Cutting Down Time-to-Market with Business Rules Engine

MARCIN NOWAK
January 23, 2024
Blog

While it takes nine to 12 months for some, competitors may achieve this in just two to four months. With technology evolving daily, the inability to quickly adapt is a major disadvantage. Modernizing platforms enables insurers to rapidly alter existing products and introduce new ones, cutting down the time to market by two to six months and substantially lowering development costs. 

This is why it is so important to:

  • take the product to the market faster than slower competitors, working around competitive advantages,
  • start gathering user feedback to verify product's viability, learn and adapt to market demands, shortening the learning curve,
  • avoid human error,
  • provide timely delivery, which increases brand reputation among potential customers.

What's more, earlier deployment allows the development team to adapt to any unforeseen circumstances. 


What is Time-to-market definition?

Time-to-market (TTM) refers to the period between the initial conception of a new product and its eventual availability to consumers. In industries where products quickly become outdated, being first to market can significantly boost sales and reduce the risk of obsolete inventory costs. 

TTM is also crucial for maintaining consistent product design schedules, ensuring products are rolled out predictably. A shorter TTM is often associated with reduced costs, as shorter projects generally absorb fewer resources. Consequently, businesses with a shorter TTM for most of their new products tend to be more successful.

Usually, time-to-market consists of:

  • Conceptualization and Ideation – Brainstorming and forming the initial product concept, setting the foundation for market potential.
  • Market Research and Analysis – Conducting in-depth market studies to understand the target audience, market needs, and competitors, shaping the product's development.
  • Design and Product Development – Outlining product specifications and architecture (design phase), followed by the actual building of the product (development phase).
  • Testing and Quality Assurance – Rigorous testing to ensure the product meets standards, identifying and fixing issues.
  • Launch Preparation – Developing marketing strategies, scaling up production, and coordinating supply chains.
  • Market Launch and Rollout – Introducing the product to the market, executing launch plans and marketing campaigns, and monitoring initial reception.
  • Post-Launch Review and Improvement – Collecting feedback for continuous improvement and guiding future iterations.

TTM Challenges in Traditional Financial and Insurance Models

Traditional financial institutions and insurance companies often face significant bottlenecks in their product development cycles. In finance, for instance, the slow adaptation of new applications or features, primarily due to extensive testing and vetting processes, can result in a loss of market share and customer dissatisfaction​​​​. Similarly, in insurance, underwriters using outdated platforms are burdened with manual, unproductive tasks, resulting in lost productivity and higher costs​

Importance of Reducing Time-to-Market in Various Industries

Companies that effectively shorten their time-to-market can reduce unnecessary development costs and create more successful products by focusing on what customers need. By involving all departments early in the product development process, customer needs are better understood and met. Quality Function Deployment (QFD) has been widely used in many organizations to improve performance by incorporating customer requirements, speeding up the development process. 

50% of business and IT decision makers are using rules engines to manage code

According to Chen Reilly, and Lynn short Speed To Market time positively affects New Product Success, although the correlation is weaker with low market uncertainty. 

In the paper "Rev up your business rules engine" Deloitte's experts stated, that: "Manually identifying all rule instances and dependencies is both arduous and time-consuming. Changes to a single rule, for instance, can require extensive regression testing on all associated rules in specific modules and components. And that can increase the time to market, costs, and risks."

The solution to that problem are rules engine. The same paper shows, that:

  • more than 50% of business and IT decision makers are using rules engines to manage code,
  • 88% of them are considering modernizing these tools,
  • 38% say that this modernization is a key priority.

In the finance sector, traditional financial institutions often struggle with agility, unlike their fintech counterparts. This lack of agility can pose significant risks, as seen in the early 2000s when traditional banks were slow to adopt mobile banking, causing them to lose market share to fintech startups​​​​. 

Similarly, in insurance, the need for efficiency and evolving customer expectations has driven a shift towards digitization. This is particularly evident in underwriting, where insurers are upgrading their capabilities with advanced technology to remain competitive and adapt to changing risks​​.

Bottlenecks in Traditional Product Development

Common bottlenecks in most company's product development process are:

  1. Regulatory Oversight and Legacy Infrastructure – Lengthy regulatory processes and outdated technology hinder agility in insurance product development​​.
  2. Extended Development Timeframes – Typically, 12-18 months to launch a new insurance product, which is too slow for today's market​​.
  3. Siloed Operations – Separate business and IT functions lead to delays and inefficiencies in product development​​.
  4. Complexity in Processes and Products – Overly complex policy terms and buying processes impede speed-to-market​​.
  5. Skill Gaps and Resistance to Change – Lack of innovative and digital skills, coupled with a culture resistant to change, challenges modernization efforts​​.
  6. Challenges in Agile Adoption in Banking – Issues include lack of common strategy, concerns over compliance, knowledge gaps, and low process standardization​​.
  7. Dated Delivery Culture in Banking – Over 85% of teams identify lack of skills, legacy infrastructure, and outdated culture as main blockers to adopting advanced Agile practices like DevOps​​.

Rules Engines in Product Development

What is a Rules Engine? It is a software tool that manages and executes business rules, typically expressed as “if-then” statements. These rules dictate an organization's operations by determining if given inputs meet specific criteria.

Rules engines automate repetitive and complicated tasks, increasing collaboration and reducing costly mistakes. They enable non-technical users to manage critical processes without delving into complex code, thus shortening the time required to implement changes.

The Impact of Rules Engines on Product Development

The impact of rules engines on product development is multifaceted and profound, particularly in terms of reducing time-to-market. These engines significantly shorten product development timelines by allowing business users to adjust business logic directly, bypassing the need for extensive code alterations. 

This capability slashes the timeframe for implementing changes from months to mere minutes. Additionally, rules engines bolster compliance and reduce errors. They achieve this by clarifying processes, creating audit trails, and eliminating human errors, thereby fostering a more confident and innovative working environment. 

The visual modeling aspect of these engines renders business logic both transparent and easily adaptable, a stark contrast to the rigidity of hard-coded rules in traditional applications.

Moreover, the centralized management of business rules ensures consistency across different applications and channels, avoiding redundancies. Crucially, rules engines facilitate the automated execution of business rules, which can be embedded into applications or called as services. 

This is especially vital in scenarios where business needs to evolve more rapidly than IT infrastructures and processes. In resolving IT bottlenecks, rules engines empower business departments to independently define and adjust software solutions, diminishing the dependency on IT support for modifications. 


Case Study: Higson's Impact on Minimum Viable Product Time-to-Market

Whoever is first to market with new solutions and adapts to changes, gains a so called first-mover advantage. On the other hand, being slower oftentimes means lower profitability.

This is where tools like the Higson Rules Engine come into play, which can significantly influence the time-to-market and overall efficiency of product development processes. Here is a complete list of benefits:

  • Time-to-Market and Competitive Advantage – By streamlining the approval process and enabling rapid implementation of changes, a rules engine like Higson likely contributes significantly to reducing development time, thereby quickening product launch, providing a competitive advantage in fast-paced markets.
  • Incorporating Customer Feedback – Such systems can quickly adapt products based on customer feedback and market research, ensuring the final product aligns well with market needs and customer satisfaction.
  • Project Management and Development Strategy – In the realm of project management and development strategy, rules engines facilitate efficient workflow, helping development teams focus on creating minimum viable products and enhancing product quality.
  • Software Development – For software development, these engines enable tech companies to manage and deploy marketing campaigns and other critical business operations, aligning closely with business goals and key performance indicators.
  • Market Opportunities and Viability – Identifying and capitalizing on market opportunities becomes more feasible with a rules engine. By accelerating the process from the initial idea to market-ready products, companies can better verify a product's viability and respond to new market entrants and changing market definitions.
  • Full-Speed Development and Market Entry – The overall impact on the market process involves full-speed development, ensuring faster market entry, which is a critical factor for success in competitive industries.

Index
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