Recently, CIO Advocate, Frank Petersmark with X by 2, a technology consulting group that specializes in the strategy and architecture of enterprise applications and integration, shared with me the questions that IT and business professionals need to hammer out before an underwriting overhaul: "If it's five years from now and this is finished, what will success look like? What processes will be different? What will be different about our position in the marketplace? What will be different about our expense model?" It seems so simple, yet he quickly went on to lament, "That can be a very tough exercise to go through, but it's really valuable. Fundamentally, that's where you have to start."

Despite the amount of time and energy already being expended on bridging the IT and business gap, I'm surprised that nearly everyone I talk to about the future of underwriting still stresses the importance of owning up to the challenges of this relationship. With all of the exciting, promising potential, what challenges companies and consultants alike is planning for it.

You'll notice that all the valuable questions posed by Petersmark to insurers planning underwriting upgrades were business questions; as technology matures more rapidly and insurers continue to decrease their number of legacy systems, implementation challenges are going away while the importance of adaptable business operations is growing.

Carriers are starting to realize that data and analytics technology is on the cusp of drastically impacting the way underwriting is performed and enhancing the way it influences business operations.

By the time I was done conducting interviews and research for this issue, I was convinced that insurers would need to drastically transform internal processes to match the real-time capabilities that the technology will enable. A meeting to discuss five- to 10-year plans is not likely to suffice in a future where rules-engines and risk portfolios will need to respond to daily loss ratio and profitability reports.

A more communal, highly communicative approach will need to be crafted in order to take advantage of the insights that analytics can make available throughout the underwriting process. Real-time information will be relayed and need to enact a decision-making process with swift oversight. In order for the entire enterprise to embrace the future of underwriting, this is the type of business environment insurers need to be bracing themselves for.

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