Future Tech: Insurers Should Seek Business and IT Alignment

Can better relationships—with customers, brokers and even within the company—help insurers integrate their technology processes?

Companies are moving toward paperless offices and integrated services—but the rapidly changing consumer environment represents the industry’s biggest challenge to successful integation, according to Steve Hancock, an industry principal at SAP Americas.

“The demands are different,” he told the audience at the 2010 P&C Insurance Technology Conference February 22. “The environment has changed so that consumers drive it. So every interaction we have with the customer is exceedingly important.”

Reexamine relationships

Hancock urged insurers to take a second look at how they communicate within the company—and with consumers– and try to foster both business and IT alignment. “Non IT departments want a closer relationship with IT,” he noted, calling for more collaboration between IT and product development or marketing, for example. “Are you talking to your counterparts on the other side?” he asked the audience. “It’s getting better, but it’s not a well integrated process.”

He pointed to some common integration challenges, including rising costs, inefficient systems, hard-to-meet customer expectations and a lack of product agility. “It can take 18 to 24 months to bring new products to market,” he noted. “That’s not acceptable.”

It’s up to IT to “get that customization and information out of the code,” he said.

The bigger picture

Hancock also advised companies to address the bigger picture, and look at how they communicate outside the company, with investors, banks, and reinsurers. “Look at the bigger IT structure,” he said. “You need to know what’s going on.”

He offered a 3-pronged approach to better integration, suggesting that insurers get to know who they’re dealing with —“We need a 360 degree view of that customer,” he noted—change how they communicate with them; and rethink how they use data. “Use data for other things than for claims,” he said.

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