A verse from Lou Reed's "New Sensations" has been stuck in my head, and not just because the legendary rocker recently died. In the song, Reed describes a cross-country motorcycle trip that becomes a metaphor for taking control of one's destiny. An acknowledgement of life's difficulties and one's weaknesses, followed by recognition of the importance of striving and acceptance, and the freedom that comes from rejecting negative expectations — especially one's own — plays out though the song.

While few would consider "Uncle Lou" an IT expert or management guru, the same ideas can be applied here. It's easy enough to tell what is wrong: broadly, the imperative to update legacy systems and become more easy to do business with, internally and externally, leveraging technology.

And the answers are out there, in great abundance, even, as is the will to improve. IT budgets are back to pre-recession levels, discretionary spending is on the upswing and IT and business are in much better alignment, analysts are reporting. In short, real progress is being made, especially in the areas of analytics, distribution management, IT talent, mobility and telematics.

What specific technologies insurers choose may be less important than that they make informed decisions and move forward. What's most important is what comes next: acceptance, goal setting, effort, measurable progress and constant navigation. There is no going back, only forward motion is allowed.

Our end-of-the-year issue attempts this same sort of journey, without the music and motorcycles, sadly. As we review where the industry was and where we thought it was headed, we also assess the progress the industry has made, and offer some insights to help adjust course, all based on conversations with you, our readers.

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