Over the past couple weeks, I’ve had CEB TowerGroup’s “Insurance IT Roadmap” on my desk to look at occasionally for inspiration and insights.

In talking about it with Karen Pauli, research director with CEB TowerGroup, she had several valuable takeaways to discuss. “The consumer and distributor value chain must be the starting point for all technology value assessments,” she said, and “the value of cloud technologies comes from convergence with other technology investments.”

But two things really stuck out: first, a lot of technologies reach critical mass, i.e. more insurers will have them than not, by 2014.

“2014 is a pivotal year, which means 2013 is a research year, a budgeting year, and then a lot will happen in 2014 in terms of adopting, particularly the business management technologies —predictive analytics, consumer marketing analytics, BPM, enterprise content management, and so on,” said Pauli. “I think at the end of 2014 we’re going to see leading carriers very well positioned to change business models, to think like the consumer, like the distributor, and then respond.”

In particular, Pauli believes cloud technology will become table stakes over the next two years as a supplemental technology.

The second major takeaway is, unfortunately, not a new discussion: IT/business relations. And this isn’t without good reason — as a risk-averse industry, it’s taken long enough for insurers to adapt to technology- and consumer-centric business models, and based on TowerGroup’s research it’s going to be a little while longer yet before they can comfortably, effectively communicate with IT. And if efforts to bridge this gap in communication are not persistent, insurers are in trouble.

“The business side is not articulating what value really means when it comes to things like product configurators, pricing optimization, predictive analytics; the business side is not getting down to the brass tacks and saying ‘this is what it gets us, and if we don’t do this, here’s what’s going to happen to us,’” said Pauli. “They don’t know how to say the right words that make sense to each other, and they don’t go deep enough in explaining their point of view.”

This insight comes from the fact that many industry CIOs shared an uncertainty regarding the value of several technologies, many of which were well entrenched on the IT Roadmap, such as unified customer communications, predictive analytics, BPM, pricing optimization, and so on. Pauli called this finding “unnerving,” going on to wonder, “how do you overcome that, because if people aren’t certain about value, then everything else is kind of a moot point.”

In order to fix this, not just communication, but IT/business integration must be a top priority.

Insurance IT units are making more creative attempts to bridge this gap, Pauli said, as there is more urgency behind communication as more and more technologies mature within the enterprise. She talked about examples she has heard from CIOs wanting to break up rooms full of IT workers in an attempt to distribute them to the business office they most engage with. A forced integration into day-to-day business activity is a literal way to shake up IT/business relations and one that emphasizes both casual and business interaction, which Pauli believes will lead to better understanding.

Also, given that more technologies are becoming table stakes and few are remaining competitive advantages, IT units are simultaneously looking outward for inspiration and ideas to change the way their businesses are run.

“There is a concerted effort to look at IT structures outside of insurance. Literally taking the CIO, SVP, AVPs, whoever, and making a day trip to, for example, Google, and really taking a look at technology completely outside of insurance and changing how they view it to think differently about how they can help the organization,” said Pauli.

For an industry repeatedly decried as being risk-averse and complicated, it appears as though insurers are bracing for a huge shift that will turn enterprises into tech-centric, consumer-centric and forward-looking operations. But first, insurers need to embrace the tools, people and ideas that will get them there.

This blog originally appeared at Insurance Networking News.

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