Tech & Product Q&A: Matt Chmiel, User Experience and Product Design Leader


From his homebase in Ottawa, Canada, Matt Chmiel leads UX and product design for Accelerant, where he is responsible for helping build and deliver its digital platform and community for employees and Members. Prior to Accelerant, Matt spent a decade as a software engineer for IBM and Cognos and another decade directing application technology and user experience at Kinaxis. His specialty is designing impactful user experiences that simplify complex  problems to meet customer needs in enterprise analytics software.

We spoke with Matt on the art and science of product design, Accelerant’s expert team of designers, and how the product design team incorporates feedback from Members on newly launched and upcoming capabilities.

What does your team’s process typically look like? What do you want everyone to understand the most about what you and your team does?

What we do is understand what people need and design ultra-usable digital experiences that solve problems and delight. We partner with the product management team to understand priorities, business strategy, and the problem space, then work closely with the development team to bring ideas to life. It’s a very collaborative process.

The first phase of the process is research and discovery: Who are our users, and what are their needs? Which features could be helpful? Next is designing the solutions. We explore a range of ideas, and visualize designs through mock-ups and prototypes for validation, aiming to find the best path forward. We support the development team in building the chosen design in software. Finally, we launch, and at this stage, we measure the reactions of Members to see what’s working and where there are still opportunities to improve. 

Recently, we’ve been focusing on the initial set of underwriting and claims analytics to understand what questions Members want answered and the best ways to present and visualize that data so that it’s most understandable and actionable.

How does your team define and measure success?

Success comes from people responding positively and getting the most value out of the solutions we deliver. We’ve set up surveys to appear on the platform to get a sense of people’s reception to features, and we’re overall measuring platform usage. Our team attends monthly meetings to hear firsthand what Members’ experiences with the platform have been like.

Can you tell us about the background and future plans for the Member survey you shared in the Community Digest titled Exclusive insider opportunity: Help shape the digital future of Accelerant”?

The overarching principle of product design is being user centered. The way we accomplish this is by reaching out to and understanding our users and the problems they are experiencing before we build and launch a solution. We’ve already incorporated some feedback and developed ideas on what would be useful, but validating it is important.

At Accelerant, we have the opportunity to provide a more personalized experience due to the smaller user base. Unlike a company with thousands of users, here, every voice and piece of feedback is heard, and our collaborative process is what will make the final result as valuable as possible. With this survey, we are thinking about our next set of capabilities and features for the platform.

Given your experience in the industry, how does Accelerant’s approach to technology, user experience and product development compare to that of others? Does it differ?

One of the things that struck me after joining Accelerant — and I think struck everyone on the product and tech team — is just how far behind the specialty insurance industry is on the technology curve. Technology is an enabler and driver for business growth, which is why other industries are consistently experimenting with new approaches. We aim to emulate that innovative mindset at Accelerant by leveraging proven practices and exploring emerging technologies (like AI), to translate them to insurance and build digital experiences that benefit Members.

Accelerant also hires very seasoned people with proven backgrounds in the technology space — not just from the insurance industry but also other spaces with transferable skill sets. That diversity of experience enables us to solve the problems holding back the insurance industry.

When joining, what most appealed to you about Accelerant’s offering and approach?

When I spoke to Accelerant, I realized the immense opportunity that was ahead of us. There was — still is — so much fertile ground to make an early impact. While other players in the insurance space rely on legacy systems, starting fresh allows us to make the most of modern technology and build the user experiences people enjoy.

The company has a lot of smart people — terrific, high-performing experts. We’ve gelled really well as a team, and we’re able to move fast, be responsive to Members, and shape the vision for the product we recently launched.

Can you share an example of a recent pain point or challenge your team addressed for Members and what the feedback was?

The main analytics dashboard page of early designs was very information dense. Through testing it with Members, we received consistent feedback that it was overwhelming at first glance and difficult to parse. We took that feedback and revised the design to simplify the presentation of the analytics on that page, choosing visualizations that were quicker to interpret and improving the overall layout of the page. Since then, we’ve received very positive initial feedback on both the user experience and the capabilities available on the platform, and we’re very eager to launch more.

What are the team’s upcoming plans? What are you the most excited about?

Currently, we’re in the midst of building the Member planning process onto the Accelerant Platform. It will go live this spring when we kick-off the mid-year planning process — Members should definitely keep an eye out for this one. Otherwise, I’m excited to bring all of our Members’ data and claims information onto the platform, so Members can maximize value from the new analytics capabilities. We’re also working on transferring some of the previously unstructured workflows between Accelerant and Members into more streamlined digital experiences and on implementing feedback we hear from  Members. It’s a busy but exciting year!

What industry trends will have a significant impact on your team and Accelerant in 2024?

AI is transformative, but less talked about is the increasing access to more diverse sources of data. We’re exploring connecting 3rd party  data sources in parallel to Members’ data, enabling Members to make more informed decisions using the broader and more detailed context.

What is your favorite tech device and why?

Currently, it’s my Ring video doorbell. Yes, it’s great for keeping track of deliveries, but it also captured our family’s new kitten escaping out the front door after it hadn’t been closed. My phone buzzed with a notification of the motion, and I opened the app to see her tiptoeing down the walkway towards our neighbor’s dog, who was out for a walk. Thankfully, I was able to move quickly and rescue her before she was able to get close enough to introduce herself to the dog. We often don’t even realize how different our lives would be without the technology we have today!