September 22, 2010 – The verdict  is in: the National Bureau of Economic Research (NBER), a panel of the nation's leading economists who are looked upon to call the “official” starts and ends to recessions, said the most recent recession — what some pundits call “The Great Recession” — ended back in June of 2009.

That's not to say everything turned rosy in July of that year; that means the leading economic indicators hit their lowest points, and began to climb upward from that point. Indeed, I did not hear a lot of cheering or see dancing in the streets with yesterday's NBER's announcement — unemployment (and underemployment for that matter) remains too high, many businesses remain stressed, and many government programs are being cut. (Also, NBER added that any new downturn would be considered a new recession, not a continuation of the 2007-2009 downturn.)

Still, as I've mentioned in previous posts, the NBER announcement confirms what many industry executives and managers may already instinctively grasp — it's time to move out of the storm shelters and focus priorities once again on growth and new markets. But as I alluded to a couple of months back, this is not time for IT as usual.

Those companies that can closely integrate technology into their business to run smarter will see competitive advantage in the new economy that is emerging. Sustainable competitive advantage may come from the following areas:

  •  Employing analytics to better target customer needs, life stages and prevent fraud. Analytics may help prevent future financial meltdowns by better alerting companies to risk factors.
  •  Moving to public cloud, private cloud and hybrid cloud (integrating public and private cloud services) where it makes the most sense. Insurers may not need to build or maintain multiple data centers to gain access to technology.
  •  Taking advantage of shared services both within and from outside the enterprise, via service-oriented architecture and Software-as-a-Service.
  •  Embracing new forms of client access, such as mobile technologies, which are growing as a way to exchange data and communication with customers and between employees. Insurance Networking News editor Carrie Burns explores the possibilities in her latest post.
  • Leveraging social media tools to help employees collaborate on the inside as well as actively engage with customers on the outside.
  •  Being open to new ideas and innovation. This is easy to say, but difficult to put into practice. Social networks may help open the doors to innovation.

The world is a much different place coming out of the Great Recession than it was going in, and those companies that are technology savvy can ride the next boom.
This story originally appeared on Insurance Networking News.

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