The Digital Enabling Tripod

Last week, I had the pleasure of attending the 7th Annual Summit on Insurance Technology in Mumbai, India. The event was very well organised by Fintelekt, so kudos to my close personal friend Mr. Shirish Pathak and his team.

The focus of the Summit was Digital, which covered business and technology imperatives. There was a healthy exchange of insightful thoughts on the subject throughout the day, which I feel, has helped me adjust my benchmarks on the subject a bit. Amongst industry leaders, Digital does seem to have a range of interpretations. There does appear to be a common, broad understanding of what it means, but I find that there is variety in the points of focus in terms of the implications, the challenges and the opportunities that Digital presents. Probably rightly so.
 
And when it comes to technology for Digital, things are no different either. For some, the focus is on channels like Mobile and Social Media. Then there is Big Data and Analytics, Cloud, Internet of Things, etc. And I’m sure there will be newer terms that join this list in the very near future.
 
All these are just opportunities. These actually are avenues that a business can exploit to deliver on its Digital aspirations and its definition of success in the Digital world. For me though, there are three fundamental building blocks, that businesses need to put in place as the foundation on which to build their Digital capability, and take advantage of these opportunities.
 
Customer knowledge: knowing the customer as fully as possible, and servicing the customer based on this intimate knowledge; this is not easy. The challenges here are typically around getting your data model right when you start, and being able to subsequently maintain and extend its implementation. It is important to ensure that the model uses business meaningful labels for data entities and represents the customer just as the business sees it. The right technical solution, irrespective of whether it is built internally or bought, must be able to address maintenance and extensibility effectively.
 
Integration: making an organisation’s data available in a secure, efficient, scalable and flexible way to its internal systems and to external partner. There are multiple possible implementation patterns that will deliver the desired outcomes. The challenges arise in defining the business information model and getting the right balance between granularity and generality of data and service definitions. The focus here ought to be on how integration is implemented and not on what i.e. which integration technology or platform is used, etc. This is also a major enabler for automation of servicing processes, which has a direct bearing on customers’ experience and the cost of servicing customers.
 
Engineering: the foundation that an organisation’s technical capability is built upon. To a large extent, this has been a significantly disregarded aspect of technology in the traditional world, until now. The focus has primarily been on reducing cost of delivery, which has led us towards commoditisation of software engineering skills. Any business that aspires to succeed in the Digital world, must move towards developing a culture of quality engineering, irrespective of how and from where capability is sourced. Digital success needs technical innovation, which needs quality engineering. And this is not just about writing quality code, it also about behaviours: about being Agile, being disciplined, taking accountability and enabling DevOps. Over the last eighteen months, I have heard first-hand, in the UK and in India, large Insurance companies openly talking about aspiring to be technology companies that sell Insurance. This is a huge shift in approach that will keep them ahead of the competition.
devops, Integration

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