Special Interest Group for Regional P&C Insurers

Martina Conlon

At Novarica’s recent Special Interest Group for regional P&C insurers, held in Boston on June 25th, the CIOs and other technology executives in attendance discussed many pressing trends in the insurance industry: cyber security, agent facing technology, core systems transformations, the use of analytics and predictive models. Despite differences in culture and architectural environment, the IT professionals in the room shared common issues and challenges, particularly when it came to making the core system business case without ROI, security frameworks for NPI transmission to 3rd parties, balancing system configuration and speed and ease of upgrade, and knowledgeable resources to support implementation and maintenance of the systems.

Not surprisingly, core system transformations was a hot topic of discussion throughout the day. Most of the CIOs at the table had recently participated in one. While the consensus was that these projects are entirely worthwhile, a few important takeaways from their experiences include:

  • Finding the right relationship with the vendor and investing in the relationship.
  • Configuring your system just enough to make it work for your company but not enough to take you off of the upgrade path that your vendor offers.
  • Having a plan and a parallel work stream for sun-setting old mainframes/solutions is an important part of the transformation project.

Top thoughts from the IT executives on the future of insurance included:

  • Most believe that Agents are here to stay. Carriers, even those who are moving into more of a customer-facing and direct model, will still use the agent channel. Recent reports about millennials found that they often still seek the advice and guidance of trusted professionals.
  • For most personal lines, the market will look more and more like Google – consumers will compare products against each other and make decisions on their own. Even for some smaller commercial lines this practice may continue to grow. However, in more sophisticated and complex lines of business, an agent still brings tremendous value.

Lots of disruption ahead in our industry, and the companies that attended this session are busy laying the technical foundation to enable the stability, efficiency, flexibility needed to be successful in the future.

Overcoming Reluctant Users: Part II

Jeff Goldberg

Back in January I blogged about an issue that comes up frequently when talking to insurers about change management: how to handle end users who don’t want to move to a new system. It’s a frustrating (and yet common) experience, with one, two, or a handful* of people not “getting” the value of a change that everyone else** believes in. A reluctant user doesn’t necessary throw up roadblocks or even complain too loudly, but a lack of positive engagement can still slow down or hinder a project.

  • *If it’s more than a few end users, then there are bigger problems that need to be addressed.
  • ** If “everyone else” is actually a code word for “just management,” see the above comment.

My original blog post received a lot of feedback, with some people questioning why a company would implement a new system that end users are reluctant to adopt. While I’ve tried to clarify that there’s a difference between reluctance from all end-users and reluctance from just a few, it also got me to wondering about the different reasons users might have for pushing back on change. There is obviously no common person called “end user,” and in fact every company is made up of a variety of different people with different motivations. There are power users who don’t want to start from scratch, users who fear for their jobs, users who question IT’s ability to deliver, users who are scared of change, and other scenarios that get in the way of a successful transition.

In response to this, we looked to the experience Novarica has had helping insurers prepare for new system implementations, talked to various CIOs who have gone through change management problems of their own, and also thought back to those times when we had been reluctant users ourselves. And so that initial blog post has now been expanded to a full report. It covers different scenarios and complications that cause some end users to resist a new system, and it aims to help an insurer plan for the kind of change that everybody can rally behind.

On Monday, June 22nd at 2 pm (ET) I will be speaking more about this subject on our CIO Series Webinar: Preparing for Digital Transformation and Overcoming Reluctant Users. Interested participants may pre-register online at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/120109254

Related Reports

Insurance, Big Data, and Game Changing Cost-Bases

Steve Papa
Board Partner
Andreessen Horowitz
GUEST BLOGGER

Last week at the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council Meeting, I got the chance to present and discuss some thoughts about how Moore’s Law has the potential to affect insurer value propositions and business strategies.

With chips getting faster and cheaper all the time, insurers have the opportunity to consider both incorporating new data sources and adding value-added services that would have been prohibitively expensive just a few years ago.

Screen Shot 2015-05-04 at 10.51.39 AM

To draw on another industry, take the example of Google Chromecast, a $40 device that has completely disrupted the Smart TV market. What if auto insurers leveraged this technology to provide a free, limited satellite radio device and to insureds who maintained a high driving score through a gameification app enabled by the same device?

As technology, data, and connectivity get cheaper and cheaper, insurance itself may migrate to being more like a SaaS offering and less like something that’s bought once and forgotten.

IT and Other Business Units

Matthew Josefowicz

“Don’t Align with the Business, Be the Business” has long been a mantra for CIOs seeking to ensure that IT is an integral part of their companies’ business strategies.

But too many IT professionals still refer to “The Business” as if it were an alien entity, and as if they were not part of it.

TheBusinessJar

One of our CIO panelists at the recent Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council Meeting raised this point, and we decided to change our terminology then and there.

Instead of “IT and Business” we will now use the phrase “IT and Other Business Units.”

After all, IT is a business unit like any other. It should think of itself that way, and encourage others to think of it that way as well.

And for anyone who uses legacy terminology? Put a dollar in the jar.

New IT Benchmark Research Highlights Areas of Concern and Provides Insights on Spending and Budgeting Decisions

Matthew Josefowicz

External benchmarking data is an important tool for insurer CIOs in both self-assessment and communication with senior business management. Benchmarking data can provide critical support for spending and budgeting decisions, as well as highlight potential areas of concern.

Novarica’s new Quick IT Benchmarks for Insurers is based on 69 responses from the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council and highlights key issues to consider when benchmarking. A few notable statistics from this report include:

  • Insurers spend 20% of their IT budgets on maintenance fees for hardware and software they already own, nearly twice as much as they spend on new hardware and software.
  • Insurers spend half their IT budgets on running the business, about 30% on growing the business, and only 20% on transforming the business.
  • About half of large insurers and less than 10% of midsize insurers have IT staffs that are mostly outsourced.
  • The average number of IT staff per enterprise application ranges from about 3 to 6.
Average Budget Breakdowns for Insurers in 2015

Average Budget Breakdowns for Insurers in 2015

In addition to the report’s findings, what makes this report significant is our “Supply and Demand” approach to IT assessment. Rather than focus exclusively on spending levels, our report contextualizes spending levels (Supply) against company size, new project volume, and current state of the organization, technology infrastructure, and product volume and complexity (Demand). This approach allows insurers to look at IT spending in a valuable new way. Benchmarking data is presented and understood within the context of the variation between peer circumstances and business needs.

On Tuesday, April 21st at 2 pm (ET) Matthew Josefowicz, President & CEO, Novarica will host a free webinar to discuss findings from this research. Interested participants should pre-register at: https://attendee.gotowebinar.com/register/120108378

A free summary of this report is available at: http://novarica.com/quick-it-benchmarks-for-insurers-2015/

Agile and Continuous Delivery in a Regulated Environment

Jeff Goldberg

Many insurers are interested in the modern development methodologies of Agile and Continuous Delivery, but worry about how those approaches will work in such a highly regulated industry. When done properly, using an Agile development methodology and/or a Continuous Delivery approach shouldn’t prevent an insurer from putting controls and reviews in place to satisfy external regulations (and internal rigor). A test-driven approach supports both Agile and Waterfall development efforts.

First, just because a development team is doing continuous delivery or packaging releases into two-week sprints doesn’t mean that code is being moved to production. One of the points of this approach is that code is constantly being built and deployed to a test server and that smaller chunks of effort are packaged for business user review. This means that some of the API integration and build issues that often hold up a project at the end are being nurtured and considered the entire time. It doesn’t mean, however, that actual production releases can’t go through the same rigorous testing and sign-off before ever moving to production servers. You can take an agile approach to a project with two-week sprints that doesn’t actually go into production more than once or twice a year.

(Note that some organizations do consider continuous delivery to mean that once code has been committed by a developer, it can be tested and moved to production at any time. While this is interesting in theory I know of very few organizations that actually do it this way, and none in the insurance industry that do. The idea to embrace with CD is that you have a production quality branch ready to go at all times, but that doesn’t mean you have to actually move that branch to production outside of a predictable schedule.)

Second, when done well, an agile approach actually results in more business user review and testing of a system as opposed to less. Testing is spread out over the entire process rather than done in one large burst at the end. A key value of the “sprint” concept is a continuous involvement of business users. Engineers are supposed to be delivering something every single sprint that can be demonstrated and reviewed by stakeholders. Unfortunately, this is where a lot of organizations fail to properly follow the agile methodology. A lot of companies (not just insurers) who embrace the idea of a sprint, really just treat it like a way for developers to chunk up rapid milestones. Agile is not the same thing as Rapid Prototyping. Without the business stakeholders regularly reviewing the results, adjusting priorities, and signing off on items, it’s not really following the agile protocol.

Third, there’s a misconception that requirements in an agile approach are highly fluid or not well defined. While an agile approach is supposed to allow you to make rapid shifts in priority, it doesn’t mean as an organization you have to do so. If there are a set of regulatory-demanded requirements for a project, those are going to be at the top or near the top of the priority queue, and no amount of flexibility will mean that they get pushed off the list. Until they’re implemented and signed off, the project isn’t going to go into production regardless of how many sprints have passed.

While I’m a big fan of an agile approach, I don’t think it is right for all insurers or even right for all projects at an agile-minded insurer. If the executives at an organization feel uncomfortable without very detailed project plans and requirements documents, the culture may not be right for agile. If you want to make some important feature updates to a legacy core system, you’re probably going to want to take a waterfall approach of defining the changes, implementing, and testing them; it’s often very difficult to do the sprint method with systems like that. But if you’re building a new web portal and the culture supports it, an agile approach can work great, especially when UI development is involved. And sometimes a mix is in order: if you are implementing a new core system, even if you take an agile approach you’re probably going to want to have some major planning and requirements gathering sessions up front so that you can define costs and timelines with your vendor.

If you’re interested in talking more about Agile, Continuous Delivery, or other approaches to development, please feel free to email me to set up a complimentary 30 minute consultation.

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The Benefits of an IT Assessment in 2015

Martina Conlon

Our 2015 research indicates that insurers # 1 business priority is growing revenue, most typically through rolling out new or changed products and launching into new territories. Business agility is critical to compete today, and IT departments are charged with delivering rapid system changes to support these new products and business models. But the typical IT department is incredibly busy keeping the trains running and reacting to the increasing needs and demands of the business community. It’s easy to get caught up in the day to day and react to the tactical and miss the strategic. Doing an IT Assessment helps ensure that your technology and IT organization are aligned with your strategic goals.

Our IT Assessment projects cover:

  • Budgets and spending
  • Staffing levels and staff profiles
  • Application portfolio and technology plans
  • Governance, oversight and reporting structures
  • Business/IT alignment
  • Intake, planning and execution processes

We review your business goals and pain points, your technology, your strategic technology plans (if they exist) and IT organization to ensure you have the right staff, capabilities and systems to be successful. We leverage our knowledge of industry best practices to help ensure your competitive parity or differentiation.

IT Assessments are most valuable when there are major changes in business direction, new IT leadership, concerns about business/IT alignment, business satisfaction or the cost of IT, or when you’re looking to assess your performance against your peers.

If you’re interested in learning more about IT Assessments, please feel free to contact me at email to set up a complimentary 30 minute consultation.

Insurance Industry Remembers that Investment Dollars Buy Access to Innovation

Matthew Josefowicz

Everything old is new again. Like the E-Venture Investment Groups of the late 90′s and early 2000′s, a new crop of investment activity is springing up in the insurance industry, with the hope of giving the industry a preview of tomorrow’s capabilities and approaches.

This includes single company initiatives like AXA Strategic Ventures and American Family Ventures, as well as the Des Moines-based Global Insurance Accelerator incubator, and the recently announced ACORD Insurance Innovation Challenge showcase for start-ups.

It’s almost as if the industry woke up and realized it didn’t have to sit and wait to be disrupted from the outside. A multi-billion dollar industry can buy some of its own innovation!

Related Posts:

Related Webinar:

Seven Key Findings About the Group Life/Annuity/Voluntary Benefits Sector

Rob McIsaac

With plan sponsors becoming increasingly price-conscious, the group life, annuities and voluntary benefits sector is turning to technology to help them attract, retain and profitably serve clients. Across the industry, insurers continue to make investments spanning the Novarica Insurance Core Systems Map.

Group Life Annuity & Benefits Heat Map

Novarica has identified seven key findings in its Business and Technology Trends: Group Life/Annuity/Voluntary Benefits report. If you’re not familiar with this report, it provides and overview of group benefit providers’ business and technology issues, data about the marketplace and 57 recent examples of technology investments by group benefit providers.

Key Findings

1) Top technology initiatives for group and voluntary insurers include agent and customer portals (including enrollment) and core policy administration, including benefits administration. The need for effective sales and marketing tools across multiple channels is key to drive enrollment, and robust flexible group administration is also vital. Carriers are opting for incremental upgrades over “big bang” core system transformations. Vendors must grow their understanding of individual markets, as well as the linkages between billing and enrollment.

2) True sales growth is a challenge in group business, with much activity consisting of carriers trading business or increases in group term life face amounts rather than cases or lives covered. Group annuities reportedly also saw declining sales. At least one carrier is experimenting with offering cheaper long-term care insurance coverage for lower benefits in an attempt to drive uptake.

3) Private exchanges are emerging as a new distribution channel for voluntary products, though enrollment is modest to date. The need for brokers to make up for caps on commissions and high deductibles for traditional health coverage may lead to more activity in this arena.

4) Group annuity contracts are seeing increased interest as some carriers are offering US employers the chance to offload some or all of their defined benefit plan liabilities in exchange for purchasing group annuity contracts.

5) Lower priority technology initiatives include billing, BI, claims, CRM, distribution management, document creation and management, rating, underwriting workstations, and specialized components. While lower priority, many of these components can contribute both cost savings as well as more efficient handling of transactions and payments. The lower priority of investment in BI should not be read as an indictment of its potential, as plan sponsor reporting and analytics capabilities, the ability to analyze participation, and understanding channel and producer productivity and profitability remain important.

6) Mobile devices continue to make inroads. Both members and plan sponsors see benefits, such as the ability to submit claims or view policy information.

7) Critical success factors for carriers continue to be sound product design; better tools for enrollment, marketing and sales to individuals; powerful and adaptable administration systems; marketing and sales across multiple channels, and continuing improvement of administrative systems to drive cost savings and efficiency.

With customer expectations changing across the industry, driven by changes in the technology ecosystem within the industry and across the economy, insurers need to plan to incorporate these paradigm shifts into their business and technology strategies for 2015. Or else plan to be taken by surprise! If you have any questions or comments, please feel free to send me a note at email.

Peer Review: What areas are insurance CIOs focusing on in 2015?

Staying on top of the latest Property/Casualty and Life/Health/Annuity insurance technologies and trends can be a pretty daunting task. In order to provide our clients with more insight into what their peers are focusing on in 2015, Novarica has compiled a list of its top ten most downloaded reports for the year to date.

There are two main benefits of this top ten list: it will save you time by highlighting only the hottest topics, and it allows you to see if your organization is on track with its IT strategy or if something is being overlooked. The top ten list below covers a variety of topics in critical areas, including: digital, reinsurance, policy administration systems, social, mobile, big data, analytics and much more.

Top Ten Most Downloaded Reports

1.) Life/Health/Annuity Policy Administration Systems
2.) Property/Casualty Policy Administration Systems
3.) Preparing for Digital Transformation
4.) Benchmarking the “New Normal”: 50 Advanced Capabilities for P&C Insurers
5.) “Hot Topics” for Insurers: Social, Mobile, Analytics, Big Data, Cloud, and Digital
6.) Report Rationalization: A CIO Checklist Report
7.) Internet of Things Update: An Executive Brief
8.) US Insurer IT Budgets and Projects 2015
9.) Architectural Governance: A CIO Checklist
10.) Business and Technology Trends: Reinsurance

In 2014 alone Novarica released over 30 reports. If you’re a Novarica client, downloading reports from list above is a great way to get up to speed on the latest trends and guidelines. For more information about Novarica’s published research, visit our online library or contact email.

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