By now, most insurance technologists accept certain truths about "cloud" or "as-a-service" delivery models for business applications: They create opportunities to reduce IT maintenance costs and complexity while allowing increased scalability. While concerns about security of precious policyholder and business data constrained early adoption, maturation in the sector has led a growing number of insurance companies to attempt implementations.
Cypress Insurance moved to the cloud so it could "become more efficient, be more competitive, deliver products faster, and react to rate and regulatory issues," according to senior VP Dan Colarusso.
"The new approach was to develop completely new architecture and related operational efficiencies," he explains. "We have more positive control to react to the market much quicker by having that control ourselves."
Insurers are also finding that the flexibility afforded by the cloud helps meet many business imperatives in an increasingly anytime, anywhere world.
"From an insured perspective, there are many initiatives on the table that we want to be able to provide them, such as being able to file a claim electronically, being able to check billing, being able to interact with customer service people in a real-time environment," says Andre Nieuwendam, director of IT for United Property & Casualty Insurance Co. "And with an internalized local network, we can't achieve that. Being in the cloud has enabled us to meet all of these objectives in a very, very short period of time."
And that need for speed doesn't just apply to policyholders. Insurance company employees, too, have expectations for delivery that can be met using the cloud. Alex Salop, director of enterprise product marketing for Brainshark, has found a niche for his company's software-as-a-service training system in providing agent-based companies with an easy way to disburse training or regulatory information to the field force.
"There's a need to reach people located all over the place, especially with a mobile workforce," he says. "Insurers are trying to figure out ways to get information out rapidly to the field -- while still having an audit trail that you need for regulatory purposes."
While moving to the cloud requires an adjustment period, most insurers are weathering the unsettled environment well. It's important to embrace the change and make sure everyone's buying in, according to Alan Gutowski, finance manager for the City of Albuquerque, which uses a cloud-based system for its self-insured workers' compensation and liability organizations.
"You're just defeating the purpose by creating workarounds and Band-Aids," he says. You can never expect a system to be what it was with an old system. Part of it is a change in culture and getting the acceptance."
Following are four examples of insurers that are getting that buy-in and finding success with cloud-based systems.
Anthony O'Donnell also contributed to this report.
Nathan Golia is senior editor of Insurance & Technology. He joined the publication in 2010 as associate editor and covers all aspects of the nexus between insurance and information technology, including mobility, distribution, core systems, customer interaction, and risk ... View Full Bio