Analytical Intelligence Influencing Insurance

By Ravi Krishna, CIO, Woodruff-Sawyer & Co

The Technological Emphasis

Technology at Woodruff Sawyer is envisioned to be a key driver to future business growth, rather than merely being a back-office function. In other words, all key business leaders at the company are looking at technology as a critical enabler to their future growth objectives. An example, a big initiative as we speak is that of Data Analytics. We are developing an enterprise and industry-wide data management platform that will generate user-demand dashboards, reports and visual analysis that will cater to three constituencies–(a) data that will help us optimize internal process/workflow efficiencies; (b) reports and data that will measure employee value and workforce productivity, and, (c) intelligence that will drive better customer delight by enabling our knowledge of predictive customer behavior.

Another huge initiative for us is customized portal development for our clients to enable a personalized, converged customer experience. A static, generic web presence is no longer satisfactory; what we are working on is creation and deployment of client portals that (a) establish the unique array of business offerings that we provide, while offering a unified company view, and, (b) empowering our clients with an end-to-end consumer experience in the context of their transactional relationship with Woodruff Sawyer & Company. This initiative is in the works and will be delivered within the next year.

The Mission

There is no true end-to-end process automation solution in our industry, and that is the biggest reason of angst in my mind. Why this is critical is because the lack of true seamless automation in the soup-to-nuts process chain means that there are interim steps in the process that are left ‘siloed’ (or non-automated), and thus, are a hindrance to overall workflow optimization. To resolve this challenge, the key is for technology vendors to be business-proficient first. While I do believe that industry specialization is not a mandate for technology vendors, I also feel strongly that they need to envision and create technology tools by thinking like business users, rather than as ‘tool makers.’ It is exactly this mindset that succeeded with the manufacturing sector in the 1990s (with ERP) and the healthcare sector in the 2000s. Truly, technology tools and applications are easier to find today; it is a lot more difficult to carve out a tailored technology solution that caters to a specific business need with its process nuances. The onus in ensuring such a tailored solution is very much on the vendor.

The Market Disruptions

As mentioned above, big data is paramount in empowering our industry from three clear dimensions---process optimization, workforce productivity and above all, predictive client behavior and customer intimacy. In a volume-intensive, highly variable industry landscape such as ours, being able to establish, understand and predict a certain degree of trendline behavior is worth its weight in gold. Enlightened customer knowledge is a strong propeller to providing an optimal omni-channel experience and enables brokerages such as ours to identify opportunities for cross-servicing business propositions that we have not had the ability to identify in the past.

Of course, in addition, cloud is important due to its fit with current business priorities: it provides the capabilities we need on a fluid basis, allows us to respond quickly and cost-effectively to our industry’s growing needs. With its on-demand usage and payment model, along with its core tenet of virtualization, cloud prevents us from getting bogged down by time-bound, rigid, capital expenditure decisions. Scalability, sustainability, resiliency and innovation are the four pillars of our technology charter at Woodruff Sawyer. For us to succeed along these pillars, our stack needs to be in the cloud. We are well on our way towards accomplishing our cloud objectives within this calendar year.

Focus on Flexibility

Again, as stated above, solution creators need to understand our sub-sector processes thoroughly. In addition, the solutions stack itself needs to be modular, so as to allow for customization in its deployment and adoption amongst the variegated types of companies that make up our industry sub-sector. Flexibility in the offerings---from the perspective of solution modules, type of service and support, flavors of managed hosting and infrastructure, and in variety of industry sub-segment customization---is not just a nice-to-have anymore; it is an essential value proposition for a technology vendor.

Patience is the Key

There are two big lessons that we have learned in the last couple of years since having embarked on this transformational technology roadmap. First, glitches are inevitable. No system/solution will be perfect starting Day One. The key is to stay patient as business adopter, and to be responsive as a technology provider. Technology creation and adoption is an iterative process and requires tremendous investment of patience, time, and techno-enthusiasm. Second, nothing is impossible. Today’s technology provider universe is changing by the minute. Solutions are getting faster, more user-friendly, more open-ended, significantly stronger, and more malleable than ever. So, for any new business requirement, I would be very hesitant to say No, because chances are better than even that there is a solution for every problem. The key is to ensure full alignment on the business service/problem statement, and to ensure that the requisite technology solution is tailored to perfectly fit the defined problem statement.

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