A new set of predictions by Gartner suggests that getting jobs done within tomorrow's enterprises will be less structured, and more “swarmy.” That is, thanks to social networks and hyper competition, the way to get things done and out to market will be through swarms of experts and professionals tackling problems at hand, versus attempting to address them up and down the hierarchical chain of command.
“Swarms form quickly, attacking a problem or opportunity and then quickly dissipating,” Gartner says. “Swarming is an agile response to an observed increase in ad hoc action requirements, as ad hoc activities continue to displace structured, bureaucratic situations.”
Is that how the insurance industry can expect to get its tasks done? Will it make sense to address a problem claim or reconfigure a product portfolio with an ad-hoc swarm, versus an established set of policies and specifically trained people?
What's giving rise to the swarm approach is that a lot of tasks handled by humans will be the non-routine ones, Gartner says. The routine jobs, on the other hand, will be automated, and presumably well managed. But businesses need to worry about the stuff that can't be automated. Gartner even says “we cannot automate the process of selling a life insurance policy to a skeptical buyer, but we can use automation tools to augment the selling process.”
So there will be new ways to work to address the non-routine processes, which need “uniquely human, analytical or interactive contributions that result in words such as discovery, innovation, teaming, leading, selling and learning.” Along with sales, what other parts of insurance operations can benefit from swarming? Is a customer contact center in need of greater swarming and less structured dialog with customers? How about claims adjustors in the field? How about swarming between insurance company employees and agents?
Gartner's predictions for work over the coming decade provides a lot to think about, and also keeps a key thought in the forefront: many operations depend on good people skills because this is an industry that is built on people. A highly automated insurance operation may get an “A” for efficiency, but flunk on the people side, where things really count.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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