As insurance markets transform and providers compete with other financial services organizations for business, evolving operational strategies is no longer optional – it’s critical.
A big piece of this is, of course, technology. Insurance companies need IT solutions that foster the enablement of new strategies and help them drive operational excellence, product innovation and customer service. By embracing digitization, they can chip away at the industry’s long-standing reputation as a technology laggard and enhance efforts to boost sales and increase profits.
There are four key considerations for insurance technology success. Let’s call them the Four Pillars. They are:
- Accessibility & Availability: Enabling access anywhere, anytime, anyhow
- Integrability & Interoperability: The ability to work with other solutions seamlessly
- Configurability & Customizability: Facilitating change comprehensively and easily
- Stability & Scalability: Ensuring a sound basis for managing volume
Here’s a closer look at each.
Accessibility & Availability
Pillar one deals with the need for always-on accessibility and availability – anywhere, anytime and anyhow. This requires a shift in mindset that eliminates the idea of the 9-5 workday. Someone is always working somewhere; there is no longer a standard workday, so 24/7 accessibility is critical. Especially as you look to more personal lines of the market, people buy and transact around the clock.
Beyond time-focused accessibility, you also must consider geographic accessibility. Applications are needed that can serve both master (global) and local needs. In terms of configurability, systems can be set-up in such a way that allows the user to feel like it’s built for the local market, whilst also playing to the standardization and interoperability that you get for the global market. This has been referred to as “glocal” and it’s an important consideration within this pillar.
2. Integrability & Interoperability
Gone are the days when a single monolithic ERP style system met the needs of an insurer. Advances in technology have meant applications are more open and can talk more easily to one another. This has opened the door for CIOs to choose best of breed applications across the business lifecycle and to integrate those into an end-to-end landscape.
There are some considerations to bear in mind here:
- Integration and interoperability don’t stop at the technical level. They extend to how data is incorporated, processed and handled within each of the applications, and ensuring consistency is key. Ask yourself: Where is the single point of truth?
- Consider cost and effort associated with that seamless integration to ensure auditability/traceability across the enterprise. It’s about judicious use of the capabilities and not creating an overly complex environment for the business, whilst still availing yourself to the best of breed solutions that are out there.
Many elements of a solution are often invisible to end users and are integrated within other solutions. For instance, a premium calculation/rating engine may be a component that’s used by the underwriting and policy administration component; a web portal may integrate an expert underwriting system and a policy servicing system. In some cases, this has been treated as a single sign-on capability. This requires both the solutions – and the integrating and the integrated – to not only “talk” to other systems, but also to be able to “hide” behind the scenes of another solution or to appear in front of another solution, as required.
3. Configurability & Customizability
This pillar is about being agile and able to respond quickly to change, both immediate and long term. In other words, can technology systems adapt to the business environment now and in five years?
A high percentage of confidence is needed in knowing your application architecture and configurability can step up to the demands of whatever comes onto the agenda. Diversification is critical here.
4. Stability & Scalability
Pillar four is about positioning yourself for growth, related to pillar three but also focused on systems coming together– technical, infrastructure, workflow, processes – and ensuring all of those things can scale up. When you start small, you don’t want to be creating a sledgehammer to crack a nut. Conversely, you don’t want to be in a place where when you start to grow organically or through acquisition, you find you have to rethink all of that foundation.
Many solutions on the market today promise quite a bit, but in reality, errors are often found after deployment, and some solutions struggle with scalability as an organization grows. Pillar four zeroes in on the stability and the scalability of the solution and looks at whether it scales gracefully as business requirements grow or change.
This is typically looked at from the point of view of the number of policies or transactions. It’s equally important to assess the number of users that the solution can handle. Over time, insurers may need to provide access to customers. In that scenario, the user base is no longer the few hundred or thousand corporate users – it could swell to be much larger. Having solutions that can scale is a must.
As the industry continues its push for greater digitization, the four pillars can serve as a set of criteria through which to determine what technologies are best for your organization by helping to ensure you’re taking the right things into consideration. Technology can play a major role in driving operational excellence, product innovation and customer service, but the considerations within each of the four pillars will help to ensure your IT solutions don’t only so do now, but in the future, as well.
Richard Clark is Head of Business Development for Xuber, now part of CSC. Richard has been a key player in our insurance software business since 1997. Connect with him on Twitter.