It has been interesting to see insurance companies wade into the exciting but still-untested waters of social media and mobile computing. While the industry's inherent risk aversion is perhaps somewhat slowing the pace of these initiatives, neither do carriers seem to be taking their traditional wait-and-see approach to new technologies. It's not so much, "Let's watch how this plays out," as "What do we need to know and do to take advantage of this?"
This focus on mobile and social media is in sync with the roster of Top 10 Strategic Technologies for 2011 that Gartner introduced at its recent 2010 Symposium/IT Expo. Strategic technologies, according to Gartner, have "the potential for significant impact on the enterprise in the next three years. Factors that denote significant impact include a high potential for disruption to IT or the business, the need for a major dollar investment, or the risk of being late to adopt." Here is the top 10 list, with some of Gartner's analysis of the impact of these developments:
Cloud Computing -- "Gartner expects large enterprises to have a dynamic sourcing team in place by 2012 that is responsible for ongoing cloudsourcing decisions and management."
Mobile Applications and Media Tablets -- "Gartner estimates that by the end of 2010, 1.2 billion people will carry handsets capable of rich, mobile commerce providing an ideal environment for the convergence of mobility and the Web."
Social Communications and Collaboration -- "By 2016, social technologies will be integrated with most business applications. Companies should bring together their social CRM, internal communications and collaboration, and public social site initiatives into a coordinated strategy."
Video -- "Gartner believes that video will become a commonplace content type and interaction model for most users, and by 2013, more than 25 percent of the content that workers see in a day will be dominated by pictures, video or audio."
Next-Generation Analytics -- "It is becoming possible to run simulations or models to predict the future outcome, rather than to simply provide backward-looking data about past interactions, and to do these predictions in real time to support each individual business action."
Social Analytics -- or, "the process of measuring, analyzing and interpreting the results of interactions and associations among people, topics and ideas."
Context-Aware Computing -- defined as "the concept of using information about an end-user or object's environment, activities, connections and preferences to improve the quality of interaction with that end user."
Storage Class Memory -- As flash memory proliferates, "Given the cost premium, simply building solid state disk drives from flash will tie up valuable space on all the data in a file or entire volume, while a new explicitly addressed layer, not part of the file system, permits targeted placement of only the high-leverage items of information that need to experience the mix of performance and persistence available with flash memory."
Ubiquitous Computing -- or, "the coming third wave of computing where computers are invisibly embedded into the world."
Fabric-Based Infrastructure and Computers -- defined as, "a modular form of computing where a system can be aggregated from separate building-block modules connected over a fabric or a switched backplane."
Although there's nothing particularly surprising on this list, insurance executives may not have anticipated how completely and quickly technologies we once considered "personal" are transforming business transactions, processes and communications. We will be discussing the potential impact of many of these developments at I&T's 12th Annual Executive Summit, "Gearing Up for Growth," which kicks off on November 7 at the Boulders Resort in Carefree, Ariz. Stay tuned for additional insights into how the insurance industry is embracing the next wave of technology.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio