Recently, Tallan had the pleasure of planning and delivering an Innovation Jam for Western & Southern Financial Group, Inc. Our journey with Western & Southern began this September when we first connected thanks to an Azure AppDev Hackfest opportunity that turned into their Innovation Jam. First things first, we started with identifying what they were looking to accomplish for their business.
From the first conversation with Craig Spencer, Assistant Vice President of Application Development, and Bonnie Wathen, Talent Acquisition Manager, IT, it was clear that their organization was very excited about this opportunity and their future transition to a cloud-based infrastructure. Over the two months of planning leading up to the event, we worked closely with Craig, Bonnie, and the rest of the planning committee to:
- Define the groups that would be participating,
- Assemble groups and collect ideas and solutions each group wanted to work on,
- Vet and provide feedback on group ideas to identify their minimum viable product and stretch goals,
- Provision an Azure environment, data sources, and resource groups for the teams to use during the Innovation Jam.
We were able to achieve a great amount of success with all of these items through a series of bi-weekly meetings, and ad hoc calls that we facilitated. It’s safe to say that all that preparation was well worth it as the Innovation Jam went off without a hitch and Western and Southern’s development team gained experience and confidence with hands-on support.
On November 7th, we kicked off the Innovation Jam with a 2-hour session in the morning for all eight groups, over 40 members of their staff, as well as the planning committee. To begin, the Sr. VP of Insurance Operations and the VP of Marketing and Digital introduced the intent of the event and Tallan. We truly couldn’t have asked for a better introduction and opening to the day. This was a testament to how committed their organization was to this Innovation Jam and their move to the cloud. It was not just IT participating over this two-day event, the business side was included too. Transformational buy-in is incredibly important, especially before steps are taken to enact a change like this.
Our VP of Cloud Technologies, Dan Fluet, followed up the introduction with a session on the “Art of the possible with Azure.” During this presentation, we discussed with the group what Azure is, the power of the tools in Azure, as well as the platform’s flexibility, security, and compliance. Beyond this, we also had the opportunity to discuss real-life use cases of how other organizations in Western and Southern Financial Group’s industry and even outside industries are using the cloud to make an impact on their business operations, profitability, and drive ahead of their competition.
At the end of Dan’s presentation, the groups were ready to get started building their solutions in Azure. Over the course of the two days, the Tallan team worked alongside Western and Southern Financial Groups IT staff to support each of the eight groups in building, testing and deploying their solutions to Azure. By the end of Day One, we were very impressed with what each group had achieved, and by the end of Day Two, each group had completed their minimum viable product, while some even got to implement the stretch goals they had made!
We were very satisfied with the outcome of this Innovation Jam and so were the key stakeholders we worked with, Craig Spencer and Bonnie Wathen as they stated:
“Tallan and Microsoft were great partners in helping us to host our first-ever Innovation Jam. The event itself was a great way to engage our associates to develop creative and innovative solutions to some of our biggest business problems. Ryan Clark and Dan Fluet (Tallan), in particular, were integral in ensuring our Innovation Jam success. Their technical expertise, across Azure services, helped keep our teams moving forward over the action-packed event. We were pleased by the teams’ hands-on accomplishments, in just two days, using Azure.”
The week following the Innovation Jam, each group had the chance to present their solutions back to management at Western & Southern Financial Group, Inc. Now we are working with the planning committee to drive next steps from the Innovation Jam in pursuing some of these business solutions and planning additional events in the future.