To advance to the next stage with technology, carriers not only need to get the entire enterprise involved but even reach well beyond the four walls. Non-IT employees, line of business managers and even small firms outside the insurance industry may help bring about the next wave of technology innovation.

That's the word from Suren Gupta, Allstate’s executive vice president of technology and operations, in a recent interview with the Chicago Tribune's James Janega. Gupta talked about the connection between the carrier's innovation initiatives and its enterprise technology strategy, making for a great read into the behind-the-scenes thinking at one of the largest IT operations in the insurance industry.

Allstate has always had a lot of technology under its roof and, in just the last two years, has organized a concerted effort to translate technology know-how into an innovation culture. This latest tech-innovation push started two years ago with the creation of a cross-enterprise “innovation council” that brings key decision-makers together to design new approaches and achieve “synchronized thinking” across the organization, Gupta explains. Allstate's innovative environment is built on a three-part foundation that includes in-house technology, its tech vendor partners and involvement with startups, he states. Allstate makes it a point to get involved with startup communities to identify and partner with emerging innovations.

Allstate is working to bring that startup culture into its own ranks as well, he notes. The company's innovation platform encourages participation from employees and partners. “There are even internal judges, people from different parts of the organization,” Gupta says.

Technologies Gupta and his colleagues are watching include “data analytics, mobile technology in terms of connectivity of everything, and companies with a particular focus on how all of this will translate,” he says.  One area of great interest to the insurer is driverless cars, since a good deal of its business is in auto insurance.

“We're looking proactively at technology that would enable collision avoidance,” Gupta says. “If I have a car that has a collision avoidance system, can I give that driver a better rate?”  Another technology with potential for insurance is 4K TV, he adds. Such high-resolution video can help with home inspections and claims.  

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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