Remember when going to an insurer's website and seeing policy information was considered revolutionary? You just entered a username and password and it knew you … and let you see some basic coverage information, particularly agents accessing information about their clients! That was just a few short years ago and doesn't cut it anymore.

Today, insurers have expanded their access to portals that serve a wide range of stakeholders, from prospects to policyholders to distributors, adjusters and others. These portals front-end new modern solutions as well as legacy solutions to provide a richer user experience.  They are now the go-to places for information dissemination and collaboration, creating an experience of easy to do business with them.  

The term portal has been around a long time and over the years, the definition has morphed. No longer is a portal just a landing page of basic information or links. It must be dynamic, accessible from any device, and support interaction from any number of parties. The site knows you, provides you with recommendations for other products or information, and even allows you to set up alerts to tell you what's happening – giving both push and pull communications with the site.

And why? Because we've come to expect it!

Thanks to companies such as UPS, FedEx, and Amazon, to name just a few, customers expect to check the status of their business information and transactions in seconds from whatever device they have handy at the time.

If I order something from Amazon, I can track it through their fulfillment process and then be notified that it's being shipped. Their portal ties into the shipping company's data so that I can see that my package is out for delivery. More importantly, I can see that information from my computer or tablet or smartphone. I can go in and make modifications, cancel the order, or route it differently. The companies also notify me of status changes by email or text.

As Karlyn Carnahan of Novarica put it recently at our Customer Advisory Board meeting, "it's bringing the consumer, policyholder, claimant, repairer into every aspect of the process.  Whether they are being their own estimators, their own agent or configuring their own product, it's how do you get collaboration in every part of the insurance process.  And, it’s because we’re expecting that in more of our personal lives."

And that portal must be mobile! Insurers need to recognize that the world is mobile and they must be too. People don't leave home without their smartphone at their side, fully charged and ready to go. They don't wait until they get home to look up information or check a claims status. It's there at their fingertips at all times.

Customers want to be able to see their information, update data, get a quote and even pay bills. They want to file a claim online, submit pictures, provide repair estimates, and see the status of a claim in the process as well as when they can expect resolution. Self-service is growing rapidly in accordance with today's faster-paced lifestyle.

According to David Smith, CEO of Global Futures & Foresight, this exploding mobile marketplace is expected to reach five billion mobile connected devices in 2015. That's why a mobile-enabled portal is no longer a nice to have, it's mandatory. And the demand keeps growing.

This is why it's essential that with the explosion of mobile technology, and other burgeoning ones such as Google Glasses and HUDs, portals should not contain any of your business logic in its display. Doing so enables you to be more agile and adaptable to changing technologies.

We also can't ignore the portal vs. app debate. While apps may be the "in thing" they have limitations. Portals manage information and display with a single data source with specific browser-based user interfaces. Apps, on the other hand, use client-service technology requiring constant updates for multiple platforms and operating systems such as iOS, Android, Windows, and so on. This can be both costly and time-consuming. Think of how many times you see your apps being updated!

Regardless of the platform or data source, a well designed user interface (UI) keeps the user experience consistent across systems while unique personas provide specific access and display capabilities. On your tablet, phone, or computer it stays consistent.

If you aren't providing a portal to your customers and partners today, time is running out. The technology is there. The demand is there. The big question is … are you there?

Denise Garth is the executive vice president of strategic marketing and industry relations, and global head of market strategy for Innovation Group North America.  She can be reached for further comment or information via email at


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