The insurance industry is undergoing an "experience" revolution brought about by the rapid market penetration, extreme flexibility, and tremendous value provided by tablet-based technologies. The footprint of computing has forever changed: Clients now expect advisors to leverage tablet devices in business; and most expect the experience to be delivered as though it has always existed, instead having just emerged in the last three years.
The real and imagined tablet experience is changing the face of insurance and financial technology. Expectations are being set that all software should be a "killer app." When you look at the requirement that technology must now service the diverse and fragmented Apple/Android, tablet/smartphone landscape, there are several valid options with many business factors that must be considered when driving these decisions.
Embracing the Tablet Experience from Carrier to Distribution
In the insurance industry, existing, diverse distribution models have unique and distinct requirements and environments that often eliminate tremendous upheavals in the end user experience. This is due to existing technology investments and platforms introduced prior to the invention of tablet devices.
In each of these distribution channels the business processing platform is provided by various players depending on the channel, and they must be integrated into up and downstream workflows.
For the channel that relies directly on the insurance carrier for technology, the technology footprint is generally small and nimble with the ability to adapt and quickly provide support for tablet devices.
Platforms provided by the distribution channels themselves are often much more complex and mature, fully integrated workflow-based platforms where providing support for a diverse fractured mobile environment presents unique and varied challenges. The distribution provided platforms have historically led the technology curve in our marketplace, and this has been leveraged as a marketed value for recruitment and retention.
How Tablets are Changing Technology Workflows
Tablet devices, in a short three years, have forever changed the landscape for carriers, distribution, software providers, and clients. No longer will a carrier's distribution channels muddle through a learning curve to adapt to an optional new technology workflow. They expect technology to be easy and provide convenience. And if it does not, they simply will not adapt to it; the user drives the software design. If the technology is not immediately intuitive, the carrier has simply opened another business process and added to overall costs.
This does not mean it is not possible to provide support for tablet devices. I'm simply pointing out the changing and unique challenges these devices have brought to the forefront of software design, and depending on approach, the decision can be extremely expensive and impact long term strategy. The imperative is to define a strategic approach to the tablet question and work with technologists to deliver the tablet experience that the carrier's unique distribution channels need for adoption.
Talking about Tablets
Tablet devices are here to stay and the marketplace behind these will continue to expand the capabilities, the form factor, and diversity of these devices. So whatever is built must be built in a flexible means to support and adapt to a new speed of change being driven by this marketplace.
Also, technology typically must adapt to the way business is currently conducted; and it is only revolutionary technologies that can impact and change the business process. I think in the insurance vertical, we are dealing with both depending on where you are in the sales and distribution channel. The portability and presentation flexibility of these devices have the potential to provide a completely new sales experience, eliminating paper and leveraging tablet based e-signature with the elimination and automation of the check transmissions to the insurance carrier--all while providing an experience to the sales agent and client that makes sense and provides value they didn't even know they wanted.
About the author: Jim Ferrell is VP, FireLight Product Management for Insurance Technologies. He is in charge of defining marketplace entry and compliance necessary to ensure product alignment with client business needs. He is actively engaged within industry organizations including IRI, DTCC and ACORD.