What does it take to become a “digital enterprise”? That´s a question on everyone’s minds these days, along with a healthy dose of skepticism as to how much of it is marketing buzzword versus something that actually produces business value.

I recently had the opportunity to speak with Vinnie Mirchandani, a highly regarded IT author and consultant, who is injecting much-needed clarity into the discussion. Vinnie just collaborated with Karl-Heinz Striebich, CEO of Software AG, on a book titled The Digital Enterprise.

A “digital enterprise” actually means many things, and companies are at various stages of their evolution into the digital realm. A company, for example, may be streaming digital information up and down its supply chain. Or, it may be building intelligence into sensors that are embedded into products or vehicles.

There’s a lot for insurance companies to digest in the whole digital enterprise discussion as well. For many insurers taking the lead in the digital revolution, the place they seem to start is by putting muscle into their data analytics.

Also see The Missing Link in Insurance Data Analytics

The book describes the digital leadership role being taken by several insurance companies across the globe. Nationwide Insurance, for example, has an iPhone application that is designed to enable customers to “collect and exchange accident information, take pictures of the accident scene, display an insurance card and other account information, and locate nearby tow trucks and authorized repair shops.”

Telematics is also discussed as an emerging part of the digital insurance enterprise. MAPFRE, a leading Spanish insurer, has a telematics-enabled concept for its younger drivers. Jose Manuel Inchausti Perez, managing director of technology and process, explains a surprise that emerged early from its data: that “road safety correlates more closely to the length of the drive than to the age of the driver.” Perez adds that the program has expended to include new digital services, including pay-per-use insurance.

At Allianz Group, going digital involves the employment of advanced analytics for areas such as its travel insurance: When customers enter data about their travel plans, the carrier is able to deliver a personalized offer within a sub-second, as well as a “Fast Quote” system for automobile insurance in Italy. Dr. Ralf Schneider, group information officer for Allianz, says another big data analytics for real-time customer analytics. “For example, we are using sophisticated data techniques for customer retention analysis — early warnings on customer issues, patterns across products and countries.”

Insurance companies have been working with business intelligence and analytics for a number of years. But such analysis, once confined to quants and back-room analysts, is now in the mainstream of insurance businesses, and occurring at real time. And never before have they been so closely tied to the heart of the business.

That’s a good place for the digital insurance enterprise to begin its journey.

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

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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