Don't over promise, or under deliver, or boil the ocean, or pave the cow path.

While these technology truisms are familiar to the point of cliché, they apparently are easier said than done, as the vast majority of policy administration projects are "challenged" in terms of budget, schedule, scope or business value. And we've seen the studies and survey results to back that up.

Not so long ago, there was plenty of vision but no template for how to interact with technology-enabled consumers. Efforts to simplify and integrate online quoting, rating and underwriting, for example, felt both heroic and piecemeal. Business processes took time because they were manual or paper-based, or required professionals to enter duplicate data in multiple systems.

But it's getting better. Systems vendors and integrators are maturing and by dint of having done more policy administration revamps and replacements, more and more of them are successful. And just about all of us now are equipped with smartphones or tablets and know the difference between what's possible, what's acceptable and what just won't cut it any longer when it comes to doing business, whether face to face or online.

Insurance is complicated, and it used to be enough to compensate with service. The value-add that differentiated both insurers and agents from the pack was "high-touch," which theoretically precluded automation because to deliver it, you had to know your customer. That's getting easier, too, and there are more ways to know them. Third-party data is abundant and relatively cheap when you can drive value out of it. Plus customers are willing to give you the information - if you ask them the right way - and they'll even serve themselves, if you enable them.

The technology is ready; you don't have to go it alone anymore. Even larger insurers are moving forward with their transformational endeavors, using packaged applications. Systems integration is faster and easier through Web-services integration and truly modern technology platforms.

As the technology has gotten out of the way, success it seems, comes down to basic blocking and tackling; or for IT, delivering valuable and timely information that helps people make decisions and act. That's the important lesson I learned from reporting this months' feature on policy administration transformation. Kind of ironic given the grandiose description, don't you think?

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