For IT executives, the utility aspect of IT needs to be flawless and assumed at this point, and they need to understand the business thoroughly so that challenges and opportunities can be effectively relayed, according to a new report from Novarica.

More than 30 members of the Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council, a moderated knowledge-sharing community for insurer CIOs and senior IT executives, met last week to discuss the issues they face as CIOs in the industry. Today, Novarica published a new report presenting some of the key points from these discussions along with relevant Novarica research.

Novarica said the challenge for insurers is bridging the gap between the growing complexity of IT operations and the dwindling patience of users. The three categories of IT complexity the report delves into are data and analytical capabilities, channels and product complexity.

According to data in the report, BI/data is among the top three business capability priorities for this year for nearly 60 percent of all P&C insurers, and 24 percent of P&C insurers with more than $1 billion in premiums indicated it was their top priority. No life/health insurers named it the top priority for 2013, but more than 30 percent named it a top-three priority.

Distributor ease of doing business is a huge priority for life/health insurers with more than $1 billion in premiums, nearly half cited it as their top priority and 60 percent placed it in their top three priorities. Life/health insurers of all sizes, particularly those with premiums less than $1 billion, are prioritizing the ease of doing business for customers. About a third of P&C insurers overall are prioritizing one or the other.

When it comes to providing channel capabilities on mobile, tablet and social platforms, P&C insurers lag behind life/health insurers in nearly every category, including social media for marketing as well as for agents/brokers, tablet capabilities for policyholders or agents/brokers, and mobile for internal staff and agents/brokers.

Speed to market for new products was another big priority across the board, particularly among P&C and life/health insurers with more than $1 billion in premiums.

In terms of staff development, mobile development was easily the most unaddressed skill deficit, with nearly half of the respondents indicating such. Secure coding and business case development followed up with around 30 percent of insurers say those were areas with unaddressed skills deficits. To solve this, the results of the survey indicate insurers aren’t going to rely solely on hiring—while training was acknowledged as the most effective remedy for skills deficits, improving procedures/processes as well as using consultants/mentors were both cited as more effective than hiring/replacing talent.

Council members at the meeting represented a wide swath of the industry, from top-tier multinationals and national insurers to regionals and start-ups, across all lines of life/annuity/benefits and property/casualty, including specialty and workers comp.

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