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12:31 PM
Deb Smallwood, SMA
Deb Smallwood, SMA

Don't be Dull: 3 Elements of Innovative Insurers

SMA founder Deb Smallwood writes that innovation is happening apace at insurers, with three key characteristics supporting the practice.

  • Align business and IT strategies, plans, and priorities. In today's rapidly changing market and technology environment, there is simply no time for taking the wrong path or for making investments in solutions that won't meet the needs of the business both today and in the future.

    Many transformation and innovation stories point to two fundamental success ingredients. First, the relationship between the insurer and the solution provider is collaborative and productive. Time spent at the front end of a decision to invest in a solution or an approach yields multiple dividends in the long run. Second, business and IT professionals are working together to choose and implement new solutions. With key stakeholders responsible for the success of a project, there is a higher chance for a solid return on the effort.

  • Incent a culture for innovation. The easy part of change is coming up with new ideas. The hard part is turning away from what has worked so well for so long. As employees have become more and more specialized, knowledge tends to get trapped in pockets throughout an organization. Resources are specialized and focused for efficiency. Rarely do employees have time to share what they are learning with others in the same or related jobs, or in different business areas. It's not a situation that is conducive to collaboration. The good news is that today, using tools and technologies that facilitate collaboration, insurers are able to work around and through the traditional organizational boundaries to tap into individual and collective knowledge.

    It's time for every insurer to look closely at how their IT investments are influencing and nurturing innovation. Next-gen technologies need to be taken seriously. They provide tremendous opportunities to enable the small actions that seed the big picture, and produce the greatest returns.

  • Create an agile foundation. In the never-ending quest to keep the business up to date and in step with customer and partner demands and expectations, the need for innovative thinking, active imagination, and fresh approaches are challenging insurers now more than ever. Insurers are not only facing a raised bar for customer satisfaction, they are seeing a whole new way of doing business emerge.

    The key watchword for the next decade is agility. To gain and maintain market share and keep the business operating with a satisfactory profit level, solutions and architectures will need to be adaptable, flexible, fluid, responsive, and more. The architecture is becoming an increasingly important factor in determining agility.

    There is no question that it is a time of many challenges for the industry. While it is easy to view the business climate through the glass-half-empty lens, it is important to note that the glass-half-full lens likely presents the most realistic picture. Opportunity abounds. More solution options are available now than could be imagined a mere five years ago – thanks to next-gen technologies. There are novel ways to reach and excite customers. Expanding, readily-accessible information and sophisticated analytics are providing insights to improve decision-making at every level of the business. Insurers can now harness and harvest the best of the innovative and forward thinking ideas.

    About the author: Deb Smallwood is founder of Strategy Meets Action (SMA) and is recognized for her expertise on investing in technology to influence competitive advantage in the insurance industry. Exclusively serving the insurance industry, SMAblends unbiased research findings with expertise and experience to deliver business and technology insights, research, and advice to insurers and IT solution providers. She can be reached at

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User Rank: Author
8/22/2013 | 4:26:07 PM
re: Don't be Dull: 3 Elements of Innovative Insurers
The point about issues around collaboration and more specialized staff is a growing problem. It's a big issue surrounding big data, where data and analytics teams sometimes have a time communicating with the lines of business because they have such different backgrounds and use different terminologies.
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