Tag Archives: solutions

Geospatial Solutions: A Vital Enabler

At SMA we have long been tracking the rise of smart things and their implications for the insurance industry. A variety of emerging technologies has been rapidly advancing to make everything imaginable smart. But participating in the ESRI User Conference in San Diego this year has driven home one key point: Geospatial solutions will have a critical role in making sense of all those smart things. The notion of a connected world is not an academic pursuit – possibilities to ponder about sometime in the future. It is a here-and-now issue affecting every industry, including insurance.

See also: Insurance and the Internet of Things  

The Internet of Things is already upon us. Sensors and embedded chips are present in buildings, infrastructure, agricultural settings, vehicles, devices in the home, medical facilities and government operations. Add to that billions of mobile phones and the capability to track location, movement and environmental conditions, and the result is many connections and massive amounts of data already measuring, monitoring and acting on the world around us. Predictions about the adoption of connected things vary widely, but, by any measure, the connection points and the data volumes will continue to increase exponentially. The problem, then, is not deploying smart things or collecting data from the smart things. The fundamental problem is the ability to combine and analyze data to gain some insights. In some cases, those insights might trigger decisions with global implications, solving some of humanities thorniest problems. In other cases, the insights might lead to a small action that improves the life of one individual.

Enter geospatial solutions. Analytics and big data, in general, have essential roles to play in understanding the data generated in the connected world. But visualizing that data in a way that tells a story and reveals insights is the province of geospatial solutions, an area that has much to contribute to the connected world. Unfortunately, old impressions of geographic information systems (GIS) linger, especially in insurance. Most insurers have GIS solutions to do geospatial analysis, but they tend to be used by a small number of specialists for very specific applications. Today, the advances in 3D; animation; digital capture through drones, satellites, or LiDAR; and other technologies offer new opportunities. Tools for spatiotemporal analysis (understanding changes over time), crowdsourcing of real-time data and cloud-based collaboration platforms for maps and apps have elevated the discipline and provided government and industry with the potential to gain a deep understanding of the world to aid in addressing both new and old problems.

See also: How Connected Will Connected World Be?

Many insurers are considering the implications of the connected world and how it will affect their particular lines of business. Connected cars, smart homes, the quantified self, smart cities, autonomous commercial fleets and many other new areas create both threats and opportunities for insurers. Evaluating how geospatial capabilities can be harnessed to gain a better understanding of these emerging areas should be part of every insurer’s strategy and planning initiatives.

3 Main Mistakes in Change Management

In my last blog, my engineer self admitted that the root causes for why core systems replacement projects don’t hit the mark in the business case are more likely related to people, not the technology. I stated that the business only changes when individual contributors each do their jobs differently.

Now let’s take a more detailed look.

There are many models out there that provide a framework for understanding change. One that we use frequently at Wipfli is the Prosci model, which is focused on understanding change at the individual level. Boiling it down to its simplest form, this model says the change must progress for each individual from awareness to desire to knowledge to ability to reinforcement.

Understanding that, Mistake #1 to avoid is measuring the need for change management based on executives’ paths, not their people’s. The executives responsible for the program and ultimately for the change management strategy, approach and investment are by definition the leaders furthest down their own change paths. That is, they are, in all probability, way beyond the awareness and desire stages. (Hint, hint: That’s why this core systems project is underway). And, not uncommonly, because of where they are, they may not understand the need to make a significant investment in change management.

Once you embrace the need for change management, there are an array of tools and techniques at your disposal. These include communications, sponsorship, coaching, training and resistance management. Mistake #2 to avoid is loading everything into communications as a one-and-done approach. In fact, I would guess that when most of us hear the term change management, we immediately think of communication. That’s good because change starts with awareness. But did you know that it takes something like five to seven communications for a message to be truly heard and understood by all? Remember that perfect project kickoff email you sent last week that summarized everything perfectly? Yeah – maybe 20% of your audience remembers it today. So communication must be multiple messages using multiple channels coming from multiple stakeholders.

Multiple studies over the years have reaffirmed the significant correlation between a project’s success and change management’s impact and, more specifically, the importance of the project sponsor’s role in both. Succinctly, the earlier the project sponsor is engaged in the project and the earlier the project sponsor embraces change management, the better the chance for success.

Mistake #3 concerns the project sponsor and her change management role. Just because you have a smart and engaged leader as your sponsor, don’t assume she knows what’s supposed to be done every week in a transformational core systems project if she hasn’t played that role before. For example, does the project sponsor know to build a coalition among the key managers and supervisors whom the affected employees will most want to hear from? At the end of the day, the employee will turn to his immediate boss and not the project sponsor to really get the WIIFM (what’s-in-it-for-me).

You get the idea. As much as agile project management and delivery approaches and methodologies have been embraced, used and hardened over the past 10 years, we need to do the same for change management.

How to Avoid Pitfalls in Insurance Innovation

The words “disruption” and “innovation” are in everyday lexicon surrounding many concepts, products and services. At times, it seems almost impossible to navigate the full range of opportunities for insurance innovation. This makes it extremely difficult to make the right choice to adopt a specific technology or strategy to redefine or reinvent a business.

Certainly, budgets are not limitless, and time is scarce. How do we ensure that we invest in the right technologies at the right time and prioritize the investments in proper order? How do we make sure that the opportunity to adopt a new technology is not being overlooked or unintentionally delayed?

Innovation Teams

Many insurance carriers deployed innovation teams to stay on top of the technological landscape and drive forward-thinking decisions. These teams have done a marvelous job.

Yet, even with these teams in place, most organizations seem to drastically fall behind in adopting the technology early enough to make the most impact. With modern, cloud-based SaaS offerings that can be fielded without internal IT investments, with very little set-up requirements and with lean operations provided by young ventures that drive most of the innovative technologies to the front lines, why do we still find it difficult change?

In a recent article, Steve Blank, a serial entrepreneur recognized for customer development methodology that led to the Lean Startup movement, described two of the most common issues with deploying innovations teams to drive organizational change. The first: making it easy for innovation teams to drive the selection of the right business units to field the solutions as soon as possible. The second: ensuring that the organization separates the execution part of the business, which operates an existing business model, from the innovation business unit, which is modifying the existing model or creating one.

Beyond the Innovation Noise

The key to a successful continuous innovation cycle is looking beyond the hype and the related group think about innovations.

Technologies such as big data, analytics and Drones receive a lot of attention. However, getting full value from them is far from simple.

Big data, for example, interprets information with analytics tools. To derive value from it, however, it is important to identify what purpose is to be achieved, what data is important and where to acquire it — before using the analytics. Experts say the most critical, time-consuming and expensive part of adopting big data comes from the effort required to analyze the business and all of the data sources, so the upfront investment is quite high.

The spotlight on drones often seemingly ignores the limitations of the technology. In certain weather conditions, like wind, rain and fog, the control of the drone becomes challenging, and the video quality drops. In addition, use of drones is highly unscalable, as one operator can only control a single drone within the line of sight.

In addition, satellite imagery can be significantly more effective in collecting real-time aerial imagery of an area hit by a storm, if visibility allows. This is a possible threat as real-time satellite technology becomes more affordable to the masses.

Is there a future in drones? Absolutely, but it will take time to perfect this technology, as the industry is still exploring the right fit in the field. This is where looking outside the box provides the clues that prevent falling into a common innovation trap.

Think Outside the Box, Think ROI

Sometimes, looking too closely at a solution creates a commitment to a technology that has a much longer innovation and implementation cycle than expected. Playing with new technology is always fun, and there is value in being recognized as the first to explore new tools for the organization. However, the goal has to be generating a competitive advantage that provides the highest benefits – the best ROI.

Today’s most important technologies are the ones that can be implemented with very low up-front investments in IT support and employee training and the ones that can simplify or even eliminate the largest, most unscalable and expensive operations.

Technologies that deliver enhancements to existing business processes like mobile tools, real-time video communications, litigation document management solutions and field resource planning and dispatch platforms are easier to acquire and evaluate. These technologies are less expensive and cause less conflict with an existing part of the business. At the same time, they deliver substantial tactical improvements in operations and can be quickly deployed within the necessary workflow.

Larger-scope solutions such as claims management, policy management and billing systems typically require a significant modification or a complete replacement of existing systems. Implementation or upgrade of these systems is a high-risk exercise, while the projected ROI is mostly strategic — long-term efficiency, productivity and other future capabilities.

To assess the value of investment in a specific technology, most enterprises have adopted the Lean Startup model, piloting software before full adoption. There is, however, a significant difference between a proof-of-concept and a proof-of-value approach to identifying the right technologies. Proof of concept starts at the business problem and validates a solution using specific technologies, while proof of value begins by looking for a specific solution to a known business problem. The first validates that the technology works; the latter ensures the investment is worthwhile.

For any organization looking to continuously change and innovate, the right approach is in proof of value – being able to quickly assess and adopt solutions with the lowest barriers, fastest implementation and highest returns.