When the report, "Three Paths to 'Cool' for Insurer CIOs," from Novarica showed up in my inbox in November, I clicked on it immediately. The report was based on 73 insurer CIO and senior IT executives' responses to a simple question: What is the best, most effective or "coolest" thing you've done in the past 12 months as a CIO?

In analyzing the answers, the report's authors found three major themes: new technologies, new practices and execution. (Read more about the themes and analysis at here.) And, the new technologies theme was bursting with claims coolness, namely new mobile computing capabilities.

Twenty percent of the survey respondents offered an example of new mobile applications, many of them for policyholder self-service, such as reviewing auto premiums, making online payments and reporting claims. One insurer reported a 200-percent improvement in self-service usage as a result of new Web and mobile programs.

Other mobile apps have been rolled out for agents, enabling them to offer quotes and calculate premiums. Based on feedback from reps, these applications were cited as having a positive impact on sales. In addition, a few survey respondents said they had introduced new mobile applications for underwriters, such as trip reporting and risk engineering.

Others described using Web portals to overhaul their point-of-sale systems for independent agents by launching new Web-based first-notice-of-loss (FNOL) systems for P&C claims. Now, this is cool: One insurer reported launching new portal capabilities for customers, agents and staff to handle catastrophe response and automated dispatching. The features can be used on any platform and offer continual updates to policyholders. Our cover story has even more examples of insurers using new tools to be more effective/proactive at handling and processing claims. One insurer in our cover story even uses geographical information data with hail storms to get a sense of which properties will most likely be effected by the brunt of the storm, and begin preparing in advance for claims from those properties, saving time and money by automating processes.

While Progressive's Flo and a talking camel excited about Wednesday might make insurance brands cool, proven business results make CIOs cool, and claims may be one of the fastest roads to cool.

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