Innovation and transformative thinking are more than just buzz phrases for insurers' IT organizations. In an effort to avoid their own Kodak or Blockbuster moments, CIOs and their teams increasingly are focused on how technology can be leveraged to create real and meaningful differentiation for their carriers. It is both a valued undertaking and a legitimate concern if they fail. With many aspects of insurance now highly commoditized and new competitive threats emerging, just getting better at the same old things won’t be good enough. In fact, that may be the path to a death by a thousand cuts.

As a result, a rigorous governance and prioritization process becomes an early requirement for this new order of things. Can anyone deliver power better than the local public utility? Or email better than a legitimate cloud provider like Google or Microsoft? In both cases the answer is “no,” although hobbyist interest will persist.

For the future, real value will come in areas such as analytics -- turning data into actionable information -- and mobility, to name but two of a long list of high priorities. For carriers that persist in majoring in minors, the future may represent a very tough row.

As the new priorities take hold, however, a new challenge will emerge: how to find and retain the best talent. The initial quest is critical of course. If you can’t find them, retention will take care of itself.

A critical new paradigm to consider is that carriers may need to take on a more proactive role in finding talent much earlier than was once considered “normal” in career management parlance. For example, for research scientists, the path to success historically went through research universities that were able to secure funding from large federal agencies such as the NIH and NASA. Increasingly, however, the best path forward is through private industry where capital pools may offer a more stable and less political engine for keeping the research and the patent machine humming.

Uber’s recent move to hire a swath of the robotics lab away from Carnegie-Mellon University is a high profile example of the urgency with which some employers now approach the market for key human resources. At NC State University, students coming through graduate programs in analytics are hired well before graduation. The competition is tough for people who have the right skill and drive and for employers waiting until after the commencement music ends, there may well be slim pickings. These are not phenomenon reserved just to the RTP or other “Silicon Valley Like” areas either. Getting into action early is crucial to both getting the right talent and moving organizational culture in the right direction.

MassMutual’s decision to set up an operation close to the UMass campus is a great industry example of a carrier moving aggressively to get the right skills cornered early and bring top talent in before they get siphoned off in another direction or to another industry. MetLife moving to RTP has put its IT group in close proximity to three major research universities that can provide a talent infusion of significant proportions.

We’ve seen this before, of course. For many professional sports teams, the talent pool they look to is younger than a generation ago. And as business enterprises, they have benefitted. For carrier IT organizations considering the best way to move forward, it may well be  to get in the game.

This blog entry has been republished with permission.

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The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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