A few weeks back, I posted a semi tongue-in-cheek view on the fact that insurers are pushing data entry work out to their customers and agents, who are only too happy to take it, in the name of self service.
The reality is self service is one of the key value drivers in insurance systems these days. Not only does this pertain to external customers, but internal customers as well. In particular, business users of core applications stand to benefit from the self-service ethic.
Let's face it, IT departments are understaffed, underfunded, overworked and overstretched. This is a situation that will not improve anytime soon, if at all. Part of the workload consists of piles of requests from users for reports and new interfaces to specific sources of information. Users wind up waiting weeks and months for their changes, and frustration is everywhere.
Why shouldn't end users be able to create their own reports, configure their own dashboards and build their own front-end applications? The enterprise mashup, in which a front-end application can quickly be put together and pull in data from two or more sources, is an example of this new thinking. Imagine a manager being able to pull together a mashup front end that shows where sales of a particular type of product are most prevalent?
Celent's Mike Fitzgerald also is looking at the possibilities of end-user configuration, particularly as it relates to rating engines. In a recent blog post, he cites the results of a study that shows that among U.S. insurers, 73% enable end users to create or change workflow rules. Another 53% let business users go in and make rate changes, while 45% enable users to add new products.
Interestingly, however, only about a third enable end users to create ad hoc reports, the survey finds. This is one of the areas in which IT departments and business end-users end up frustrating each other. A survey I conducted as part of my work with Unisphere Research/Information Today Inc. and the Oracle Applications User Group last fall found that while many companies aspire to “compete on analytics,” decision-makers still wait days, weeks and even months for reports on the state of their business. Most still do not have access to analytic tools. Typically, business users must submit requests to their IT or data management departments for reports, dashboards, scorecards or planning models. The time it takes until these requests are acted on varies, but few (15%) will see results within 24 hours. For a majority of respondents, the waiting time lasts between three days and more than a month.
This is an area where end-user self service can have a significant and rapid impact. Analytics is an area ripe for this model, since the success of insurance companies relies on their ability to compete on analytics.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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