September 21, 2021

What can I learn and how can I work better with software developers as a layperson?

What can I learn and how can I work better with software developers as a layperson?

tl;dr – Software people know how to software and insurance people know how to insurance, but no one seems to be able to bridge the language barrier between the two. What sources are available to learn, as a customer, about the software development side of a project provided by a contracted vendor so I can ensure we properly ask what we need and in a way they will understand?

I'm an insurance professional working for a smaller organization. The organization is designed to be comprised of smaller insurance programs that utilize their own software, insurance products, etc. and they engage outside software developers to design the systems customized to their specific insurance program. This includes developing their insurance policy rating system, the system to actually make the final 100+ page insurance policy contract when someone buys a policy, and either a new client management system or extending an existing client management system to support the new program.

I've sat on a few calls between the software developers and insurance leaders, and it's extremely clear that both of them are speaking their own language while misunderstanding the other one. The developers know software and the leaders know insurance, so both of them are expecting things to "just work" but not trying to investigate any nuances that could complicate matters.

I'm not a programmer but I'm probably one of the most technically-inclined people here that's not in IT. I've decoded/translated a few talks already but it's very clear I'm out of my element here. Requests are taking longer than expected, the project is behind schedule and going past budget from extra work, requests by leadership are being made and the resulting work isn't meeting expectations, and some fulfilled requests by leadership are so narrow-minded that it doesn't leave any room for future changes. It's almost like saying "build me a system to do W, X, Y" and the system comes back doing "W, X, Y, " but in a way that we can't do the related "Z" task later, even though Z would certainly be necessary based on what WXY was meant to do.

What are some resources I could look at to try and get a better understanding of these projects? I originally looked at project management books but those seem to be more from the side of the developer and not the end-customer. I think this would have to do more with learning small elements of programming, mapping out "tags" in systems to determine what information input by an insurance professional actually translates to within the system, etc. I think my problem is that I don't even know where to start.

Any insight you can provide would be extremely appreciated.

Thank you!

submitted by /u/SnackyFace
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