Latest Opinion piece for you, looking at Business Continuity vs. Uncertainty: Why Modern IT Makes the Difference, authored by Kyle McNabb, SVP of Product Marketing, ASG Technologies;
Today’s decision-makers are tasked with ensuring operations and core business functions are not severely impacted by COVID-19—in other words, that their business continuity plans deliver. Few companies were prepared for the consequences of the current pandemic. To keep the lights on in the near term, insurance companies have needed to enable a remote workforce and maintain IT systems and infrastructure amidst varied employee scheduling. In the long term, they must grapple with a “new normal” that we don’t currently understand. It’s difficult to anticipate what the insurance industry will look like next year, let alone what lays ahead next month.
With so much uncertainty, it is more important than ever that organizations revisit their business continuity plans. Historically, business continuity has been used interchangeably with disaster recovery—focusing on rebounding from sudden challenges and restoring business to “normal” as quickly as possible. However, with COVID-19, returning to “normal” isn’t the goal, nor is it an immediate possibility. Organizations must assess business continuity through a new lens: how to respond to continuous, ongoing change.
According to an ongoing Accenture and Oxford Economics survey, one-third (32.4%) of senior executives rarely update their operating model. With this stagnancy, it is not surprising that most organizations did not consider prolonged remote work and related disruptions in their continuity plans. While IT infrastructure plays just one role in operating models—and business continuity—it must be reliable, agile and flexible, equipping companies to handle the unexpected.
Digital Transformation Enables Responsiveness
COVID-19 has only strengthened the case for digital transformation in the insurance industry. To be responsive, organizations need to embrace digitization—from managing and trusting information, to enabling the workforce and improving productivity, to automating where possible. Many firms have delayed initiating digital transformation in recent years. They saw it as merely improving customer experiences and engagement or streamlining processes—they did not focus on how digital transformation could help them become more responsive.
They certainly did not realize how digital transformation directly relates to their business continuity plans. IT-related barriers also deterred some companies. Many insurers—primarily those in the personal property and casualty areas of the industry—have legacy mainframes. The idea of digitizing and modernizing that environment seemed too costly. It would require investments in technology as well as talent and skillsets.
Today, however, every board and executive looks to digital capabilities to enable them to become more responsive to constant change. Digital transformation allows organizations to prepare for the unknown future. An outdated IT infrastructure should not be an organization’s top barrier during pivotal times, such as a pandemic. For full business continuity, organizations must not only weather the immediate storm but also be ready what’s next. By modernizing systems, removing inefficiencies, addressing vulnerabilities, and digitizing information for enhanced access, IT can better support a new definition of business continuity.
Insurers that embrace digital transformation on an enterprise-wide basis can leverage capabilities such as automation, artificial intelligence, process management and orchestration, and information management. With these tools, organizations are better able to respond to the complexity of COVID-19 and what’s around the next corner. First, firms can better manage information.
This disruption has put greater pressure on insurers to ensure all stakeholders work with and make decisions using trusted, governed information. Next, firms can help employees maintain and improve productivity. Teams that previously relied on in-person interactions to coordinate and collaborate must be equipped with tools to compensate for not being able to pop out of their cubicle with a question. By truly extending the office and the organization’s value streams virtually and remotely, insurers can successfully ensure business continuity.
Use Case: The Call Centre
To date, the insurance industry has focused digital transformation on omnichannel customer engagement and improving communication, collaboration and automation of human-centric activities. According to Accenture’s Technology Vision 2020, 76% of executives agree that organizations need to dramatically reengineer the experiences that bring technology and people together in a more human-centric manner.
Many insurers have large call centres that are processing claims. During COVID-19, with social distancing, these centres are likely not populated currently and/or have gone virtual. The call centre should be a top priority for companies because it’s often the first point of contact a customer has with the organization. Especially now, as insured people and employers are facing tough situations, call centre employees must be equipped with the right tools and automated processes to continue performing. If callers are having trouble finding answers from their insurers, they may take their business elsewhere.
IT teams must improve the way insurers and agents communicate with each other and with those who they insure. In this way, insurance companies can become more responsive and improve direct and indirect communication.
Insurance companies need to understand what buyers want before embarking on digital transformation, however. Not all buyers want to work with fully automated systems or chatbots. Part of an omnichannel strategy is thoughtfully incorporating humans as a channel. If organizations don’t know what their buyers want, their digital transformation may be misdirected.
Neither business continuity nor digital transformation is one-size-fits-all. Some insurers will benefit from certain capabilities and strategies more than others. However, every company needs to lay a foundation for the digital future—so they are prepared to serve employees, stakeholders and customers no matter what tomorrow brings.