As the soft market in virtually all parts of the industry continues, being competitive has gone from being a platitude that’s important to long-term growth to a principle that’s critical to day-to-day survival. We recently saw two articles which gave clear direction to help IT understand its role in competitive positioning, and IT Management understand its role in creating a culture of competitiveness.
The first was a blog post in Insurance & Technology by George Foulke, vice president of U.S. business IT for MetLife. According to Foulke, the role of the technologist in the new world is to “deliver solutions that improve our companies’ competitiveness and top and bottom lines.” For Foulke, this translates to delivering solutions targeting the customer. He writes, “By bringing a customer-centric view to everything we do, our customers — including agents, whether captive or independent, as well as end customers/policyholders — can do business with our companies in ways that they prefer.”
In concrete terms, that means that IT must embrace the technologies that they sometimes fear: Mobile, consumer-focused applications and technologies such as tablets and smart phones. Foulke writes: “These devices can completely change the way agents interact with insurers, each other and their customers. … This is what end customers — and, increasingly, your producer force — expect.”
Foulke notes that these devices must provide robust Customer Relationship Management (CRM) facilities, which provide the following data elements: Claims Information, Account Origination, Lead Management across the organization, and Cross Selling information.
The second piece came from Ed Fenwick, SVP for The Robert E. Nolan Co., writing in Insurance Networking News. Fenwick notes that Innovation has to be translated into actionable terms for firms to be competitive. He articulates three characteristics for organizations to employ to bring Innovation to action: Identify candidates for Innovation (what problems to solve); tasking the right person to lead the initiative; and tasking (empowering) a small group to implement the innovative solution.
Fenwick concludes with an exhortation that is seems a personal challenge to every IT manager. He writes that his prescription “may seem like an oversimplified plan of action, but it covers the major points that are required for success. In these times, insurance companies face several difficult challenges that have no precedent, ranging from expense management to successful growth strategies to survival.”