Last week, I met on different days with a couple of the big guns in insurance core applications. Like a lot vendors with significant market share in an industry market, the distinction between the two was at best a nuance, and at worst, you couldn’t tell one from the other if you happened to remove their names. They target the same markets with the same applications, and use the same language to describe their respective solutions. No surprise, both have grown through acquisition, and now are saddled with complex, overlapping solutions.  

Earlier this spring, I visited one of their Web sites and counted 24 different solutions, some sharing nearly identical functionality for the P&C market alone. While these vendors might be paying their marketing teams based on the sheer number of solutions they create, all these solutions confuse analysts, buyers and certainly their sales reps, all of whom have more than nodding acquaintance with what apps do what.

What really caught my attention in these two interactions is that both handed me a “guidebook,” produced by the marketing organization so that I could understand their solutions. The first one consisted of 70 or so pages aligned by the different industry segments the vendor targets, and then broke down those solutions by the IT job holder, their specific business challenge and, finally, matching it all up with the right product to fit the bill.

The second one was prettier—it had more pictures—and had colored tabs broken out by generic business challenge, like “reduce costs” or “increase collaboration.”  It was great if I was judging a contest on prettiest marketing glossy, but it did nothing to help me understand how each piece fit in the overarching tech portfolio. I guess marketing was sleeping well, believing it produced another glossy (albeit meaningless) for sales to leave behind.

When tech vendors lament long sales cycles, might not their own marketing teams be the source of some of this challenge? Even big IT shops live and breathe by multi-tasking, and if it takes them too long to figure out how the vendor can help them, they’ll look at vendors who offer solutions that are easier to understand.

A few core applications vendors are getting this, with one even pitching “solutions so sophisticated, they’re simple.” Message to insurance tech marketers: If you need to produce a guidebook so that we all understand what you do, you’re doing something wrong.

Ellen Carney is a senior analyst with Forrester Research. She focuses on how the financial services industry researches, procures and deploys business technology, and is responsible for developing the global forecasts for IT budget and spending forecasts for insurance and banking. She can be reached at

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