We live in a brave new world now with digital devices and equipment surrounding us in a sea of capabilities that (generally) improve the quality of our experiences. They also allow us to extend ourselves in ways that would have been hard to contemplate until recently. While this has many great potential benefits, there are also some unintended consequences that we need to be mindful of, particularly as technologists. In a world that reflects the Internet of Things, smart buildings and self-driving cars are no longer future state fiction. They are modern realities that have real world implications associate with them when they work. And when they don’t!

I was reminded of this in a recent analog world event. After restoring my Dad’s 35 year old Moto-Guzzi motorcycle, I’ve come to enjoy quiet country road excursions. Not long ago, while on a pleasant cruise I felt a little “hitch in the giddyup”. Was it real or my imagination? What I found was an analog failure in the ignition system. It entertained me with a gradual failing through diminished capability but provided plenty of time to return to the shop and get a replacement part. The failure was gradual, graceful, moderately elegant and easily controlled. Good thing too, since there is no backup system. The only path forward is the happy one.

Which got me thinking about how different circumstances are in our digital world. Things work right up to the point when they don’t. One minute they can be fine and the next it is like someone flipped a switch. Lights out. One of my more exciting CIO moments was caused by such a failure. Our online portal was a composite of capabilities, some of which we owned and hosted, other served to us from trusted vendors. When it all worked, it was a thing of technical beauty. We had architected things on our end carefully too, with redundancy and failover capabilities embedded and tested.

It turned out, however, that some of our third party solutions had taken a less robust approach which we did not fully appreciate. And so, when they went down … they took us with them. Like running into a wall. To our customers trying to argue that we were up and it was actually a third party problem that was keeping them from reaching the functionality they wanted was a moot point. It was our site with our logo; don’t try and deflect! Own it, love it, fix it was really all that mattered.

All of which made us realize how important it is to plan a digital playbook that anticipates the non-happy path moments and can support nearly instantaneous cutover to a path less traveled. Digital advances are truly remarkable … but they require a different sort of planning when failure can be both instantaneous and catastrophic. A self-driving car that can fail like that would require some serious discussion about liability insurance and advanced training for an operator.

New capabilities and new opportunities require new planning and architectural paradigms that must evolve concurrently. A digital framework constructed around analog ideas of what failure will look like will, almost certainly, lead to unfortunate results.

As always I welcome your feedback. To send me a note or set up a complimentary one-hour consultation, contact me via email.

This blog has been reprinted with permission from Novarica.

Robert McIsaac is a principal focusing on life insurance, annuities and wealth management at Novarica.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Robert using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

Register or login for access to this item and much more

All Digital Insurance content is archived after seven days.

Community members receive:
  • All recent and archived articles
  • Conference offers and updates
  • A full menu of enewsletter options
  • Web seminars, white papers, ebooks

Don't have an account? Register for Free Unlimited Access