale for staff “second perhaps to MTV”, Inman said.

Part of the positive environment stems from the use of the Scrum framework in which IT staff hold daily meetings to scrutinise projects, analysing the day that was and the day to come. Inman said the process promotes individual performance and initiative, where staff nominate themselves for projects and are encouraged to provide input on the business. The team regularly holds Sprints, reporting on operations, projects and ideas to the business to ensure projects fit changing requirements.

“It’s quite liberating. Our IT is tightly integrated with business processes, there is top down governance for everything, and everything is tied into return on investment,” he said.

The company uses a visual project mapping tool, MindManager, to communicate its IT projects to the business and within its internal project management. It works as a flow chart in which links and relationships can be drawn between projects.

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