What Apple-IBM Means for Insurers

The partnership will let insurers compete in a mobile-first, customer-driven world -- but IBM and Apple will not find smooth sailing.

News and comments about the recently announced Apple and IBM partnership is flooding the mediasphere. As it should. But for me, this partnership will only succeed if both firms have come together to perceive and support the corporation as a consumer writ large. That means enabling corporations to compete in a mobile-first, customer-driven mediasphere. There are so many technology capabilities flying at us as consumers and as employees in corporations that the nature of commerce is changing; the nature of entertainment (at least the delivery of it) is changing; the nature of collaboration and communication is changing. At the core of all of these changes is the mobile device, which we keep closer to us than our one true love. In some cases, the mobile device may be our one true love. We are a mobile-first society. As consumers, we know this. We live it, we love it … mobility is us. But do the companies we do business with know it? Are they showering us and our mobile devices with the love we (rightly) demand? Remember “City Slickers?” Curley made a big deal of there being one truth. I don’t remember his ever revealing it, but I’ll reveal what Curley’s one truth would be now: Every firm is a media firm. Regardless of industry, every firm generates, consumes, stores, manages and “publishes” information. If that isn’t the essence of a media firm, then I don’t know what is. For those of us in insurance, our industry is entirely information (well, with a legal wrap around a financial promise of paying a claim, but even all of that – legalese and money – is entirely information flows). Insurers are being bombarded with waves of unstructured – and semi-structured – data from customer calls, agent/broker calls, social media sites, blog posts and sensor-embedded tangible assets. Enough data to choke a mainframe or two (or three). Big Data indeed! But how are insurers handling all of these waves of data (big, small or in between) - other than running and re-running the same view against refreshed data? (I readily admit I’m shunting aside the catastrophe modeling and pricing models that property and casualty (re)insurers are doing. But I don’t think that I’m doing all that much damage to the insurance industry’s analytical reputation.) Now we’ve arrived at the heart of the matter: what the Apple-IBM partnership can bring to the table.
  • Apple is a consummate media consumption technology firm. Apple lets you explore, intuitively create and expose your verse, whether it is composed of text, still pictures, sound, video or mix of any of these media components.
  • IBM is an applied research-driven enterprise-focused technology firm. (Its acquisition of PwC consulting only made IBM stronger in the enterprise space).
Without knowing exactly what the apps will be for the insurance industry, I fully expect that the apps will be:
  • elegant, usable and fun
  • secure
  • well-mannered -- the data serving as the foundation of the apps will be well-governed, well-defined and well-understood.
Because all of the above is what re-perceiving corporations as consumers means to me. In fact, all the above are my table stake expectations from this partnership. But it’s not a strawberries-and-cream world. Our newly announced partners will not find smooth sailing in the insurance industry. Why? I think that our partners will find that insurers do not consider ERP systems to be systems of record. That honor falls to the 30- to 40-plus-year-old policy administration, billing and claim management systems. Additionally, agency management systems and other channel management systems are important sources of customer and prospect data. Apple and IBM will find that insurers expect, or should expect:
  • the security of the apps to be doubly or triply proven
  • to be able to easily clean, govern and otherwise manage stored data and data flowing into the company through the multitude of value chains
  • employees to be able to use the mobile apps as collaborative platforms to discuss, annotate and analyze data
  • employees to intuitively interact with the analytically driven visualizations.
Finally, when will this partnership deliver IBM’s Watson on-demand, through a click on an app? (I would like a silhouette of Sherlock Holmes on the app, please.)

Barry Rabkin

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Barry Rabkin

Barry Rabkin is a technology-focused insurance industry analyst. His research focuses on areas where current and emerging technology affects insurance commerce, markets, customers and channels. He has been involved with the insurance industry for more than 35 years.


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