October 01, 2008

A full drum corps section paraded through the opening session of CSC's Connect 2008 conference on Tuesday to help announce the launch of POINT IN J, a Java EE compliant version of the vendor's P&C policy administration system. And with such fanfare, it's not too surprising that another announcement has gone, relatively speaking, unnoticed.Also on Tuesday morning during the opening session, CSC property & casualty division systems architect Bob Evans and Ray August introduced WikonnecT (a combination of the terms "wiki" and "Connect"), a CSC-hosted social network for its customer community. According to Evans and August, WikonnecT will run on a Sun Microsystems infrastructure and will include blogs, polls, and a feature that will keep customers informed and up-to-date on the latest software enhancements and deliveries. Users will also be able to rate and provide feedback on CSC solutions.

This launch may not impact the industry in as big a way as the POINT IN J launch might. In fact, WikonnecT may not have as big an impact of insurance as WiiConnect might have on video games. Although, I expect that it will more successful that another Wikonnect site, which appears to be a medicinal hemp users group.

Anyway, I'll be very interested to see if CSC's online community takes off. We could discuss the intriguing capabilities and functionality of WikkonecT but, in my experience, a social network's true value is directly linked to the participation of its users. After all, what's impressive and valuable about a MySpace or a Facebook is its scale. The value of CSC's WikonnecT, I think, will be similarly linked to how many users participate in the social network.

As Novarica principal Chad Hersh suggested to me yesterday while discussing the POINT IN J release, when CSC -- the 800-pound gorilla of the insurance technology space -- makes a move, everyone is bound to take notice. That's true when CSC develops a policy admin system in Java and when it decides to build a social network for its users. Now that a major player like CSC has entered the realm of social networks -- and that's not to say that the concept of creating an online social network is not completely foreign to other business software vendors -- maybe the idea is set to take off.

CSC is one of just a handful of vendors with enough customers and enough products to successfully create such an online community. If it takes off, it could prove to be a valuable tool to insurance carriers seeking peer-to-peer advice on how to best implement and support their CSC systems. It could even serve as a source of information for carriers that are in the midst of an RFP process.

I'm very skeptical as to whether or not CSC's customers will embrace WikonnecT. In general, most efforts like this do not end up achieving the desired results. For every successful Facebook or Wikipedia, there are many more similar ventures that have failed. However, for the few that do succeed -- we've learned with more mainstream Web 2.0 endeavors -- the heights of success and possibility are nearly limitless.CSC has introduced WikonnecT, a CSC-hosted social network for its customer community.

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