Insurance Technology:  More Uniting, Less Dividing, Please

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Technology can be both a tool and a tyrant, and the theme of this week’s Insurance-Canada Technology Conference—Technology: A Two-Edged Sword—depicted that reality. If designed, implemented, or used incorrectly, technology can divide and weaken rather than unite and strengthen an insurer’s position in the market. Recognition of this fact is increasing as evidenced in the many conversations that took place at the conference reflecting the need for more unified organizations and unified technology to support them. And the key driving force? The customer.

This directional pull toward unification is spurring development of new insurance platforms that are unrecognizable from five years ago and are focused on overcoming longstanding barriers between the operational functions within the carrier organizations. These technological advancements are allowing the industry to ask … why should we allow technology to divide us when it has such inordinate power to unify?  

No longer is the focus on the familiar topics of policy, billing, and claims transformation. Now it is squarely on the customer. This was a topic addressed by SMA analyst Mark Breading and I in a presentation entitled “Achieving the Ultimate 360° Insurance Experience.” Several other presentations broached related subjects such as omni-channel, mobility, analytics, Internet-of-Things, and telematics.

It was clear as speakers sallied forth on customer-driven trends of micro-segmentation of products, usership vs ownership, connected everything, and anytime/anywhere servicing, that the conception of what technology investment is needed to win and keep the hearts and minds of today’s demanding policyholders has changed inextricably.

It’s Time to “Engage” Your Core

The new conversations are pushing core processing systems toward the customer and customer engagement solutions toward core operations. In particular, these market forces are having a profound impact on the relationship between acquisition and post-sale serving systems. I especially enjoyed how Celent’s Mike Fitzgerald deliberately shifted the policy administration systems conversation away from the typical topics of configuration tools and components, and toward what is needed to support continuous customer engagement—a model shifting from indemnity to risk avoidance and even micro-insurance.

This is all good news for—and is showing a new trajectory to—insurers seeking a new orbit round their customers. At the same time, it is a challenge for an industry that has historically struggled to break free of conventional, siloed approaches to technology-driven improvement.  

Within any given company, individual departments have often forged ahead with marketing automation and modernizations of systems to help advance the notion that the company is becoming more customer-centric. Unfortunately, even when acting with the best of intentions, if the organization is not transforming as a collective whole, individual or departmental efforts are not optimal and as noted previously, these transformational steps can lead to further division and weakness rather than unification and strength.  

Hearing the Roundtable Discussion

Like King Arthur’s roundtable of knights’ exemplar, to do the maximum good, all parties need a seat at the table. A more unified approach to technology can dissolve the boundaries between sales and marketing, and policy, billing, and claims servicing and those that manage these areas.

New thinking is required because the new digital customer expects to have a relationship with the whole organization. It is not helpful to deliver excellent pre-sale customer experiences if that is followed by fragmented post-sale servicing experiences, or vice versa. Yet the brandish of the sword has often cleaved sales/marketing and core processing systems apart. The result is that acquisition systems are often only loosely connected to core administration systems, and typically lack insight into the customer’s profile or current situation.

Living by the Sword

This is a culture shift and a technology shift toward a unified solution. It calls for a new level of integration that creates a digital platform on which sales, marketing, and post-sale service systems can be unified. It puts data and systems to work in smarter, more frequent customer interactions that add more value.

With a more unified approach to digital transformation insurers can live by the sword, instead of dying by it.

Download a copy of the ICTC presentation “Achieving the Ultimate 360 Insurance Experience” here.