Empowering Insurance Using Cloud

Ron Guerrier, CIO, Farmers Insurance Group, Inc.
34
73
17

Ron Guerrier, CIO, Farmers Insurance Group, Inc.

Technology has driven a paradigm shift in business operations today. In addition to catering to customer demands, companies seek to offer them an outstanding experience. In the insurance sector, serving the customers requires companies to be mindful of the needs of intermediaries like agents, besides their own staff. As a consequence, CIOs of insurance companies are tasked with the responsibility of addressing the issue on all fronts, along with improving the revenues or at least without impacting it adversely. Cloud technology has offered them a solution.

Task Ahead for CIOs

Cloud technology has disrupted the insurance sector, where companies have taken to leverage cloud to simplify business workflow besides improving user experience (UX) by offering attractive and user-friendly applications. This requires CIOs to ponder over technology, strategies, and security.

1. Leveraging both Technology and Experience

Technology remains at the forefront of customer-centric operations and therefore realizing this, Farmers has set up an Innovation Lab to examine the possibilities of next-generation technologies like mobile, Artificial Intelligence (AI), and Internet of Things (IoT), affecting the insurance industry which can help agents and customers alike. We also have an Experience Lab (XLab), where the technologies currently in vogue, are being examined for the benefits of agents and customers. Agents and other users are allowed to give their feedback on system drawbacks, which the company addresses. Based on the findings, Farmers identifies three main areas that companies can work on.

• Customers’ demand for agility and flexibility in being able to choose between numerous insurance offerings would remain. With customers putting forth demands like the inclusion of additional risks under an existing policy or flexibility in premium and payment period, insurance companies are witnessing a massive inflow and exchange of information, like never before. In this case, on-premise data centers cannot be feasible as the cost of data storage increases manifold. Cloud environments counter these problems by offering greater benefits in terms of cost and storage capacity.

• The second important thing is empowering the agents. Companies must be agent-based and customer-centric and therefore, agents must use the latest in technology to remain mobile and attend to customers’ demands sans hurdles. Here again, cloud becomes beneficial as mobile platforms connect with cloud environments more efficiently than traditional data centers. With over thirteen thousand agencies and thirty-five thousand exclusive agents and around forty thousand independent agents under its fold, Farmers accords immense priority to agent mobility and convenience.

• The third is the focus on customer-centric innovation for a healthy Return on Investment (RoI) and experience for customers. Cloud technology has enabled companies to offer personalized self-service application portals for customers to manage their insurance portfolios anywhere, anytime.

  ​CISOs must also be a part of the panel formulating the cloud strategy, as they are capable of identifying potential risks in various cloud environments   

2. Formulating a Cloud Strategy

With the cloud technology’s ability to help the insurance sector becoming clear, it is vital for CIOs to formulate the right strategy to implement the technology, within the business. An important element to factor while formulating a cloud strategy is the legacy systems. For start-ups with no legacy systems or data centers, cloud technology is the way forward; by hiring cloud vendors, these companies can remain customer-friendly from the start. Cloud systems—unlike legacy systems—offer configurability, which organizations can leverage to add more agents and customers.

In the case of larger enterprises, legacy systems have always played a crucial role due to which, a gradual migration to the cloud, by sun-setting them is advisable. This is because systems turn into legacies due to excessive customization following which their usage and maintenance can be carried out only by companies owning them. This could potentially impact the migration process. With widespread maintenance support, cloud-based systems are easier to maintain and can be customized to accommodate the “enterprise DNA.”

While migrating to the cloud, depending on their requirements and usage, companies can examine hybrid cloud models, which allow them to pay vendors accordingly. For example, companies using 2 Terra Bytes (TB) of space in a cloud, can pay vendors only for that amount, as opposed to data centers where they pay for 10 TB offered by vendors despite using only 2 TB. Cloud technology allows CIOs to discuss the economics through ROI and efficiency, unlike legacy systems. In case of problems, CIOs can coordinate between service providers and end-users, to address them. Further, CIOs could also seek the inclusion of new features into the services provided by the cloud vendors, for their agents’ (or customers’) benefit.

3. Balancing Growth and Security Concerns

Deploying more systems into the environment would only lead to greater inflow of data, which eventually presents security concerns. As a good amount of data dealt by insurance companies revolves around customers, CIOs and CISOs need to work in tandem to safeguard their enterprise cloud environments. Comprehensive assessment of cloud infrastructure by the CISOs is mandatory for going live. CISOs must also be a part of the panel formulating the cloud strategy, as they are capable of identifying potential risks in various cloud environments.

Also, to combat threats jointly and understand how different technologies can help in simplifying workflow besides enhancing customer experience, CIOs and cloud vendors today are debating the topics in online forums. The bottom line is that protecting enterprise assets and safeguarding customers along with their assets and data, comes first for a company.

Read Also

Three Considerations for Reducing Risk in Cloud Computing

Augustine Doe, VP, Enterprise Risk Management, Network Health

Red Hat and You

Jay Turner, Senior Director of Development and Operations, Console

The Changing Pace of Traditional Business

Shannon Werb, CIO & COO, vRad (Virtual Radiologic)