With many insurers still attempting to shake off the effects of the soft market and get back on track, a large number have looked to technology to help bridge the gap. But given the mixed reports so far this year regarding expected IT spend among insurers, where should that paucity of liquidity go?

Gartner Inc. today released a list of 10 technologies that it expects to have the greatest impact on property/casualty insurers. These technologies, the research and consulting firm says, will challenge existing business processes, support the emergence of new business models and allow companies to differentiate themselves to drive revenue growth.

The top 10 technologies are as follows:

1. Modern policy and claims management systems: Modern policy and claims management systems have been developed that are componentized (sold independently, rather than in a suite)—both with enhanced workflow and business process management (BPM) capabilities, and rules that are separate from the source code for easy configuration—that support industry standards, and that are built on newer technology platforms. The adoption of these systems by personal and commercial P&C insurers can provide significant value, including reducing the total cost of ownership when legacy systems are decommissioned, faster rules and workflow changes, easier integration with surrounding systems and improved long-term maintenance.

2. Web services and SOA tools: P&C insurers operate a large ecosystem of systems and applications that integrate for seamless processing. In the past, companies had to hard-code integration between systems, which was costly, time-consuming, created challenges when applications were replaced and integration had to be redone, and was often difficult overall due to technology incompatibility. The use of Web services/service-oriented architecture (SOA) enables companies to deploy services instead of using one-to-one integration. These technologies will help insurers improve their straight-through processing (STP) capabilities, and reduce integration costs.

3. Business intelligence and analytics: In 2010, P&C insurers are increasing their focus on improving how data is used, and the value derived from past investments in data warehousing. The outcome will be improved risk management, compliance/reporting and customer intelligence, which can be used for personalization, as well as decisions regarding channels and products, and insight into performance and process problems.

4. Predictive modeling tools: Traditional data analysis processes are typically historical (analysis and reporting of the past) or current day (analysis and reporting of current-day positions). Using predictive modeling technologies, insurers can analyze data and create models that will enable them to predict future behaviors or outcomes. This will allow companies to look into the future and make predictions based on historical data analysis, pattern recognition and modeling. This insight will help companies avoid risks, understand future customer behavior (so that they can intervene as needed), offer proactive customer service, project losses due to catastrophes and improve underwriting profitability.

5. Advanced fraud detection solutions: It's key that insurers reduce losses and leakage to retain profitability. Better control of fraud is essential in accomplishing these goals. Advanced tools analyze data (structured and unstructured) to identify fraudulent claims in real time at point of data entry. This will assist P&C insurers in reducing losses that result in driving up operational costs, and may result in companies having to increase insurance premiums based on these losses.

6. Web 2.0 and social networking technology: Driven by the increasing use of social networking among consumers and policyholders, leading-edge insurers quickly began to set up their own communities, monitor social networking conversations and create content for the network. Social networking may have a disruptive impact on the industry as it increasingly becomes a trusted source of advice among consumers. When used by P&C insurers, however, it can help organizations gain knowledge regarding consumer behavior and opinions, improve competitive intelligence, generate leads and strengthen the brand with younger consumers.

7. Product development and configuration solutions: One of the top business priorities among P&C insurers is improving speed to market for new products. Legacy environments make this task difficult, if not impossible. New systems will help drive down product development cost but, more importantly, will allow insurers to get products to market faster than their peers that continue to rely on legacy systems. Furthermore, it will allow leading-edge companies to be product leaders that can create niche products in a cost-effective manner, respond quickly to emerging product needs, and support on-demand customization of products. All of this is linked to revenue generation and customer attrition.

8. BPM solutions, including workflow and rule engines: BPM holds promise for insurance because it enables companies to model, analyze and test business processes independent of core systems. Process problems can be easily identified, and companies can manage process variety (offering various processes for a single task for different user groups). The use of BPM suites will result in insurers being more customer-centric, driving improved user experiences through the Web channel, faster transaction processing, staffing productivity improvements, lower cost of transaction processing, more-consistent decision making, improved risk management and improved customer service.

9. Portal and Internet technologies: The Internet has become a core component of operations for personal and commercial lines P&C insurers. It is a tool to interact with agents, consumers and policyholders. The use of portal technologies for agents and policyholders is critical as a means to offer access to sales/customer service systems, corporate information and data. Using portals for self-service for both constituencies will help companies drive down costs when there is adequate user adoption, while empowering users to conduct transactions themselves. In addition to the portal, interactive Web technologies also are needed to improve the user experience. This will result in cost savings, attract online shoppers wanting to buy new products and help prevent customer turnover.

10. Mobile devices/technologies: P&C insurers are being confronted with the growing need to offer more services to agents and consumers through mobile devices—and demand will intensify during the next five years. Users expect Web sites to be accessible via handheld devices, and that certain transactions can be supported on mobile devices as well. Mobile technologies also will provide P&C insurers with a tool to equip their agents with real-time information and contacts. Launching mobile applications is becoming popular, especially in the United States, for P&C insurers that want to generate a new brand image, and offer customers tools for finding an agent or submitting a claim.

This article can also be found at insurancenetworking.com.

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