How 'bimodal' IT weighs on insurance upgrades

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Within emerging digital insurance enterprises, there are two types of IT teams. There are those who continue to work on the back-end legacy systems, performing updates, reinforcing security, beefing up storage, and figuring out better ways to enable end-user access to these systems. Then, there are those individuals working on the newer initiatives – cloud-based services, data analytics, mobile access and social platforms.

Gartner calls this “Bimodal IT” – one track for the keeping the lights on in the data center, the other for the glitzy new rollouts. Ideally, these two IT worlds would overlap, and professionals from both modes would spend time, together, figuring out ways to grow their businesses, leveraging investments in existing systems, while building out new digital capabilities.

However, time waits for no one – especially not for the new-age side of IT. There are fires to fight, and instead of engaging with the business side, technology teams get enmeshed in dealing with the crises of the day. Systems are down, customers can’t get access, hackers may have hacked, a squirrel cut off some cabling, and so forth.

This is borne out in a recent survey of 1,014 IT professionals, released by 1E, a software automation vendor. In it, 29% of respondents say their days are spent reacting to unplanned incidents or emergencies. Based on a full-time work schedule of 1,700 hours per year, this equates to more than 14 weeks a year.

Naturally, 1E has a stake in these results, as it shows the need for greater automation of software development and deployment. But having spoken to countless CIOs and IT professionals over the years, I can attest that IT departments are in a tight bind that keeps growing tighter, trying to keep things running, and under pressure to get software out the door within days, if not hours. Guess what? They are also being called upon to actually run the business as well – to move things into the digital realm as fast as possible.

Ongoing maintenance challenges are a time sink of major proportions. The 1E survey finds that more than half (51%) of respondents spend between a quarter and their whole day, every day, reacting to unplanned incidents. The most common incidents are operations related – such as outages and performance issues. It takes time to fix these things -- the mean time to fix a problem is more than five hours. Larger organizations, such as those organizations with more than 50,000 seats, are three times more likely to take over a week to resolve a business-critical request.

The question is, how does an insurance organization transform to digital when its digital technology experts are so strapped for time and resources? Some approaches may include the following:

Automate as much as possible. Many low-level IT tasks can be addressed through automated approaches. It wasn’t too long ago that IT professionals had to walk from desktop to desktop installing new software from disks. Today’s generation of data center automation solutions performs tasks such as server discovery, site configuration, base installation, health and performance monitoring, and compliance reporting.

Look to cloud-based or API-based resources. There are many tools, platforms and applications now available online that provide many IT functions, from development to collaboration to integration. These solutions are often continuously refined through feedback from existing users, and therefore reflect the latest best practices.

Encourage end-user self-service. There are many functions that can be opened up as self-service capabilities for end-users, such as accessing data sources or designing reports. This will free up considerable IT time, as well as build goodwill among users.

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