3 Trends in Insurance Technology Training
1. A More Specialized World
Mark Clark, CIO (pictured at right) Jackson National Life (Lansing, Mich.)
IT training has become much more specialized, as IT roles themselves have become much more specialized. Training for these skills has also become much more consistent across various organizations. One manifestation of this phenomenon is that training materials have become increasingly focused on certifications and less on practical training.
I firmly believe that extensive training is needed in all areas of IT. On one hand, there are the legacy systems that require skills in mainframe-centric technologies such as Cobol, VSAM and CICS. We need to train more in those areas, since many professionals in the market who are familiar with those specific skills are retiring, and those systems are still widely used across the industry. On the other hand, there are myriad emerging technologies – mobile is one example – in which training and retraining is required in order to develop applications in a constantly changing environment. To counter this rapid pace, we seek to build these programs with as much code reuse between devices as possible, so our employees can easily transfer knowledge from one application to another. Furthermore, there are the technologies where the supply of resources does not meet the demand, such as in the Java/Web development world, requiring us to train in those areas as well. That list can be expanded to include infrastructure skills such as Web admins, DBAs, Unix and Linux admins. As such, it is difficult to pinpoint a specific area where training is most needed, but there are many technologies – both modern and legacy – that require a specific skill-set.
The IT needs of the organization depend on what specific role the associate plays. For programming, system support and testing, I often draw a box with four quadrants, where the vertical axis measures technical skills from low to high, and horizontal axis measures insurance-specific or insurance system-specific skills from low to high. The most effective people will live in the top right quadrant, where they have both technical and industry-specific skills. If you move them out of the place where they know both, they instantly become less effective. So training in both categories is extremely important when you live in the world of insurance system programming support and development.
If you work on the infrastructure side, then knowledge of networks, Unix administration, Linux administration, security and other similar jobs do not require a lot of insurance-specific knowledge.
For example, at Jackson, we have 500 associates on the systems and programming side, and 300 associates on the infrastructure side. Training on the technical side is somewhat easier, as specific certifications are available and training is more consistent across all industries. Insurance industry training is available through LOMA, but we also rely on vendors, in-house developed training materials, and on-the-job training for most insurance systems.