Supports expansion of up to 40% more field agents
• Offers a more reliable email service that helps to deliver faster customer
query response times
• Encourages a more open, collaborative work culture across countries and departments and promotes unity
• Enables agents to work from anywhere, for the first time, with mobile access to emails and files
“It’s essential for our 2,500 agents to be able to work independently. We expect them to be outside the office, engaging closely with clients, so they need remote access to emails and files.” —Michael Mwangi, CIO, Britam
Insurance isn’t just for accident coverage: it can help people achieve important life goals, such as saving for a first car, investing for a child’s education, or planning for retirement. By offering services to cover a client’s needs throughout their life, insurance and financial products company Britam has become a leading financial services provider in Kenya and one of the main insurers in Eastern and Central Africa as a whole. With headquarters in Nairobi, the company is active in more than seven African countries.
“Britam prides itself on its commitment to innovation and great customer service,” explains Michael Mwangi, CIO at Britam. “We cover a broad range of insurance needs, including personal, business, and micro-insurance, and we also offer wealth and asset management. When a client calls, we want them to have easy access to our entire product range and have a seamless experience.” To service its clients and drive sales, Britam employs 1,000 staff members across the group, in addition to 2,500 “tied,” or independent agents.
In 2010, Britam began its regional expansion beyond Kenya and now also has a presence in Rwanda, Tanzania, Mozambique, Malawi, Uganda, and South Sudan. To support this expansion, it needed a way to centralize its IT services. It also wanted to make sure agents across borders were working as productively as possible, by providing tools for work outside the office, which was impossible with Britam’s existing infrastructure. Google Workspace has provided the answer.
“It’s essential for our 2,500 agents to be able to work independently,” says Michael. “We expect them to be outside the office, engaging closely with clients, so they need remote access to emails and files.”
Moving away from an on-premises solution to gain greater reliability
Expanding a business into new territories brings new challenges, especially when that expansion is by acquisition. Previously, Britam’s workforce was considerably smaller, but its email services were unreliable, leading to downtimes and emails going missing. “Back in 2011, we had around 300 employees and fewer than 1,000 tied agents,” says Michael. “Sometimes, due to the issues with our on-premises servers, it would take several minutes or hours for a heavy email to be sent. Clients would be calling to chase up responses.”
When it began its expansion, Britam decided to replace its on-premises solution with a new IT infrastructure that could grow rapidly and enable agents to easily access emails outside the office. Britam chose Google Workspace after evaluating a number of different solutions. “We were impressed by the maturity of Google Workspace and the quality of the support available locally in terms of consultants to help us with the transition,” says Michael.
During the transition period, employees received training to support them in switching to Gmail and discover the collaboration tools offered by Docs, Sheets, and Drive. “We knew it was going to be a big change, but people were so frustrated with the previous solution, they were happy to switch,” says Michael. “The fact that most people already used Gmail for their personal email account definitely helped. Before, the onboarding process for new employees would take several days. Now, we just create an account, and the employee is up and running.”
Creating a more collaborative working culture through Google Workspace
“Our employees have organically started using Google Drive more and more, for backups and to access documents on the go. With functions such as Backup and Sync, it’s intuitive and seamless to use.” —Michael Mwangi, CIO, Britam
Switching to Gmail has not only made the Britam email service more reliable, employees are now able to communicate faster and more efficiently. “People use Calendar invites to schedule meetings and are able to turn it into a video call with a single click using Google Meet,” says Michael. “They are using Google Chat instead of emailing or placing a phone call.” Michael believes this has helped to create a sense of teamwork and unity. “People are more confident that they can easily reach the person they need, when they need them,” he explains.
Previously, there was no way to share files easily as the local network was unreliable, so employees used external flash drives to transfer files among themselves. “Even within the same office, we used hard drives to pass on files, never mind when we were sending things to another country,” says Michael. “With Google Drive, we gained the ability to collaborate out of the box.” Although Google Workspace is not currently Britam’s main document authoring tool, it uses Google Drive with Google Docs and Google Sheets extensively within project teams to work on documents together.
Google Workspace has also had an unexpected impact on communications inside the IT team at Britam. With more options available on how to connect with his far-flung team, Michael has discovered that some people who had come across as less effective communicators over the phone and in meetings flourished over chat. Having multiple channels available with Google Workspace has made people management easier.
“Our employees have organically started using Google Drive more and more, for backups and to access documents on the go,” says Michael. “With functions such as Backup and Sync, it’s intuitive and seamless to use.”
Working with Incentro to increase adoption and reduce costs
“We can pay as we go according to our needs, with much greater visibility of IT costs for our business teams. We don’t need to worry about additional hardware or licences when we expand.” —Michael Mwangi, CIO, Britam
In 2017, four years after the initial implementation, Britam brought on board Google Premier Partner Incentro to support its further integration of Google Workspace tools. “At the time, we had just opened our office in Kenya and were bringing 15 years of experience of working with Google Cloud with us,” says Dennis De Weerd, CEO at Incentro. “We were able to show Britam how it could leverage more of the capability offered by Google Workspace to replace third-party applications, streamline its infrastructure, and reduce costs.”
As employees are increasingly working from their mobile devices, Britam now uses endpoint management, which enables it to delete data from mobile devices if they are lost or stolen. With Vault, it is able to carry out forensic investigations when necessary, and by reconfiguring its Gmail environment with the help of Incentro, it no longer requires additional email security solutions.
“We work closely with the Britam IT team to identify areas where Google Workspace can improve the workflow, especially as new features are introduced,” says Elizabeth Akinyi, Consultant at Incentro. “In the first year we started working together, adoption went up by 10%, and Britam was able to make a cost saving of 10% by reducing its use of third-party solutions.”
Simplifying costs and supporting future growth
By moving to Google Workspace, Britam has been able to free up its IT team to focus on its core insurance applications, instead of needing to be on hand for email issues. Switching from a capital to an operational expenses model also means planning the resources needed for each individual agent is much simpler. “We can pay as we go according to our needs, with much greater visibility of IT costs for our business teams,” says Michael. “We don’t need to worry about additional hardware or licenses when we expand.”
As agents are now more empowered to work outside the office, over the past five years Britam has been able to expand its number of agents by 30%–40% without the need to provide additional physical office space. Even though agents now spend more time out of the office, supervisors have better oversight into agents’ schedules, as they can keep track of their appointments using Google Calendar.
Britam is now considering extending its usage of Google Workspace further by switching completely from its current spreadsheet software to Google Sheets. “We know we can extract more value from Google Workspace, with potentially significant savings on licenses,” says Michael. It is also planning to enhance its customer touch points using Google Cloud technology such as Dataflow, part of the Contact Center AI solution, to create chatbots and help increase engagement over its digital channels.
As for the next step, Britam is planning to expand to two more countries, as well as diversify its portfolio in the property market. The scalability of its Google Workspace infrastructure will support it in achieving these goals. Its focus remains on its clients, however, and making sure they get the best possible service, which means responding quickly and answering all their needs.
“Our environment is now more reliable, stable, and secure,” says Michael. “Issues are being addressed faster, without any queries getting lost, supporting one of the key pillars of our strategy; providing excellent customer service.”
Reach out to our team to see how Google Cloud can help your business.
*Google Workspace was formerly known as G Suite prior to Oct. 6, 2020.