Two Perspectives Enabling Stronger Strategic Options For The Insurance Industry

Getting down to basics about the insurance industry, how might someone perceive or reperceive the industry from a strategic perspective? Strategy, for me at least, is what a company does to differentiate itself uniquely from its competitors. That’s why I don’t consider core administrative systems (or one of the components of a core administrative system such as billing) to be strategic. But that is a post for another time.

The purpose of determining a perspective is to help identify those strategic elements to truly differentiate one insurer from another. It’s very much like people majoring or being expert in multiple disciplines. Reperceiving enables a fresh view; a new view; a different way of thinking.

I suggest there are, at least, two perspectives insurance companies should use when considering how to create or enhance their strategies. One is an information perspective and the second is a media perspective.

We all know that insurance is an information-based industry (not information intensive but information based). So, how might an information perspective help an insurance company differentiate itself from its competitors? Well, an insurer with an information perspective should:

  • Understand that information must be shared throughout the enterprise and realize that information silos are barricades to success
  • Craft an initiative to ensure that information is cleaned as it comes into, flows through, and streams outward to any and all parts of the value chains that encompass insurance decision-making and operations
  • Realize that information is just  not all of that structured stuff being held (sometimes held hostage) in the various databases in every functional area
  • Set a higher priority to monitor, manage and act on unstructured data whether that is text, pictures, sound or video
  • Create strong search and navigation throughout the information streams for both internal staff (and I would include agents and brokers in this category for the purposes of our current discussion) and external stakeholders
  • Create an information council made up of people from each business department

What would you add to this list if an insurer wanted to perceive its strategic objectives through an information perspective?

Then there is the media perspective. Of course, it is highly interdependent with the information perspective. However, an insurer that applies a media perspective would do best if it realizes it is both a consumer and publisher of information. So, the insurer would:

  • Identify the media (or information channels, if you prefer) that information is produced (published) and consumed throughout the company value chains
  • Look to actual media companies that are successful (e.g. Google or Amazon) and determine which processes, if any, can be repurposed for the insurance company (if the insurer is stumped at this point, they can just ask those stakeholders like their own staff or their agents or brokers how they would prefer to receive information)
  • Augment their own media capabilities with existing social networking web sites (e.g. LinlkedIn)
  • Begin to apply rich media authoring capabilities (e.g. Adobe’s AIR) to package and present information in a way that is more easily acceptable (not that the long, dry procedure manuals are not exciting and interesting in their own right)
  • And as above, there are a host of other ways that an insurer could reperceive itself strategically by thinking of itself as a media company

What would you add to this list of media perceptions for an insurance company to consider?

Published in: on December 3, 2009 at 12:01 pm  Leave a Comment  
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Web Information Discovery Strategies

We all know that the digital marketplace is  continually creating ever-increasing amounts of digital content. And with a plethora of content comes at least two problems: a paucity of attention and an inability to find or otherwise leverage the growing amount of digital content.

Three firms – one we all know extremely well – and two others are using two different strategies to resolve both problems: 1. get in the middle and 2. wrap.

Google uses the ‘get in the middle’ strategy by putting themselves between us (the folks looking for information) and the sources of information. We don’t need to belabor what the technology company does and how it is broadening its footprint into areas other than search. Google is about finding information.

Two new companies – Wolfram Alpha and Book of Odds – both employ a ‘wrap’ strategy. Both of these web firms wrap information around other information, sort of like a donut with a jelly filling. And both firms are about leveraging information by presenting it to users in a context and in a way that seekers of information can relate … although that relationship is also about the context of the seeker (the seeker’s background, goals, objectives of seeking information and desire to continually investigate) as well as the context the information is presented.

Let’s first look at Wolfram Alpha. From their web site, the company says its goal is “making the worlds’ knowledge computable.” The About page discusses in part that “Our goal is to build on the achievements of science and other systematizations of knowledge to provide a single source that can be relied on by everyone for definitive answers to factual queries.” On the Examples page the web site has 29 categories from Mathematics to Physics to Dates & Times to Places & Geography to Colors. I suggest you click over and learn how the site works.

Now let’s turn to Book of Odds. Excerpting directly from the About page” ” Book of Odds is the world’s first reference on the odds of everyday life. It is a destination where people come to learn about the things that worry or excite them, to read engaging and thoughtful articles, and to participate in a community of users that share their interests and ambitions.”

And that learning is done in the context of news articles from a multitude of sources but grouped into four major categories: Accidents & Death, Daily Life & Activities, Health & Illness, and Relationships & Society. Seekers of information – and here we mean seekers of probabilities – will find articles both on the home page and on each of the four major category pages. In addition, Book of Odds also displays statements of odds that are not embedded in articles. People wanting to better understand how Book of Odds began can read a blog by the Founder. I also suggest you click over to the Book of Odds site to find out how that site works.

Both of these new web publishers are about exploration and discovery of information in a way that Google is not. Both are hoping to create additional value – beyond returning a site or set of sites that may (or may not) answer a seeker’s question – by establishing a context for the embedded information. Both are examples of Semantic Web or if you prefer, Web 3.0, firms. A new species trying to make a living in the always changing web terrain.

However, the challenge for both Wolfram Alpha and Book of Odds is generating sufficient and persistent profitability by:

  • Satisfying the information seeker in a contextual manner they expect or want
  • Encouraging the information seeker to continue their explorations and stay awhile, and most importantly
  • Triggering the information seeker to purchase something. Each of these new firms will be looking for a variety of revenue paths driven by the capabilities or results they provide the seekers who click over to their web sites.

Information discovery on the web is obviously so much more than search. But, and there is always a but, do you think Wolfram Alpha or Book of Odds has an opportunity to succeed as a stand-alone company 5 years from now? I’m not sure. Are you?