Filed Under:Carrier Innovations, Information Security

Q&A: How Software Vendors View the Insurance Market (Part 2) technology channel editor Bob Hyle contacted a number of vendors in the insurance software space to gauge their opinions on carrier weaknesses, project management, and their partnership with carriers.

Do most insurance carriers look at you as a partner in the solution process or as a vendor? Please explain.

Jim Rourke, senior vice president, sales and marketing for InsPro Technologies: We work very hard to earn the trust of our clients from our first meeting through their evaluation and selection process. So, as we continue nurturing the relationship and move towards project kick-off, we already have a good partner relationship in place.

With the reputations of both project teams on the line, meeting each stakeholder’s needs quickly becomes a mutual priority. The combined team focuses on a common end goal—the delivery of a successful project. So when a project is completed on target, on time, and on budget, everyone can enjoy the benefits.

(To read what other vendors have to say on these issues, check out Part 1 of the series, Part 3, or part 4.)

There will always be challenges during a project, however, strong partnerships built on trust will persevere, help the joint team get past the bumps in the road, and pave the way for continued and mutual success.

Bob Blitchstein, president and CEO of Insurance Data Processing: At Insurance Data Processing (IDP), we have customers that we have been continuously serving  for as long as 57 years. These as well as our more recent customers definitely view us as partners because we provide them with the tools they need to operate and grow their businesses. We specialize in assisting small- and mid-size property/casualty insurers. For many of our customers, we serve as their outsourced IT department and manage as well as host their insurance back office applications (which we have developed).

In addition, because IDP specifically focuses on insurance companies of up to $250 DWP our customers credit us with making it possible for them to successfully compete with even the largest carriers.

Greg Penn, vice president, engineer, for Valen Technologies: It is both logical and normal for carriers to first think of most solution providers as vendors. The key to being considered a partner comes as a result of relationships that are maintained over a sustained period of time—relationships where the vendor has earned the partner recognition.

When we embark on a new project, we start working day one on building trust within the relationship with the goal to wow our customers.  We believe that being direct, principled, and entrepreneurial, while also having fun with what we do, establishes the trust needed to turn the perception from us as being just a vendor to one of partner, with the commitment to make both parties successful.

We embrace the opportunity to work with our carrier customers to develop solutions which truly enable them to be successful today, tomorrow, and into the future.

What specific areas do you see the most weaknesses among insurance carriers where new technology could offer the most help? 

Blitshtein: There are three areas where we feel all carriers could benefit from new technology regardless of their size. These are:

1) Standing up (configuring and deploying) for quoting, rating, and issuance of new insurance products much faster and at a much lower level then what has been possible previously.

2) Leveraging the Internet and especially an insurance company's Web site to establish deeper customer and partner relationships while increasing an insurance carrier's brand equity.

3) Enabling agents to drive new business through the use of a robust and easy to use agent portal that provides inquiry and especially real-time quoting capabilities.

IDP is familiar with all of the above. Indeed, we have led and shaped our current product and service offerings based on feedback from our customers in these specific areas.

Penn: We are in a time where technology seems to be changing even more rapidly than ever before, so it is difficult for many industries, including insurance, to take full advantage of newer technologies. Software and platform offerings based on cloud computing are being adopted at an increasing rate, and proving to be viable solutions to take advantage of new technologies at a significantly reduced overall cost and reduced implementation time. Social networking and mobile applications are being used by businesses as a way of interacting with consumers creating direct relationships and improved loyalties. Advanced solutions such as predictive analytics are also proving to be powerful business changing technologies, enabling consistent, real-time decisions across organizations. Adoption of these and other newer technologies give carriers clear competitive advantage over those still limited by their legacy technologies.

Rourke: One industry hot button is the continued struggle of most insurance carriers when it comes to identifying and investing in efficient and effective data analysis solutions. While finding a way to leverage the wealth of data has been frequently recognized as a pain point for years, most insurance carriers are still not fully aware of the available solutions designed to help alleviate the data analysis burden. Today’s modern technology solutions deliver information and analysis to insurance carrier users more quickly than their predecessors—with data now available in real time and just a few mouse clicks away. And while many IT investments are justified based on a specific business segment, modern data analytics solutions can be leveraged for benefits across the enterprise – generating cost savings, increasing profit margins, and enabling competitive advantages.

Are insurance carriers making the right steps in the area of project management to ensure they are taking the right steps from selection to implementation of software? What do they need to do better?

Rourke: I have certainly seen improvements in carriers’ software selection processes, which I partially attribute to them leveraging knowledgeable industry analysts as trusted consultants during evaluation and selection. Carriers now expect solution vendors to show them rather than tell them about how any proposed software can address their specific needs.

These days, carriers are more frequently employing the proof of concept approach to quickly separate those solutions with real potential from the masses. And, the proof of concept serves to engage carrier resources earlier in the selection process, so when a selection is made and the project gets underway, there is already a foundation in place, enabling more informed project management.

With that said, the implementation process itself still varies from carrier to carrier. In successful projects, carriers typically align their executive leadership and sponsors, project manager, and implementation teams with their vendor’s counterparts, rather than rely on the vendor to always take the lead in project management.

There is a much greater chance of success when it is truly a team approach between vendor and carrier.

Carriers are also getting better at recognizing their strengths and weaknesses and are becoming more accepting of alternative solution delivery, such as hosted offerings or Software as a Service (SaaS). Again, when there is a strong vendor/carrier team and mutual trust, carriers are more open to considering the available options.

Penn: With rapid changes in technologies comes the need to look at changes in project management methodologies for implementing them as well. Agility, collaboration, and iterative improvement are now a must in order to keep up with change. Gone are the days where carriers can take 2-5 years with regimented methodologies to select and implement new systems, with hopes that such efforts will be able to carry the company for the next 10-15 years.

Technology adoption should and can be incremental, providing immediate value to the carrier with a more rapid return on investment, and enabling the flexibility to take advantage of the next advancement. Some carriers are moving to these more agile approaches, but many still hold on to their ‘tried and true’ project management methodologies of the past. Carriers should continue to seek out ways to challenge their old approaches, embracing the changes and challenges that they know they will face tomorrow.

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