Tag Archives: API

The Word of the Year Is…’Ecosystems’

I hesitate to make predictions about 2021. Those for 2020 didn’t work out so well for any of us, right? And 2021 is already off to a rocky start, with the pandemic still killing thousands a day (just in the U.S.), with the ever-so-promising vaccines being rolled out ham-handedly and with political dysfunction in Washington, DC, reaching fever pitch.

But I’ll still hazard a guess and say that one of the biggest, if not the biggest, themes of 2021 in insurance will be ecosystems. We may be well into the year before we see the effects. The pandemic — and perhaps the nutty politics in the U.S. — won’t release its grip for a good while yet. But ecosystems should produce key changes in two areas: how we touch customers and how we organize internal processes.

A friend wrote a book years ago that included a line that has stuck with me: “Nobody is as smart as everybody.” That ethic explains a lot of the power of ecosystems: Nobody individually is as powerful as everybody working together.

We’ve already published quite a bit on ecosystems, including the two articles at the top of the six I highlight below, and will publish much more, but I’ll summarize here what I see as the two biggest opportunities.

The first relates to sales. Traditionally, insurers have sold products through expert sales forces. But that has typically meant that a customer has to walk into that Allstate office in a strip mall and speak to an agent or that that Allstate agent sponsors a local kids soccer team, becomes known in the community and gradually meets and grooms prospects. But digitization — accelerated greatly because the pandemic has forced us all to deal with each other remotely — allows for serving customers in a more natural way, by meeting them in their moment of need.

Digitization allows for bundling car insurance with the purchase of a car, or home insurance with the purchase of a home. A home buyer is already dealing with a mortgage broker or banker, who can digitally provide options for insurance at the moment when someone is actually motivated to buy it. You don’t have to fill out any more forms — the bank has already done a colonoscopy on your finances and can auto-fill whatever the insurer needs on you or on the home. You don’t have to drive to an office, and the agent doesn’t have to spend weekends schmoozing soccer moms and dads.

Life insurance, usually such a tough sell, can become a routine part of interactions with financial advisers, even being initiated by the growing assortment of robo-advisers. Shipping insurance can be bundled with shipping contracts. And so on.

Plenty of effort will be required for an insurer to bring banks, car dealers, financial advisers, etc. into their ecosystems. Lots of coordination will be required, too, to make sure that everyone’s IT systems play nice with each other. Regulators will also have their say, to make sure no one is tilting the playing field unfairly, especially if customers are somehow being put at a disadvantage.

But it’s inevitable that digitization will push the initial contact with customers well beyond the walls of individual insurers and their agents and will require building an ecosystem. Some years ago, when a colleague and I wrote a book based on a massive research project into what can be learned from corporate failures (called “Billion Dollar Lessons,” if you must know), we decided that the only successful synergy strategy for sales was, “Do you want fries with that?” Well, I think there will soon be a whole lot of folks in non-insurance fields asking, “Do you want some insurance with that?”

The second opportunity for ecosystems is even more fundamental, because it allows for rethinking the whole organizing principle of major parts of a business and, eventually, the entire business.

Historically, big insurers have been closed systems. They have their sales force, their underwriting teams, their actuaries, their claims organization, etc., all down the line, all operating within one set of walls. But what if an organization were more like a piece of software and could be organized as an open ecosystem, so the organization didn’t have to do everything itself and could incorporate a continual stream of innovations, whether from inside or outside the organization?

That ecosystem sort of approach is how apps work on your phone. There’s some core piece that a team has written, but the team incorporates bits of software, called “objects,” that handle the rest. Why write your own calculator when someone has already done one? Why write all that code that expresses your app on the phone’s screen when someone has already written code you can rent?

The key is what’s called the application programming interface (API) — you and the others in the ecosystem have to specify exactly how your piece will accept data and will export data. (The coordination piece is so key that Plaid, a startup that lets apps connect to users’ bank accounts, has an agreement to be acquired for $5.3 billion by Visa.) Once you’ve specified the API, you can do anything you want as long as you don’t change it. You can improve your piece. You can decide, say, to swap out the calculator you were using and swap in a better one. Whatever.

Now imagine being able to apply that sort of model to an organization. What if your business were so modular that, finding out that your adjusters were best-in-class, you could sell their services to others, connecting easily and instantly through an API? What if the reverse were true, and you wanted to draw on some other company’s adjuster module?

Something that fundamental is unlikely to happen soon, if only because companies see a skill like underwriting as a core competitive advantage and won’t want to share. But I suspect we’ll start to see more processes conceived as modular, to great effect.

Jamie Yoder, an old colleague of mine who is now president of Snapsheet, which provides claims automation services, offered an interesting way of thinking about ecosystems. He said the claim has to be “the captain of the process.” In other words, rather than thinking about a traditional flow, in terms of how information comes in, how it gets passed from person to person, how approvals are done and how payment is made, you use artificial intelligence to give authority to the claim. It “knows” what needs to be done and can send out queries, whether to information systems or to humans (the client involved in a car accident, an adjuster, whomever), to move things along much faster and more efficiently than happens with today’s games of phone tag and all those files sitting in in-boxes until a case reaches the top of a to-do list.

The key is the APIs: That claim needs the information in exactly the form it can handle. So there will need to be a lot of initial coordination, requiring considerable human intervention early on. But once all parties agree, for instance, on how the details on a crash and on insurance coverage will be presented and agree on how authorizations for payment will be exported, then the process becomes an ecosystem. Any piece can be swapped out if a better option comes along, with no disruption to the other pieces, creating the opportunity for what Jamie calls a “flywheel” of innovation. (If you want more, Jamie and his fellow panelists at the International Insurance Society’s annual meeting said a lot of other smart things about modularity and innovation in a Six Things I wrote on Dec. 14.)

As I say, reconceiving even processes based on a modular, API sort of view of the world will take time. But I do think we’ll see considerable progress this year, and I expect to hear a lot of the insurance version of, “Do you want fries with that?”

Here’s hoping we get through these next several rough months and can make some real progress on ecosystems in 2021.

Happy New Year!

Stay safe.

Paul

P.S. Here are the six articles I’d like to highlight from over the holidays:

Big Opportunities in Insurance Ecosystems

Today, insurers succeed by offering products. In the future, insurers will win by providing access to risk prevention and assistance services.

Designing a Digital Insurance Ecosystem

Insurers should emulate Uber, which has an ecosystem of 2,200 microservices. Here are three ways ecosystems provide a competitive edge.

Who Will Buy Direct and Why?

The question for insurers is how they want to address a growing desire by small businesses to purchase online.

Telematics Consumers Are Ready to Roll

Telematics solutions let customers leverage their driving data’s potential to enable discounts and operational savings.

Banishing Busywork: Recruit the Robots

Bots help combat productivity drains that deplete resources and allow employees to focus their time on higher-priority tasks.

How to Leverage Behavioral Science

Coupled with tech advances that improve risk assessment, behavioral science could be the silver bullet in a period of strain from the pandemic.

Lasting Impact of Plaid’s Innovation

Six months ago, Visa acquired Plaid for a cool $5.5 billion, instantly making the fintech company a legend among technology startups – and its founders, investors and early employees very rich.

While the money is fun to consider, it’s not my key takeaway about Plaid, whose software provides the plumbing that lets startups connect to users’ bank accounts and has been employed by peer-to-peer payment app Venmo, mobile investing app Robinhood and many others.

As the CTO of a startup – one developing a technology platform for insurance carriers – I’m finding the real topic of conversation among my peers, as well as among my company’s investors, partners and prospects, is Plaid’s technology approach and its ramifications.

Plaid’s decision to focus on application programming interface (API) development vs. application development is a natural starting point for such a discussion. (The main point being that Plaid didn’t set out to build all the financial apps itself; instead, it provided a key interface that others, like Venmo and Robinhood, could exploit.) But there’s more to the story. And while it has already become fashionable to describe certain companies as “the Plaid of (fill in the industry),” I don’t think Plaid will be remembered as the face that launched a thousand API ships.

Not to say that the “API-ification” of the enterprise isn’t upon us. We’re seeing it in insurance and more broadly across financial services, as more processes within and across companies plug into each other via these software interfaces. But that trend started before, and is bigger than, Plaid. Conversely, Plaid’s significance extends beyond its APIs.

So what then can Plaid teach us? What can startups, and the technologists helping build them, learn from this early 2020 success story and carry forward into the young decade?

Here are four key takeaways:

1. Empower Builders

Any time a company develops a technology that makes it possible for others to do something they couldn’t do before, that company has the makings of a hit. Many companies succumb to the temptation of trying to own too much of that innovation’s value rather than putting some of that value creation into the hands of others.

Consider Google Maps. Prior to Google Maps, it wasn’t easy for a company to build a dynamic map into its customer experiences. Yet with the Google release, retailers could put all their locations into their web experience so consumers could find them without having to go to a specialized third party service. Now dynamic maps are an integral part of an array of experiences from retail and restaurants to real estate and travel.

If Google Maps had insisted on being the destination of all things maps, i.e., “Find My Retailer,” “Find My ATM,” “Find My Restaurant,” etc., and owning the entire value proposition, the proliferation of map-enhanced experiences across the internet would not have been as quick or as pervasive.

Even a company of Google’s size recognized that that approach would have put the burden of application-layer innovation on one company, one set of developers and one team of product managers. Instead, Google famously developed dynamic maps to be an embeddable component that can fit into any other application, enabling a variety of developers to innovate for their particular markets and end-users.

That’s something Plaid got right. In developing its APIs, Plaid unlocked banking data that had never been available and usable before, but the company was smart enough to keep the focus there and let others – Venmo, for instance – innovate at the application layer. Plaid’s approach brings so many more companies into the innovation mix, which in turn spurs more A/B testing, ultimately yielding more robust and varied applications – the true benefit of best of breed.

2. Love Your Hacks

Plaid did a lot of things that business school won’t teach you. One of them was embracing the hack. Experience has shown that many of the most successful tech companies have used hacks to get their businesses off the ground and deliver their first positive results. Airbnb and Uber come immediately to mind, and so does Plaid.

This is important, because banks were never in the business of exposing their data in a clean way – they didn’t have nice open APIs with clean documentation. That meant that Plaid had to crack the code on its own, figuring it out for itself every step of the way. How do we get access to Bank of America data? to Chase? to the next big bank?….

The moral of the story is they did it. Sure, initially they did it with workarounds and solutions that were laughed at on forums and dismissed as insecure. But they stuck with it and built big enough engineering and data teams to make the company, its approach and its solutions sustainable over time.

But first came the hack. Before becoming sustainable, before scalability even enters the equation, Plaid was getting its hands dirty showing the value of its work, no matter how unsustainable the approach. In this regard, I see Plaid as embodying Paul Graham’s famous admonition to startups: “Do things that don’t scale.” I would just add: “until they do.”

3. Trust the Size of Your Market (and the Defensibility of Your Solution)

Technologists and entrepreneurs have to develop thick skins. We hear “no” more than “yes,” and often find ourselves answering the same questions: What is the size of your market? How are you going to monetize your innovation? How defensible is your solution?

Here, I have to tip my hat to Plaid. As a trailblazer, the company had to argue for a big market that didn’t exist yet, because no one else was monetizing access to financial data – and the generation of apps that would use that data so successfully had yet to be created.

Of course, Plaid was right. Other companies would use its APIs and multiply their value many times over. But before Plaid was right, it believed. The size of its conviction ultimately enabled it to create and fuel a multibillion-dollar market. And while it believed, it minded its knitting, focusing intently on innovating and letting great software speak for itself.

Did that answer investors’ initial questions about defensibility? At first, probably not, but as the number of successful hacks mounted, and as it became clear that the problem it was trying to solve was sufficiently complex and the competitive landscape it inhabited sparsely populated,  the company earned enough breathing room to deliver each successive, successful result. By 2018, Visa and Mastercard were in on the company’s $250 million raise, and the rest is history.

See also: Insurance Innovation — Alive and Kicking

Getting there took some swagger, perhaps even a little arrogance, that Plaid could solve something no one else had dared attempt. That attitude may have been its best line of defense.

4. Guillotine Your Platform!

As I mentioned, the temptation to try to do too much, to own all the value and innovation at every layer of a solution, can be fatal, and is something Plaid brilliantly avoided. Plaid will be remembered for focusing on APIs and powerful administrative functionality, leaving the user interface (UI) and user experience (UX) layers for others to perfect and deploy.

In this case, Plaid serves as a powerful example for the many “platform” developers across the startup landscape, mine included. Platform developers want to solve it all, but Plaid is helping us not to. They deliberately chose not to provide the full vertical experience of their service, leaving it up to developers outside their company to figure things out for themselves and provide their customers their own distinct experiences.

This “headless” platform model is quickly gaining traction among startups and other solution providers, as well as among big companies hoping to accelerate or complete their digital transformations. These companies don’t want their tech providers to own any portion of the customer’s journey and experience; they just want the value, and they want it expressed natively within their own digital footprint.

That shift, and tech startups’ ability to deliver on it, may be Plaid’s most lasting legacy.

5 Reasons to Stress API Integration

Historically, most independent insurance agencies have been slow to adopt new technologies, instead relying on their personal service to clients to differentiate themselves in the market. While it’s true that trusting an agent who has your security, protection and best interests at heart is a huge part of what makes the independent agent extremely valuable, customer expectations are shifting.

Modern consumers embrace a digital-first environment. They expect high-end technology and automation to support their shopping, entertainment and banking needs, and insurance quickly joined that list. About five years ago, buoyed by strong capital investment and a surge in insurtech startups, direct-to-consumer personal lines disrupted the industry by bypassing the advisory and guidance upon which the independent agent model was built. Now, it’s the commercial industry’s turn, as we begin to see similar evolution in distribution models on that side.

To remain relevant, independent agents must keep pace with the changing landscape of consumer behavior and the technological demand. Customer experience is more important than ever. When it comes to attracting and retaining clients, and delivering on expectations for speed, it’s critical to be efficient and digital.

API solution integration has become one of the most crucial components of digitization, enabling smoother workflows and increased efficiency and allowing agents to meet customer expectations for real-time, personalized service. By providing a framework for connectivity, application programming interface (API) protocols allow various pieces of software to interact, to share data, and to move data and tasks from one step of a process to the next. For independent agents and the entire value chain that supports them, APIs are game-changing. They give agents the combination of the digital-first approach customers expect, with personal attention and dependable service.

Here’s why APIs are transforming the industry for agencies, customers and insurtech providers.

APIs improve office workflow. As in every business, productivity and efficiency are critical in any agency. The ability to complete tasks faster, to save time and effort, not only means less work but also frees up more time for agents and customer service reps to spend collaborating with clients to better understand their needs. With something as simple as writing an auto policy, an agent may start and end the process in two pieces of software — first in the agency management system (AMS) and then in the underwriting system. This requires the agent to toggle back and forth, rekey data and perhaps even hand off the process to another individual. With API integration, the data is entered once, moves through the entire process with an electronic handoff from one system to the next, and can even be picked up by a second individual seamlessly. By cutting down on time and frustration, employees can spend their time on more productive, revenue-generating efforts.

See also: AI Still Needs Business Expertise  

APIs reduce data entry burden. The problem with lack of integration in most agencies is that it requires redundant data entry. And, each time customer data is entered increases the risk of error and inconsistency. For example, if a CSR enters client Amy Smith Jones’ name into the AMS with no hyphen, but the agent enters it into another system with a hyphen, there are two separate records for the same customer. Now, it’s impossible to see the client’s entire account, and there may be duplicate mailings and other communication breakdowns. With API integration, data is entered once — eliminating the time wasted in redundancy, reducing the risk of data entry errors and ensuring data consistency.

APIs improve customer relations and retention. Insurance customers expect personalized service and attention. So, when they call the agency for help, they expect that their agent is familiar with their policies and situation. But, in many agencies, simply handling an incoming call is a lengthy process. An operator answers the phone and determines how to route the call, and then the agent must ask some questions to find out how he or she can be of service. With an API integration between the phone system and the AMS, the handoff happens seamlessly. When the customer dials in, the system uses reverse phone number lookup to identify the caller and pops up the customer’s policies on the operator’s computer screen and which agent handles them. Now, the operator can greet the client personally and transfer the call quickly. When the agent answers, they already have information about the client’s account and can immediately ask whether the call is regarding the homeowners or auto policy. This is just one example of how an API-enabled, streamlined system not only eliminates extra steps but also provides the personalized customer experience that clients expect from their agency.

APIs demonstrate your digital prowess. As we’ve already established, consumers expect a certain level of modern, digital automation in practically every aspect of their lives. Using APIs to connect digital technologies gives your agency the forward-thinking image that attracts customers who value that quality. For example, even something as simple as mobile document signing technology that integrates directly with your agency management and underwriting solutions can streamline the process for clients. They can log in from wherever and whenever on their mobile device, sign as required and keep the process moving. Even with the personal service an independent agency strives to provide, there will still be clients who prefer less human interaction and a more digital approach, and APIs allow agencies to retain those clients while still addressing their automation expectations.

APIs allow tech providers to remain relevant. There are many solutions in the insurtech industry that solve a niche problem — fillable forms for commercial line submissions, for example, or digital signature solutions. Even some of the larger AMS platforms don’t address every aspect of agency workflow, and many depend on complementary software to fill those gaps. API integrations allow the entire insurtech industry, especially point solutions, to thrive by continuing to provide value in the larger scheme. For the larger platform providers, this saves time and money in developing those features and allows the smaller niche players to remain relevant.

See also: Growing Import of ‘Edge Computing’  

API integrations clearly benefit the entire insurance value chain, from carriers, underwriters and agencies to insurtech providers and consumers. The alternative — continuing to operate with proprietary systems that don’t adhere to industry standards, perpetuating inefficiencies and detracting from the customer experience — will keep the industry stuck in the dark ages and ripe for disruption by new solutions that radically transform the process and the customer experience.

Programs such as Vertafore’s Orange Partner Program are just one example of API programs creating a new model for the industry, enabling rich integrations that empower independent agencies to leverage a broad spectrum of solutions, not only within the platform’s ecosystem but also with a wide range of third-party providers. This type of open API approach ensures both technological consistency through integration standards and allows the entire industry to evolve and grow, while providing a more satisfactory experience for customers.

7 Things I Learned at Bold Penguin

This is my first week at Bold Penguin… marking the true beginning of my insurtech life.

I’ve followed insurtech for more than three years, writing and speaking on the movement, but my vantage point has always been one of the intrigued outside observer.

And while one week does not make you a qualified insurance technology startup guru, here are my first seven insights after diving headfirst into my new role as chief marketing officer at Bold Penguin.

1) Small Business Insurance Is the Holy Grail

McKinsey & Company has been referring to the SMB market as one of the “few bright spots” in the property/casualty insurance sector for years now.

Why?

Because no one owns the small business insurance space. The marketplace is fragmented, and generally speaking the commonly accepted customer experience is poor at best. Yet, done right, small business insurance is a growing and profitable market segment.

This is by no means breaking news.

That doesn’t diminish the fact that no one has small business insurance figured out, (except maybe…), making the SMB market the holy grail of meaningful organic growth for the foreseeable future.

2) There Is No Road Map

In case you’ve never worked for a startup before, there is no road map for success.

Insurtech startups are creating solutions that haven’t existed before. Look at the work that Chris Cheatham is doing in policy automation at RiskGenius or Mike Albert and Allan Egbert are doing in open APIs at AskKodiak.

Quite literally, they’re making things up as they go along.

…because they have to. The work lives in uncharted waters.

My point is, just as insurtech startups must mature into the greater insurance ecosystem that has existed for more than 400 years, the more traditionally oriented organizations (and individuals) must accept the slightly more haphazard nature of startup companies.

Insurance carriers with open-mindedness to the realities of trailblazing startups will position themselves out front as the partners of choice for insurtechs mapping solutions for our industry’s most challenging obstacles.

See also: An Insurtech Reality Check  

3) There Is a Race to Remove Friction

Research from a McKinsey & Company survey shows a 73% increase in customer satisfaction when customers reported they were pleased with the entire customer journey, not just specific touch points.

Winners and losers of the digital insurance revolution will be determined in the race to remove the most friction from the customer experience.

This doesn’t mean removing human agents or blowing up the traditional insurance carrier model. Rather, we must think of insurance as a service and create flow throughout the customer journey.

I joined Bold Penguin because it’s my belief that their solution will be the foundation upon which many winning agents, brokers and carriers build their unique customer journey.

Whether you partner with Bold Penguin or not, make no mistake, the race to remove friction is real and it’s happening right now.

If your organization is not having serious conversations about the customer journey, you’re already losing.

4) It’s Time to Ask “What if?”

It’s time for everyone to start asking “What if?” when it comes to the future of insurance.

  • What if APIs are the future?
  • What if customer experience is all that matters?
  • What if we can’t build it ourselves?
  • What if half our agency plant retires in the next five years?
  • What if our carrier partners demand digitization?

Whether you believe these scenarios will come true or not isn’t the point. The insurance marketplace is changing rapidly and being prepared for all the “What if?” scenarios possible is the only way to survive…

…because no knows what’s actually going to happen.

5) Disruption Is Dead

From now on, every time you hear the words “disruption” or “disruptor” come out of a startup’s mouth, your insurtech B.S. alarm should leap to life, the blaring sirens and seizure-inducing flashing lights overwhelming your senses while an impenetrable B.S. Protection Barrier envelops your entire body like some scifi force field.

Seriously though, disruption is not the answer.

Instead, insurtechs should focus on collaboration, facilitation and integration with traditional partners, building on the previous foundation as much as possible and alongside where it does not.

6) Culture, Culture, Culture

I’ve seen first-hand the impact a toxic culture can have on organizational success.

We live in a tumultuous time for workplace culture. According to the American Psychology Association, the workplace continues to be a leading cause of stress (with 61% of Americans listing work as a significant stress factor).

We’re under more pressure to spend more time, to get more done every single day. Work-life balance has become a cliche joke.

While I believe in hard work, giving more of yourself than is asked in the job description and just kicking ass in general, organizational culture must be a fit to achieve our goals of world domination.

Here are three aspects of insurtech culture vital to success:

  1. Always put staff satisfaction first. An inspired team believes, an uninspired team blames.
  2. Never blame the customer. Period. Own your outcomes. The customer may not always be right, but the customer is never wrong.
  3. Don’t take yourself too seriously. As an old mentor used to tell me, “Everybody ?s.”

I’m sure there are more. But these were the three most obvious to me after spending time at the Bold Penguin headquarters this week.

7) Your Story Matters

Your story matters as much as your product.

It doesn’t matter how amazing, revolutionary or game-changing your product or solution is, if your story doesn’t make sense, if people can’t connect the dots between your solution and how it benefits them and their organization, your product essentially doesn’t exist.

This is something we need to do better at Bold Penguin.

We’re not amazing at telling our story today.

We’re going to change that.

One of many reasons I joined Bold Penguin was that the whole story had yet to be told.

I feel like I’ve found a gigantic diamond just lying there on the sidewalk.

And while everyone else walks past, oblivious to the treasure they’ve just nonchalantly stepped over, to the trained eye all it takes is a craftsman-like approach to telling the story of what Bold Penguin can do for insurance agents, brokers and carriers to unlock industry defining value.

But Bold Penguin isn’t alone. Wait until you hear about what Joseph D’Souza is doing at ProNavigator, or Jason Keck at Broker Buddha, or Phil Edmundson at Corvus Insurance.

Having a great solution is the barrier to entry. For anyone to care about your company, you must to be able to tell your story.

See also: Innovation: ‘Where Do We Start?’  

The Rub

According to the most recent CIAB Market Study, “Driving organic growth, hiring and recruiting talent and enhancing the customer experience remain top organizational priorities” for the U.S.’s top insurance brokerages.

With 80% of CIAB’s responding agents and brokers listing “driving organic growth” as a top priority for 2018, it’s exciting to be part of a company working to solve organic growth concerns, not through disruption but through collaboration, facilitation and integration.

You can find the article originally published here on LinkedIn.

Click here to learn more about Bold Penguin.

5 Challenges When Innovating With AI

Artificial intelligence is booming in insurance. In a recent report, Celent identified AI use cases around the globe and across the insurance value chain.

Uses include customer engagement (USAA’s Nina); product optimization (Celina Insurance Group, Protektr); marketing and sales (Usecover, Insurify, Optimal Global Health, Ping An); underwriting (ZestFinance, SynerScope, Intellect SEEC, Swiss Re); claims (Tractable, Ant Financial, Gaffey Healthcare); fraud detection (Ant Financial, USAA); risk management (Achemea); and business operations (Ping An Direct, Union Life).

Insurers are wise to innovate with AI technologies. Early adopters will face challenges but will also have the potential to reap greater rewards by improving efficiency and customer engagement.

Here are five challenges for carriers to consider when innovating with AI:

1. What technology to use when. When embarking on a digital transformation, there may be a number of solutions available for a given problem, one of which could be AI. But while AI may resolve an issue, it is important to examine all the potential solutions and decide which one is the best fit. Perhaps robotic process automation (RPA), application programming interface (API) or another automated solution is best suited. Can an existing technology be leveraged?

Deciding what solution to apply when requires you to look at the whole organization and all the issues upfront. This allows CIOs and CEOs to examine each problem, decide on the right technology solution and make sure it complements the overall strategy and budget.

See also: Strategist’s Guide to Artificial Intelligence  

2. Big data + AI = big strategy. A second challenge surrounds the management of big data obtained from customers, core systems, brokers/agents and insurance exchanges. Add to that the varied types of data that AI is managing, analyzing, communicating and learning from and things get a little more complicated. Here’s a list of the different data types AI may be working with:

  • Structured, semi-structured and unstructured data
  • Text
  • Voice
  • Video
  • Images
  • Sensors (IoT)
  • Augmented/virtual reality

Data is also classified as real-time, historical or third-party — yet another dimension to consider. Make sure your strategy takes the necessary data variables into account: where data will come from, where it will flow to and how it will be handled at various points in the customer journey.

3. Managing customers across swim lanes. This leads us to challenge No. 3: the ability of AI to engage with customer data at key touchpoints during the customer lifecycle. For example, if Lucy has group benefits as well as voluntary products, car and house insurance, how will her data be managed and optimized across swim lanes?

What will be the touch points for AI? When will other insurtech solutions be present? When is human intervention required? And how will this data be used to inform future risk decisions?

4. Harnessing AI’s multidisciplinary capabilities. AI encompasses machine learning, deep learning, natural-language processing, robotics and cognitive computing, to name a few. You can read my blog post here to learn more. Deciding what technical abilities will be required to solve your problem could present challenges as the lines between disciplines blur.

Additionally, the next wave of AI could come from entirely different industries, such as aerospace, environmental science or health — but  it will still have applications for insurance. The best way to overcome this is to examine your AI needs across solutions and select vendors with the right capabilities to execute them.

See also: The Insurer of the Future – Part 3  

5. Communicating past tech speak. As AI becomes mainstream, the challenge of helping non-technical business professionals understand these complex applications is real. AI systems can require a level of technical expertise beyond the everyday scope of business.

True digital transformation, regardless of technical complexity, affects everyone in the organization. Ensuring the vision is shared will matter as day to-day operations, tasks and activities change. Find someone who can break down the benefits of these new solutions into bite-sized pieces that everyone understands to ensure buy-in and ultimate success.

The question of whether AI will indeed disrupt the industry or simply enable its full digitization is still not known. It will not be the solution to every problem. However, if implemented strategically, it may hold the capacity to create an entirely new way of insuring — and delighting — customers in a rapidly changing landscape.