Insurers continue to have a number of functionality and improved technology options when it comes to renewing or replacing billing systems, according to a new report from Celent . In an effort to help insurers refine their systems strategies and, where appropriate, create a list of appropriate vendors for evaluation, the research and consulting firm analyzed 13 systems for the report, “Stand-Alone Billing System Vendors.”

Upon doing so, the firm discovered some trends emerging in the market. Generally, what once was a back-office function is becoming consumer/agent facing. And, because of this insurers must make some changes to investments in technology. “We believe that core system renewal initiatives are necessary to help the industry address growth, service and distribution imperatives,” the report states.

"The biggest surprise is how much billing functionality is contained in almost all of the vendor packages," Mike Fitzgerald, Celent senior analyst and report author, told INN. "The real differentiators are what customer service tools (problem escalation workflows), end user maintenance utilities (rules that can be managed by staff outside of IT), and platform delivery options (SaaS, cloud) are available."

Consumer expectations are also putting the pressure on insurers to deliver Web capabilities such as electronic bill pay and presentment, mobile transactions and policyholder/producer portals, the report says. Wherein lies the problem—legacy systems aren’t capable, and updated technology must be introduced to fully enable these functions, Celent says.

Another emerging “must” is greater reliance on billing analytics, especially to discover which, if any, billing plans are attracting profitable business and the effects of increasing certain fees. “Vendors differ in their approach, some offering tools embedded as part of the base system and others providing utilities to extract information into specialized, enterprise analytic engines,” the report states.

The report also highlights the varying billing system needs of large and small insurers. “Large insurers increasingly coordinate their offerings between lines of business. Progress is being made to make sales and service across product lines transparent to the customer/agent. Payment and billing services that are enterprisewide, multiline and support a shared services model are a key capability in operationalizing this goal. Additionally, large insurers often seek to consolidate multiple billing systems on to one platform.”

Small insurers (Tier 3, 4 and 5) seek out-of-the-box solutions supported by strong vendor support services, the report says. “These prospects are looking for vendors that can deliver a fully functioning implementation with minimum disruption and maximum speed.”

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