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July 29 2021 | Mark Breading

The past 18 months have been interesting (to say the least) for anyone involved in technology strategy, planning, or implementation. Ideally, a roadmap with prioritized projects and defined resource allocations directs the activity, and the company stays relatively true to its path. Unfortunately, the pandemic, with all its implications, has wreaked havoc on tech plans. Project priorities have often shifted, sometimes virtually overnight. Digital gaps have been exposed. Customer expectations have dramatically changed. And executives wonder what the new normal will look like.

MBBlog072721thumnail1SMA has conducted a series of market pulse polls throughout the pandemic, starting in April 2020 as the initial economic lockdowns and work-from-home mandates began to take hold. Our latest survey, conducted in May of this year, is aimed at assessing how plans are changing and being reshaped as commercial lines insurers move forward with plans for the second half of 2021 and formulate plans for early 2022. Whether we are moving toward a post-pandemic era in the US is debatable, but what seems clear from the plans of commercial lines insurers is that tech-related plans are moving ahead full steam.

So, what does the big picture look like?

The commercial lines insurance industry has gone through three distinct phases over the last year and a half. In the early days of the pandemic, there was a tactical response to the lockdowns which affected employees, customers, and partners alike. New virtual, digital capabilities became a priority to enable remote work and remote customer interactions. Then, as 2020 proceeded, phase two began. And as it became evident that the pandemic would continue for some time, there was some deceleration of some activities, a pause in projects, and some of the more innovative initiatives were tabled until 2021. The third phase began in 2021 with an explosion of activity. It was almost as if someone flipped a switch on January 1st. Commercial lines companies began accelerating plans, launching a frenzy of tech-based strategy and implementation activity in the first half of the year.

SMA’s most recently completed Market Pulse survey shows that hardly any companies plan to retrench or pause project activity in the second half. There is a significant amount of rethinking for roadmaps and project reprioritizations. But it should be noted that one exception to the reshuffling of priorities is in the core systems space. Any companies that had policy, billing, or claims systems modernization projects in flight have continued to push forward. These projects are so foundational and have so much urgency and momentum that it would be unwise to pause or reprioritize them.

So, the stage is set to be very active for the rest of the year as companies double down on technology initiatives. Although 2022 plans have not come into sharp focus just yet, strategy and budget planning are underway at many companies, and the early glimpse indicates that this accelerated digital transformation will not be just a one-year phenomenon. But it may just represent the new normal. I personally can’t wait until 2022 to see what is in store for the industry!

For more information on commercial lines plans for technology, see our recent research report, “Commercial Lines Digital Plans and the Post-Pandemic World: SMA Market Pulse Insights.” The report also includes a view for insurers’ expectations for the workforce come January 2022.


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To learn more, please contact:
Mark Breading
Partner
Strategy Meets Action
614.562.8310