Applications, which have saturated the global market in the hundreds of thousands, arguably have a singular focus: to simplify users' lives. So when the "appification" trend made its way to the insurance industry, hopes were high for streamlined processes. Consumer insurance apps for policy management are now fairly common, and First Notice of Loss apps are used regularly to ensure agents receive timely and accurate claim loss data.
But similar to some of the hundreds of thousands of apps created for the global market at large, still other insurance apps, intended for insurers to have easier access to data, haven't made enough of an impact to be deemed particularly useful. Why? Because these applications are designed without intent: Data is dumped on the user, and is out of context and unfocused. As a result, insurers are overwhelmed with information and unable to make informed decisions on policy quotes, support calls, claims adjustments and other such transactions.
Just like in any other industry, big data in the insurance industry has made available tomes of internal and external data. While having more information to work with can be a boon, data delivered without context is counterproductive. Indeed, too often insurance apps were designed with little thought given to what the user actually wants to do with the gathered data other than present more data in a more colorful, graphical mobile way.
But when an app is designed with intent, the data delivered is put into context and becomes meaningful -- it now has a purpose. Designing an app with intent must begin by identifying and understanding a specific need or use-case, and building the application around that. Doing this is actually very difficult: It means the scope of what an app can do must be reined in. A laserlike focus must always be kept; otherwise, the app is at risk of being useless.
As well as creating a purpose for an app, to have context it must also have meaningful content. Therefore, appropriate data must be collected, filtered, merged, prioritized and indexed – in other words the data must be curated; a process to metamorphose data into context rich information.
Information is now in context and consumable, and delivered in a way that maps directly back to a specific task. Insurers are presented with actionable intelligence that translates to more efficient and streamlined processes, and better overall decision-making. For example, a comparative application will provide industry context around an insurer's performance measures, delivering peer insurer benchmarks. A forensics application for hail facilitates communications with policyholders and enables the insurer to efficiently deploy resources to areas that have seen hail. This type of application can also curb fraud by validating the severity of hail for claims and policies. Yet another example is an application that evaluates the present and future impact of external events and internal decisions such as business process changes, product innovations or capital investments.
Indeed, the appification of the insurance industry has far-reaching implications, not only in helping streamline internal processes to better serve clients, but also in helping to limit fraud, assist in risk management and usages we haven't yet imagined. But in order to achieve these benefits, intent in design and a laser focus on serving a singular need with each application must be considered. Only then will insurance applications deliver consumable, usable data, and continue to live up to their potential.
About the author: Eugene Lee is senior director of new initiatives at Guidewire.