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Choosing a digital platform; five ways to spot a winning product

By: Slav Todorov

October 18, 2018

Slav Todorov

Digital platforms are transforming the landscape of the insurance industry. They are allowing traditional insurers previously held back by slow and inflexible legacy infrastructure to become more efficient and embrace new opportunities. They are helping these incumbent businesses to implement, more easily, the lessons learnt from insurtech challengers and hyperscale competitors.

Core offerings and connected platforms

The new digital platforms have, at their core, powerful, real-time data processing capabilities which are replacing monolithic, batch-processing systems.

Agile, responsive architecture is facilitating fast and fine-grained data analysis. The integration of machine learning and AI technology is driving efficiencies for insurers, making new insights and approaches to old business problems possible.

This new technology is doing away with the traditional data silos of the creaking old legacy systems. Integrated reporting dashboards are helping businesses make sense of data and informing faster decision making about new products and strategy.

New products; new opportunities

In an agile world, the range of products and services insurers can offer are continually expanding; products that offer fantastic customer experiences, together with increased sales and retention potential for incumbents.

As more companies take the leap and replace their core systems, decisions being made right now by these new platform providers will impact upon their customers’ futures in a variety of ways.

But how do you go about selecting a new insurance process platform to form the foundational layer of your whole systems architecture?

Here are 5 key areas to consider when choosing the right core solution for your business:

1. How responsive can a solution be?

The most successful platform providers will be committed to creating future-proof digital ecosystems for their customers. This means using SOA (Service Oriented Architecture) to enable different applications to connect via their Enterprise Service Bus (ESB) with ease.

Given the rapid pace of technological change in the industry, the sheer scale of innovation in AI, mobile, wearable and telematics, any digital platform needs to be able to accommodate rapid deployment of new products with the minimum of effort and disruption.

As Andrew Rose, president and CEO of Compare.com has commented;

“You have to believe that tomorrow somebody’s going to attack you. And you have to be acting very, very fast. The second that you slow down, somebody’s going to pass you. Insurance companies operate on slower timescales. You can’t do that. The market will pass you by.”

When choosing a new digital platform, insurers should consider the promised timescale for a new product of average complexity to be configured and bought to market. Will it take two weeks? A month? Six months?

Only the most flexible, agile platforms will be able to support the kind of rapid fire, customer centred approach to product development that the future market will demand.

2. Interoperability

While platform owners may have suppliers of various applications with whom they already connect, their platform should be truly agnostic, and not limit customers to consume only the services or software versions that they dictate.

Can a prospective vendor’s service bus use "foreign" configuration data (provided by third party rule engines) as well as allowing external suppliers to configure to their specifications.

At the same time, it’s worth asking if a vendors’ platform provides for backward compatibility. Can old versions of applications run on an upgraded platform without extensive recoding? Ideally, a customer will only need a patch to upgrade, but many systems are simply ‘building out’ support for older products in their latest platform versions.

The new digital platforms should be reducing friction in the digital ecosystem, not contributing to it.

3.Customization

The era of ‘one size fits’ all insurance solutions is at an end. As customers are demanding increasingly bespoke services, so insurers are themselves requiring increasingly bespoke solutions for their core systems.

Businesses will need platforms with the flexibility to let them design and manage their own user interfaces for staff and customers using standard components. These will include product configurators offering low code solutions to create great UX and tailored offerings. In addition, businesses will benefit from workflow tools to help build out complex business processes and deliver new products to market smoothly and efficiently.

4.Scale

The digital platform market is increasingly global. Few core system providers are operating only locally. There is huge competition in the sector which is leading to takeovers and extensive market consolidation.

Is the company whose platform you are considering investing in likely to be bought out in the future? Does their platform have the reach, scope and range of supported products to win out in the long run? The wholesale migration of systems is a task, ideally, you’ll only have to perform once.

5.Vision

The vision of your proposed platform provider is key. Are they committed to developing powerful systems in their own right, but flexible enough to recognise the future of insurance is far from set in stone? Does their system architecture reflect a consumer-led approach to product design and implementation? Have they got the track record to deliver at scale, but the vision to learn and innovate at speed. You should be able to speak to their customers and partners to get a sense of how the company operates. You should be able to see how their vision has been translated into product and working practice.

The right platform will be the whole package - solid, dependable, future-facing and future proof. The company who are responsible for its maintenance and development should possess the same qualities.

Slav Todorov

Written by Slav Todorov

An actuary at heart, Slav has an extensive background in the insurance business. With a career spanning almost ten years, he was involved in the pre-sales and POC with over 30 insurance carriers across the globe. Slav comes armed with an in-depth knowledge of how information technology can best support insurance.

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