January 4, 2018
Update IT Systems One Slice at a Time
by Denise Garth
For existing insurers with legacy technology estates, tinkering around the edges or waiting to be a fast follower will not work, given the pace of change.
Every business today has legacy processes and systems and faces the dilemma on how to transform the business to adapt to the rapidly changing market dynamics that are driving the shift to the digital age. Is there a proper approach? Insurtech is embracing these dynamics and powering the shift through the significant capital flowing to new technology and startup companies from MGAs and insurers. There is much discussion and debate on how the shift will reshape the insurance market as we have known it for the last 50 years. But the industry should not forget that this same disruption has also affected other industries such as retail, media, travel, telecom and banking, where successful companies created new business models, technology solutions and more.
The insurance industry has long had a degree of protection from new entrants, provided by the complexity of the regulatory environments. However, regulators are quickly realizing they need to understand the new digital technologies and work with the insurance industry to integrate them into the market. Today, we are seeing that new entrants are making strong moves into the market by working with regulators. At the same time, existing insurers are bringing new, innovative products to market within their current businesses.
Irrespective of where one operates within the insurance market and across the insurance value chain, change is coming. The change is being driven by a combination of new customer needs and expectations, the rapid adoption of new technologies that offer significant opportunities to innovate and the changing market boundaries that expand market reach. The result is the rapid emergence of new entrants who see the selling, marketing and servicing of insurance in a very different light to the more traditional entities.
See also: How to Enhance Customer Service
For existing insurers with legacy technology estates, tinkering around the edges or waiting to be a fast follower will not work, given the pace of change. As we have described in our research, Future Trends 2017: The Shift Gains Momentum, we are experiencing a tectonic shift that is creating a market dynamic that we call Digital Insurance 2.0.
If you embrace the need for change, what should you do to help adapt and innovate for the new world? Which slices should be approached first? Here are some suggestions:
Understand and Listen to the Customer. This is basic stuff, but the industry does not do it so well. In Majesco’s research, The Rise of the New Insurance Customer and The Rise of the Small-Medium Business Insurance Customer, insurance ranks at the bottom in its interactions with customers. In today’s digital age, the customer is in control. So, to transform a business, it is imperative to take the time and make a concerted effort to understand your customer needs and expectations … because your new competitors are.
Evaluate alignment of your strategy to your current systems’ infrastructure and organization. You’ll most likely find that your legacy systems’ estates are inhibiting your ability to change, let alone shift to Digital Insurance 2.0. Digital Insurance 2.0 requires a modern, open architecture that is cloud-ready and has open API capabilities to integrate new data sources, new technologies and more. Trying to apply a closed technical infrastructure to address the needs of Digital Insurance 2.0 is the proverbial square peg in a very round hole.
Prioritize. You can’t flip an established business on its head overnight. It’s just not going to happen. You need to grow the existing business while transforming and building the new business. This is crucial. Marketing and distribution should not pull back from traditional business in anticipation of the launch of new business models, new products or new channels. The current business is funding the future and needs to be kept running efficiently and effectively as the market shifts.
At the same time, you need to optimize the existing business while building the new business. Ideally, one would seek to transform a “sliver” of the operation which goes from “front-end” right through to the “back-end” function. If an organization’s teams have been working toward placing digital front ends on the traditional business to engage customers, they shouldn’t stop in the middle of the bridge. Any process that can be optimized on the traditional side will help to maximize the existing business, reduce the cost of doing business and provide a bridge from the past to the future while beginning to enable realignment of resources and investment into the new business. These are very often the incremental changes that will also gently shift the customer base through new ways of doing business.
Evolution vs. Revolution. Evolving a business is not going to be without its difficulties; but the greatest risk is allowing “old thinking” to solve “traditional issues.” This is not an ageist issue but a state of mind – “We cannot solve our problems with the same thinking we used when we created them.” – Albert Einstein.
As you bring your thinking into what the new world looks like – most likely it won’t look like what is currently in place. From an organizational perspective, one should also be very open to creating “greenfield” entities — new structures built on a clean slate approach rather than replicating the traditional silo approach so frequently seen in large corporations.
Increasingly, insurers are developing a new business model for a new generation of buyers. Some insurers have made the mistake of envisioning their digital front end as their big leap into the future, not realizing that they have only just touched the new landscape. They need a strategy for a new business model that supports simultaneous leaps forward that will create new customer engagement experiences underpinned by innovative products and services. This will create growth, competitive differentiation and success in a fast-changing market.
Creating the requisite infrastructure to address the realities of the market shift shouldn’t be underestimated; it will not be a trivial investment. Many insurers are looking at justifying investment based on growth strategies as well as competitive survival. Strategically, more are moving to the buy vs. build approach. Forward-looking companies are seeking a cloud-ready platform with a modern architecture that can support all the insurance business functions, as well as increasingly sophisticated digital and data capabilities to support the customer and distribution channels.
See also: Roadblocks to Good Customer Relations
These solutions seamlessly integrate core insurance processing with a growing ecosystem of other technology providers, third-party data sources and the growing number of external sales/service platforms or marketplaces. As systems and their underlying architectures become more open, products and services will be sold and serviced as part of “non-owned” processes. As a result, insurers will need to integrate their data collection and transactional requirements into portals and platforms that they don’t control directly.
Clearly, we are seeing the shift to Digital Insurance 2.0, a key topic of discussion and strategic planning in the boardroom, though many may not fully appreciate the extent and ramifications of this shift. Truly transforming a business to Digital Insurance 2.0 will be a customer-centric, digital-first endeavor. The digital age shift is creating both a challenge and an opportunity for insurers. The time for plans, preparation and execution is now — recognizing that the gap is widening and the timeframe to respond is closing.
This article was written by Mike Smart.