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November 20 2014 | Denise Garth

In the technology world, there seems to be something new and different every day. In order to gain and keep a competitive advantage in insurance, Next-Gen Insurers must be equipped with (a) strategies that track and assess trends in new and emerging technologies, (b) an ecosystem to bring forward new information and ideas, and (c) an innovation culture that actively contributes to plans and scenarios, experimentation, collaboration, and result tracking. And a key trend that needs especially close tracking is the Internet of Things (IoT). 

At this year’s 2014 Trends event, IT-oLogy joined forces with two other organizations, ITsISC and Connected Nation, to host the Internet of Things Trends conference on November 6th. Among the highlights were the wide ranging opportunities of IoT and the need for a new talent pool to meet the growing business opportunities of many industries, including insurance. As a non-profit, IT-oLogy collaborates with businesses, academic institutions, and organizations dedicated to growing the IT talent pipeline, fostering economic development, and advancing the IT profession. With the exploding growth in IoT and rapidly expanding array of new jobs, the demand for talent to leverage IoT in meaningful ways for insurance will be critically important.  

To demonstrate the commitment to meeting the talent demand, the conference was held in Columbia, South Carolina and was streamed live to The University North Carolina (UNC), The University of Texas, and 3 other IT-oLogy locations across the US, bringing together today’s and tomorrow’s IT and business talent to share insights on one of the fast-growing technology and business areas. Given the competitive demand for talent across all types industries, insurance will have to elbow its way up to the front lines. Collaboration between academia, industry organizations, businesses, and leaders will be critical to making sure that new IT professionals will be excited and ready to join the insurance industry and contribute to its future as Next-Gen Insurers.

Current technologies, along with the rapid proliferation of emerging technologies, are now considered some of the greatest change agents since the introduction of the Internet. They promise innovative, game-changing breakthroughs that will challenge long-held business assumptions and shift the boundaries between business and industry – and create completely new businesses and industries. SMA’s recent research report, Emerging Technologies: Reshaping the Next-Gen Insurer - Strategy Meets Action describes the pace of adoption, investment, and potential for disruption and transformation of the IoT and eight other emerging technologies. The research shows that emerging technology adoption is being led by the Internet of Things. Over the next five years, the IoT is expected to drive new business models and foster the formation of new companies that have been created from unexpected combinations of companies and industries – all in pursuit of next-gen customer loyalty and revenue. 

The SMA study reveals that nearly a quarter of insurers are in some phase of IoT deployment, which SMA considers to be close to the tipping point for mass involvement in IoT technology. The research results also point to the overwhelming conclusion that nearly every business, including insurance, must and will become an Internet of Things business that will bring traditional, physical products into a new digital form or use. And because these products will be connected 24/7, the massive amount of data that will be available to create new and improved customer value will be table stakes. For insurers, this will shift the focus from risk-protection-only products to customer value-based products and services, including risk avoidance, risk mitigation, and even new valued-added services that could potentially come from outside traditional insurance.

The pace of adoption and business potential increase the urgent demand for IT professionals that can work with the varying technical architecture elements including sensors, software, analytics, processors, and digital-user interfaces needed to create an innovative IoT product. But even more important is the fact that this pressing need for IoT resources is impacting all industries, resulting in an even larger competitive landscape. Insurers are fiercely competing with modern and innovative companies like Google, Apple, Microsoft, Facebook, and Amazon that have the “cool factor,” as well as the old standards like GE, Proctor & Gamble, and Exxon. Every company in every industry is in the same battle for talent. And in this talent campaign, insurers must strategically and effectively communicate the interesting, challenging, and rapidly emerging opportunities in insurance as they seek new sources for talent through partnerships with organizations like IT-oLogy. 

As insurers look to develop strategies, experiment, and invest in IoT, they must also look to invest in promoting the education and training of a new generation of IT professionals that will help them innovate and create new products and services that can compete in a digital world that is changing fast. Key questions to address will be: What is our current talent base and what are our gaps? How will we acquire and retain talent in such a competitive marketplace?

Being able to respond to these and other questions will be critical to effectively establishing an Internet of Things business and realizing the full potential of this and other emerging technologies. The future market leaders will be those that proactively do two things: invest in IoT and other emerging technologies and equally invest in the education and training of a new generation of IT professionals that will be able to see the creative and interesting opportunities in insurance. Both areas of focus are critical to competing and winning in the new digital economy.

Be a part of inspiring a new generation of professionals that will help your company and the insurance industry to reinvent themselves, both in terms of business and the “cool factor.” Remake insurance into something that everyone wants to be a part of.  

Contact me at dgarth@strategymeetsaction.com if you’d like to learn how SMA can help you on the innovation journey and discover new opportunities for the insurance industry. Click here to learn more about SMA’s research.  

For more information, please contact Deb Smallwood at dsmallwood@stratetgymeetsaction.com