Setting priorities, whether in our personal or professional lives, is advice that many experts say will help us stay focused and achieve our goals. Some experts believe we should set these priorities in stone, even when the environment around us changes. Other experts advise that priorities should be modified to reflect changing circumstances.The insurance industry appears to be taking the latter course of action when it comes to technology-and rightfully so. That's one of the conclusions that can be drawn from the findings of our third annual software survey ("Software Spending Rising... But On Fewer Projects," page 16). When you study the chart on page 17, several interesting trends stand out. For starters, the percentage of carriers that are acquiring or developing software declined in all but three of our 17 categories, between 2002 and 2003.

CRM and sales automation? Those were hot categories among survey respondents in 2001 and 2002, but this year, they ranked near the bottom of the list. Business-to-consumer e-commerce, another "priority" that ranked high on carriers' lists in 2001, had dropped to the bottom half of the list.

It's possible that the reason these and other software projects are no longer high priorities is because carriers have purchased or developed the technology and moved on to other projects. You may also conclude that due to the economy and the insurance environment in particular, carriers are cutting spending. However, our survey indicates that insurers plan to spend more this year on packaged software and internal software development than they did in 2002.

My theory is this: Carriers are getting back to basics-financial reporting, agency management systems and policy administration top the list of software acquired or developed in the last year. Throw in claims processing and underwriting, and that's the basics of running an insurance company. Vince Lombardi, the legendary coach of the Green Bay Packers, believed that success on the gridiron boiled down to mastering blocking and tackling.

Looking at the findings of our survey, it appears that back-to-basics strategy is being embraced by insurers.

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