Last week I had the pleasure of joining my industry colleagues at the LIMRA 2016 Enrollment Technology Strategy Seminar in Charlotte, NC. We spent a fun evening at the NASCAR Hall of Fame which also presented me with an interesting juxtaposition because NASCAR is a sport based on speed, strategy and serious horsepower, yet our industry has been stuck behind the pace car for quite some time.
Who is the current pacesetter? It’s the majority of group benefits insurers with legacy systems that lack the horsepower necessary for their business to move up in the field.
Accelerating past the legacy pace car
If legacy systems only perform as well as the pace car and speed equates to capabilities, what results is a pack of carriers hindered from reaching their top speed and winning the race due to their legacy systems. As I sat through the various sessions and listened to the speakers, it was clear that merely keeping up with the pace car has very real business implications.
First of all, rigid legacy systems built for a certain market prevent a carrier from moving up or down market to gain new market share. Also, inflexible legacy systems prevent carriers from providing the types of plan variability new markets require. Furthermore, disparate and duplicative policy, billing and claims systems prevent a single view of the customer and make analytics a near impossibility without Herculean efforts. And going forward, closed-ended, legacy systems cannot deliver the modern, digital experience that consumers are demanding.
The constraints that legacy systems are placing on our industry’s velocity became even more apparent at the final session of the seminar. Mohan Subramaniam, associate professor of Strategy at Boston College’s Carroll School of Management, describes the shift from supply side to demand side interfaces and how these interfaces are creating an ecosystem to deliver products and services as opposed to a single provider.
Needed: A winning platform to compete in a new ecosystem
An automobile comparison is helpful here as well. Subramaniam uses the example of the connected car becoming a technology platform where ecosystem participants can acquire, share and act on the resulting data; whether it is the telematics data, engine diagnostics data or entertainment data. The vehicle has an open platform where the data is collected at the edge and shared with ecosystem partners who can utilize that data to deliver valuable services to the consumer.
Subramaniam’s point is that in the new world of ecosystems, the ability to collect, share and act upon data will be the winning strategy. We, in group and voluntary benefits, are already seeing this in the form of online enrollment firms and exchanges where data collection at the edge is taking place. However, for insurers to participate in this growing ecosystem and add value to the customer, they will need to be able to receive the data, gain insight from it and execute informed value-added customer interactions.
It is time to wave the green flag, to ditch the pace car, and start high-performance driving. But when that green flag does wave, what type of car will you be driving? Will you have the horsepower to compete? Is your system built on an open platform that can connect to the outside world and join in an ecosystem that delivers the value to the consumer that they are demanding or will you be burning out your motor, trying to keep in the race and relying on pit stops to put out fires?
Geoff Walton is a program director at EIS Group. For more reading on the topic of this blog, download the eBook “Eliminating the Barriers to Connectivity.”