You have heard a lot – likely an awful lot – about the ways advances in technology are impacting customer experience in the insurance industry: how they drive service beyond what customers expect by adapting with them as their lives change, by managing changes to their plans and policies with ease, and by offering a consistent experience across platforms and interactions. All that’s needed is to tap into it, right? Not so fast, say those in the trenches.
There’s quite a bit of confusion about what is what in cloud computing. This is in part due to the absence of a standard set of definitions for the three types of offerings provided in the cloud, namely infrastructure, platform, and software as a service. But I also think there’s confusion about what the “cloud” actually is. As usual with any term that is elevated to “the next big thing” in the market, everyone jumps into the fray, either to claim credit for the wagon or at least jump on the wagon before it leaves the station. This is the moment when the marketing machine is often seen to take over to redefine and repurpose everything to make it part of this new momentum. We’ve seen this trend before when suddenly all enterprise software became SOA and all hardware turned “green.” Now everything runs “in the cloud”. So as not to get caught in the undertow but to catch and ride the actual wave to your advantage, one ought to know the difference between types of currents and be able to read past the surface ripples caused by the hype.
I often hear the discussion of security in the cloud limited to considerations of public, private or hybrid cloud options when the focus should really be on the degree of security enforced and managed upon a shared network. I suggest thinking of the cloud as a raw but resilient network infrastructure that has to be hardened to the desired degree that is suitable and required for a specific purpose and application, such as core systems. Critical information requires mission critical security and no less. Anyone who is using less security than required is playing with fire and exposing the enterprise and its customers to unmitigated risks. Anyone who uses more security than required is prudent up to a point beyond which the approach quickly becomes wasteful and burdensome.
Insurance CIOs almost unanimously recognize that cloud computing can provide real benefits for their companies, including better economies of scale, elastic scalability, more flexible sourcing options and more efficient use of financial and human resources. A full 90% of those surveyed in Celent’s 2011 CIO Survey said cloud computing was already in limited use or they were investigating or piloting it in 2011. At the same time, some remain full of trepidation, concerned about the potential risks of depending on external sources to provide computing infrastructure and technology platforms, as well as application software and services. This limbo is no place to be. Mercifully, if CIOs follow some logical steps, many the same they have trod before, they can find the best strategy for their companies.