The “Happy Path” May Not Always Be the Route to Success


The Moving into what I hope we will soon be able to call the “post-pandemic” era has led to an array of changes in operating models, including the opportunity to once again enjoy the richness of in-person events. This was brought home for the Aite-Novarica Group Insurance practice recently when we hosted our first Research Council Meeting since 2019. The InsureTech Connect conference provided the perfect backdrop for this discussion and gave us an array of interesting, actionable insights.

The old adage that “if the only tool you have is a hammer, every problem looks like a nail” has never been truer. In-person events, along with in-office workspaces, are complements to other organizing principles that remain incredibly valuable. Virtual and hybrid options, however, aren’t going anywhere; they help complete the array of capabilities that we’ll all need to continue using in the future.

It can never be said that I live my life under a black cloud, but as a former (some might say “recovering”) CIO, I certainly learned the value of contingency planning. Happy paths for endeavors of many kinds are terrific, but all too often, even minor speed bumps can send well-intentioned efforts toward a brick wall of reality. Thinking through the options and having a plan which allows for adaptation as new insights are learned can be critical to success.

At some level, every effort has a whiff of disaster recovery/business continuity planning associated with it, which can be modulated based on the downside risks of failure. Core systems conversions, data center migrations, infrastructure upgrades, and M&A transactions all fall under this umbrella.

Meeting organization can, too. Recently, I had the good fortune of hosting a webinar for one of our clients. The technology and participants were all well prepared. We rehearsed what would happen if anyone lost connectivity to the event, including the idea of having a backup computer and a phone at the ready to rejoin the session. We even walked through what would happen if one of the panelists was taken out of action through a technical failure. What could possibly go wrong?

Plenty, it turns out. The moment we started the webinar, a fire drill was launched at one of the participant sites. Deft use of the mute key got us past that problem. Then, at about the halfway mark, I lost connectivity. The single point of failure we hadn’t considered was, “What happens if you lose the moderator?”

As I was scrambling to log in from a second computer, my original connection limped back into action. With a panelist still responding to a question, my audio came back, and (apparently) the audience could still see me. What I’d lost was any ability to see the other panelists. The best path forward was to limp home, pretending that all was fine, relying on some of the muscle memory we’d built up during our practice sessions. 

The pre-work and contingency planning meant that the basic aspects of running the session were effectively on autopilot, freeing mental resources to think about what to do in an unexpected circumstance.

The result? A happy ending where, until after the fact, I was the only one who knew we’d had an opportunity to fail. No matter how good the planning, there’s always an opportunity to learn something new, which can improve the plan for the future.

We also can learn from each other! Our next Boston Regional Roundtable Event will be held on November 9th. Registration is now open here: