The insurance industry is much more conservative than other sectors when it comes to new technology adoption. So what happens now, with the steamroller known as cloud computing roaring through the technology space? It's a trend that can't be ignored. Accordingly, leading insurance CIOs are very interested in the value cloud can bring to their operations. Some of these views were brought out by Tammy McInturff Appel in the latest issue of LOMA Resource, which convened a panel of five life insurance CIOs.
For example, the Principal Financial Group is taking a more cautious approach to cloud, reports Doug Fick, VP and CIO of US Insurance Solutions. For starters, “I will continue to put preference of our own data center facilities over any third party” for hosting applications, he says. However, some software-as-a-service (SaaS) approaches are attractive to the company. “In a few cases, we have found it advantageous to pursue SaaS solutions over traditional, internally hosted options,” he says.
Recognizing that the cloud is a big part of future IT, Massachusetts Mutual Life Insurance Company is taking a deliberate, well-thought-out approach, reports Bob Casale, EVP and CIO. “We are aggressively working on our evolution to a cloud-based infrastructure,” he explains. “We do have some incremental work underway in application hosting and establishing some infrastructure hosting relationships. We’re also working closely with some very strategic technology partners to help us as we define and implement our journey to the cloud.”
Some organizations have had cloud for some time. However, the work doesn't stop when the cloud service is signed on, as pointed out by Tim Schaefer, SVP and CIO at Northwestern Mutual. The challenge now, he says, is to “build awareness and educate stakeholders across the company about how the cloud can work for them.” The IT team is currently assessing adoption patterns across the enterprise to help “determine if the cloud makes sense for a certain business area. The assessment allows us to make strategic decisions about where the cloud makes sense, and where it doesn’t.”
Other CIOs report moving specific applications or areas of the business to the cloud model. “One intriguing opportunity I see with near-term potential is electronic content delivery and collaboration, especially within our producer and agency community,” says Greg Driscoll, VP and CIO at Penn Mutual Life Insurance Company. “We are actively evaluating cloud-based content management and storage solutions as a vehicle to deliver content, enable workgroup collaboration and support cross-device sharing.”
Penn Mutual is also exploring the possibility of moving its development teams into cloud-based environments, Driscoll reports. “This requires a strong understanding and design of the technology architecture. Applications must be architected with the cloud in mind; otherwise you will inherit a new host of challenges.”
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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