Insurance technology experts gathered at the IT Town Hall at the IASA Educational Conference and Business Show in Nashville this week. Rod Travers, Robert E. Nolan Company led the conversation starting with the social media topic and ending with change management. Panelists included:

Donald Light, Celent

Don Goodenow, StoneRiver

Kimberly Harris-Ferrante, Gartner

Euan King, Innovation Group

Mary Ellen Freyermuth, Catholic Mutual Group

The social media discussion centered around the risks involved and the effort needed to implement it properly. Harris-Ferrante said there is potential damage when it comes to social media and insurers need to be prepared to mind it 24/7. Therefore, most panelists, including Harris-Ferrante, said social media is the business’ responsibility, not IT’s.

Freyermuth said, “We recognize there’s value in social media. We just don’t know that it’s valuable for our specific company. So, we’re not even dipping our toes in that.”

For any insurer dipping their toes, Harris-Ferrante said, the approach should be more of an electronic presence rather that just a Facebook page for just a Twitter account. The social networking pages have to align with the brand and insurers need to maintain consistency.

The panelists then moved on to the topic of cloud computing and software-as-a-service. Insurers and vendors seem to be on the same page when it comes to cloud computing. Innovation Group’s King says the company’s concern isn’t delivering the product, it’s the security. Freyermuth echoed that concern. Her uneasiness with data security is the reason Catholic Mutual Group, is not getting involved.

Harris-Ferrante warned that there is a misconception and a potential long-term problem that the cloud can be used as a cheap way for the business to avoid working with IT. “Cloud is the best thing to happen to application service providers (ASP),” she said, indicating that the cost is similar and insurers are more comfortable with ASPs.

Looking to the future, the panelists really agreed that insurers’ systems need to be flexible and able to change with an insurer’s changing needs. One of those needs right now is distribution enablement. Harris-Ferrante says she’s seeing more spending on customer engagement/service tools right now.

An attendee asked the panelists to share their thoughts and suggestions on legacy replacement. Freyermuth said the problem with legacy replacement or any new technology implementation is change management, a culture change. Light highlighted two things IT need before implementation—executive sponsorship and hands-on experience for the people who will actually use the technology. Goodenow echoed this, saying engagement needs to start from the bottom up.

This story first appeared on the web site of Insurance Networking News.

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