Former President George H. W. Bush famously quipped about what happens without “the vision thing,” a tendency to lose sight of long-term objectives because of the focus on near-term priorities. That tendency exists not only in government, but in businesses and other organizations as well.

“We trade off the future for the present all the time,” says ACORD President and CEO Gregory A. Maciag. “Sometimes it is done on purpose for financial reasons, but most often it happens unintentionally simply because the future offers less clarity than the present does.”

Overcoming the tendency to fixate on the present is something that ACORD works hard to accomplish, and Maciag’s remarks on Wednesday focused squarely on the vision of ACORD for the future. “We are looking ahead not just to the next year, but to the end of this decade,” he says. “Our vision for 2020 is already taking shape.”

Shaping the Future

Maciag opened the 2012 ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum along with LOMA President and CEO Robert A. Kerzner. An overarching theme of Maciag’s presentation was that ACORD is an organization that not only provides support to the insurance industry, it is also positioned to take a leading role in influencing technological developments to support business needs. ACORD, he says, is aligning its vision with plans and actions all leading to improved delivery and implementation of the standards.

“One of our goals is to provide true plug-and-play standards,” Maciag explains. “Another is the deployment of a new model-based standards development platform that is already underway. Its core will be based on the models from the ACORD Framework. Having that new platform in place will also allow us to change how we engage our committees and how we manufacture standards.”

Importantly, those standards are being directed by stakeholders — insurers, agents and brokers, and solution providers — using the latest collaboration technology. “The future can be seen today because it is being shaped by industry people with real-world knowledge and experience,” he says. “In other industries, such as manufacturing, crowd-sourcing and other social networking techniques directly influence design. We want to take full advantage of those collaborative techniques as well.”

Improving Delivery

ACORD will also be changing the way it delivers standards. “The future for us includes standards that are more timely, simpler to implement, easier to maintain, and that better meet individual requirements with greater granularity. We are also creating a new ACORD Forms Portal on our website to better manage the library of electronic forms making them more accessible to both form users and solution providers who are utilizing them within their products,” Maciag explains.

Web services will become more important in how standards are distributed, and ACORD will change its methods accordingly. “We are updating our systems to take advantage of web services,” Maciag says. “That will allow us to provide more and better ways for developers to access and consume standards and utilize them in their products and services. “

Maciag detailed how insurers can measure the impact of standards adoption within the enterprise. “We encourage insurers to take an overarching enterprise view of industry standards and to make them part of IT governance supported by a rigorous cost benefit analysis,” he says.

Since it is often difficult to demonstrate future value of standards adoption in exchange for dollars spent today, ACORD is also working on tools to help members measure their return on investment. “Because development projects that involve standards compete with other priorities for resources, those metrics are invaluable in justifying investments in standards,” says Maciag. “It’s also important to look at the costs of not having Standards in place.” Plans are to release the research results this October at the ACORD Implementation Forum.

ACORD will also be introducing a new version of testing and certification tools and a suite of utilities that will span all the standards currently in place.

Maciag’s presentation also featured a short video on how ACORD is upgrading and improving its communications and social media platforms. Using more interactive tools and leveraging Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn, and streaming video are all part of the effort.

“People are busy today. We need to eliminate the noise and provide timely, relevant information,” Maciag says. This means providing its membership and the industry with the information needed as well as a method for communicating and collaborating on a wide range of topics.

Embracing the Future

“The future is an exciting place,” Maciag says. “There will be smarter phones, faster communications, wireless electricity, cloud computing and more personal devices, just to mention a few.” All of those developments will impact the work of ACORD and are part of the current planning process.

“We monitor trends, plug into research firms and shape the ACORD vision, then plan accordingly,” Maciag says. ACORD is also paying attention to mobile applications, e-signature solutions, telematics, password management, and electronic policy delivery.

“No one can say for sure what the future holds for insurers” Maciag adds. “However, Industry standards have proven to be enablers of business value that help to ‘future-proof’ organizations from inevitable changes in technology.”