When considering a technology partner, insurers now have more choices than ever, from the existing traditional ranks of technology solution providers to the latest insurtechs. In many ways, the insurtech movement is a leveling factor—challenging the same old niche players to step up their game.

The process by which an insurer vets a vendor, whether traditional or insurtech, is not failsafe, and many a CIO has lost their jobs trusting that process. With the best of intentions, there will always be promises made that cannot be kept, from the initial RFP to implementation. There also are examples of vendors that have won deals and delivered above and beyond on their promises.

Like any business transaction, the process involved in the technology initiative discovery phase involves relationship-building. Not incidentally, relationship-building builds perception; the vendor’s goal is to be the trusted partner, and although the product’s implementation and performance will end up speaking for itself, the vendor will do their best to engage the insurer in such a way as to lock in that primary relationship.

Perception, however, is just that: formally defined, it’s a way of regarding, understanding, or interpreting something; a mental impression. I like to think of it as opinions created based on observation, knowledge, awareness, discernment, and insight. It’s here that insurers need to take a step back.

Why? Because perception is something that can be manipulated. As a journalist who now represents both vendors and insurers in their content development efforts, I've learned that, thanks to the Internet, perception makers are everywhere, and some are more purposeful than others.

Servers and hard drives stand inside pod one of IBM's Softlayer data center in Dallas.
Bloomberg News

In the heat of competition, the facts can become obscure. Publishers, technology solution providers and trade research organizations have been known to spin study results to manipulate perception, some in low-key, pay-to-play scenarios, and some by publishing results that do not provide authentic efficacy, with sample sizes too small to validate a statistical representation.

Even scientific journals are not immune to using the Internet to establish bogus research journals with serious-sounding names, University of Washington information scientist Jevin West said during the 2017 GeekWire Summit. “Truth-squad” sites such as SciCheck (a spin-off of FactCheck.org) and watchlists such as Beall’s List of Predatory Journals and Publishers provide a voluminous—and growing—number of these questionable scholarly publishers.

From phony scientific journals to spurious technology research, we’ve even come so far as to witness what happens when the distribution of inaccurate news and misinformation becomes an accepted norm that creates political polarization. The famous unauthored quote comes to mind: “When truth is blurred by lies and misinformation, perception becomes reality and all is lost.” In other words, in the face of this content chaos, we all need to do our homework.

For insurers about to pull the trigger on a major IT initiative this is especially appropriate, because in this new highly competitive arena comprising traditional and insurtech vendors, perception makers may just have an agenda. So, when being presented with conflicting or questionable information, examine the source—along with the relationship. Who funded the source’s study? What are their goals? Can the results be validated? Who stands to benefit from the information? How does the new information impact your decision making? This vetting may indeed help establish a relationship with a trusted business partner, and pave the way for a successful technology initiative with long-lasting results.

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