In today's tough economic climate, insurers are striving to increase productivity and efficiency while keeping expenses in check. And, due to escalating competition, they are also doing more to retain existing customers.As a result, many employees are overwhelmed by the challenges of finding and delivering the right information to customers when, where and how it is needed.
Insurance companies therefore need technology that will help them quickly access, verify, filter and analyze information. And, they must ensure that their IT assets can extract relevant knowledge in real time and translate that information into action.
Several technology solutions, from portals to business intelligence tools, are on the market to help insurers make smarter and faster business decisions.
By 2006, insurers that have not invested in managing their networks and making sure their service and sales match customer needs may face increasing employee dissatisfaction, low sales volumes from independent agents and brokers, increasing customer attrition and rising channel costs, according to Gartner Inc, a Stamford, Conn.-based research and consulting firm.
Even more startling, Gartner predicts that less than 20% of insurers will have the technology in place by 2006 to respond to the real-time challenge. It has never been more important for organizations to have architecture in place that enables employees to:
* Access information any time from any device, anywhere.
* Organize and filter the information to meet users' needs.
* Analyze the data and transform it into action.
* Get the information into the customer's hands at the right time.
* Use the knowledge to deliver insight into the business, customer needs and industry trends.
To achieve these goals, companies need to take four steps to manage and deliver real-time information: provide access to centralized data; supply information that is usable and trustworthy; transform the information into intelligence; and enable intelligent action.
The first step is to provide employees with easy access to centralized data. Portal technologies can offer a centralized repository-a one-stop-shop for all information needs that can be accessed from any location. Most portals can pull together information from different back-end systems into an intelligent and engaging environment.
With the technology in place, employees can then capture, store, share and manipulate content from multiple sources, tailoring the data to their specific needs.
Once users can access information in a centralized fashion, they are often still inundated with data. Unless the information is presented in a meaningful way, employees are required to sift through documents, spending precious time formatting data and determining the most recent and applicable versions.
Providing trustworthy and usable information can be accomplished through the addition of digital dashboards and reporting tools.
Dashboards display data in engaging, intuitive formats, and refine, analyze and sort the information. Reporting tools enable employees to run queries across distributed databases and create customized reports for a complete and accurate view of critical information.
Once employees are confident the information they have retrieved is trustworthy, the next challenge is to transform the information into business intelligence. By using new tools and business-rules technology, individuals can extract additional information that is relevant to their specific needs and job function.
The combination of a rules engine and predictive analysis technology can automate information delivery, saving time and enabling better decisions.
Analyze and personalize
Companies are constantly striving to achieve more efficient business processes, so the final step-enabling intelligent action-could arguably be the most important. Here, companies move beyond simple data access into a more sophisticated realm of analysis and personalization.
Using rules engines and predictive analysis capabilities, employees can automate repetitive and routine tasks, letting pre-established rules drive the action.
With analytical processing, information is rapidly analyzed and extracted. Correlations are discovered in the data, allowing monitoring and tracking of market conditions and detection of changes in business patterns.
Such advanced data analyses can indicate instances of fraud and provide insurers with valuable insight into customer preferences, resulting in more personalized insurance products and services.
Insurance companies can make the most of their IT assets by learning to cope effectively with the volume of information available-organizing, filtering and securely delivering information to the right people at the right time. By ensuring better performance and more efficient business decisions, intelligent information delivery greatly increases a company's competitive advantage.
Shari Shore is a director, brand marketing at Computer Associates, Islandia, N.Y.
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