Filed Under:Agent Broker, Agency Technology

The importance of leadership in driving digital age change

Opinion

It’s no longer just culture standing in the way of change on insurance industry innovation. It's also legacy core business systems. (Photo: iStock)
It’s no longer just culture standing in the way of change on insurance industry innovation. It's also legacy core business systems. (Photo: iStock)

Bringing change within any organization is hard to achieve. Arguably the larger the company, the more complex and difficult it is. Add to that geographic and cultural differences, and it muddies the water further.

Related: Insurance 2017: Priorities for innovation, automation and transformation

Change encounters roadblocks. From the reticence of employees to change their working practices, to the difficulty of getting boardroom support on new market opportunities or ideas developed… change is challenging.

A matter of survivial

So why should we persevere? Because it is a matter of being relevant, competitive… and even ensuring survival.

With the rapidly evolving and disruptive business environment due to changes in people, technology and market boundaries, the requirement to alter insurers’ internal and external engagement operational procedures has never been more pressing.

Most of us are familiar with the old idiom of "when change meets culture, culture invariably wins." Perfect. When change doesn’t materialize or happen quickly, we can blame the lack of dynamism in the company, workforce or (laughably) lack of imagination within our customer base.

For those working in or managing large, dispersed workforces, conveying a new idea is difficult at times and bringing new ideas through takes time to get the full "buy-in" that one would ideally wish. However, during the last 5-8 years, there has been a significant shift in where the balance of blame now lies. Yes, it’s hard to win people over initially. They do come over eventually. But it’s frankly impossible if the core business systems are not up to the task. Core business systems can become the wall of resistance.

The move toward 'customer-centricity'

There is a seismic change in the market dynamics, both internally and externally, in how we must engage prospects and customers. Prior to about 2000, most employees, prospects and customers were, at best, technology novices. The advent of the Internet and the rise of e-business, coupled with the introduction of the smartphone, iPad and other innovative devices rapidly altered the landscape forever, creating a new generation of digitally enabled individuals. Whether by adapting to digital technologies or being “born digital” we entered a new age of insurance that is underpinned by modern, emerging technologies.

In this new digital age, everyone has access to digital technology in his or her everyday personal lives. Yet, for many, their work life is a "trip back in time" due to old and frankly outdated systems. Green code-driven screens may have, for the most part, been replaced with graphical interfaces, but core systems are typically very long in the tooth and do not reflect the art of the possible.

But replacing these legacy systems is challenging. The insurance CIO bemoans the fact that requested work stretches out years into the future, keeping maintenance of legacy systems front and center; with the future vision no more than a vague dream. It is a major problem that cannot be solved as we did in the past, when we simply shifted more resources to maintain legacy systems.

The insurance industry, as a rule, is miles behind providing capabilities or convenience like an Amazon, Uber, various travel sites and even (heaven forbid) most banks. While there are differences in the products and the engagement lifecycle, customer expectations see no boundaries and expect the same "Amazon" experience from insurers.

Playing catchup

In today’s digital age, technology drives and underpins every organization. If change is to be brought about, the CIO must lead the way and provide the requisite business and technology platform that is the foundation for a rapidly changing future. Unless the CIO is released from trying to maintain and enhance tired non-conforming legacy systems, which consume a high percentage of both people and investment resources, it’s hard to see how insurers will ever catch up, let alone get ahead of the game.

It’s no longer just culture standing in the way of change. It's legacy core business systems as well.  The disruption and changes that are reshaping industries, and the businesses within them, are creating unprecedented growth opportunities for insurers who can capture the opportunities in terms of new risks, new markets, new customers, and the demand for new products and services. Cloud-first business solutions are the foundation for these insurers. They fit the fast-paced world where a new generation of start-ups, new product launches and expansion into new market segments is creating a new age of insurance.

This blog post first published at Majesco.com, and is reproduced with the express permission from Majesco. The opinions expressed here are the author’s own.

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