Industry the July/August 2012 issue

Digital Disruption

The blazing speed of technological change is forcing you to change the way you do business. You have no choice but to evolve.
By Ken Crerar Posted on August 11, 2012

On. The. Planet.

Flip through this month’s issue and take note of our feature stories on cyber security, social networking and cloud computing. They speak to technology as a disrupter and the fact that business survival will be, in large part, dependent upon how effectively firms embrace and manage the intersection of disruptive innovations. According to Forrester, “Future digital strategies will define success or failure.” This is exciting for some, scary for others, because downright chaos is a real possibility if managed poorly.

We’re seeing a lot of this with the changing employee benefits environment. There are brokers embracing multifaceted action plans to propel employee engagement strategies, benefits administration, data warehousing systems, predictive analytics, etc. Many brokers are working on creative ideas for buying, partnering and building technology solutions to remain competitive, all with an eye on more and more interoperability, which is huge for a majority of American businesses that are committed to health and productivity programs for their employees. Other brokers are already behind, even though they understand the train has left the building.

Technology and its role in business—even insurance—is nothing new. What’s different is the speed of convergence. As Forrester says, “Digital strategy and business strategy are becoming synonymous…. The lines between them are blurring.”

Companies are facing all sorts of challenges today—from new organizational models to chain disruption and more. We heard from them firsthand at our inaugural CIO (Chief Information Officer) Working Group meeting this spring. Strategic technology leaders from all types of member firms—mid-sized to large, public to private—gathered to talk about everything but the bits and bytes of tech talk. The conversation was geared toward high-level operations issues, with a focus on regulatory compliance and how it affects technology. They also talked about forward-looking technology initiatives, some of which are not even in play in our industry yet.

So what is digital disruption? The buzzword is BYOD, or “bring your own device.” You witness it every day at the office as more and more employees (even you) are bringing their mobile devices to work. Tablets, laptops and applications make for a more efficient workday—in meetings, on calls. Less paper, less hassle, automatic downloads and the converging of data. It’s an exercise rife with opinion and debate on things like security and best practices as we continue to integrate our business operations with the technologies that drive our lives. And as much as it turns our work world on its head, our clients, too, will elevate their demand for new offerings. Consumers are also benefitting. They’re better informed, have easier access to more information than ever before, and enjoy the experience of streamlined processing of quotes and claims.

The bigger picture, though, and the real disruption for brokers, is about solving their own technology needs because traditional agency technology is not keeping pace. The need to transform and adapt is critical. And that’s not just unique to brokers—it’s true of every industry. Organizational strategy is quickly shifting from simply keeping up the pace to setting the pace. It’s a survival tactic.

Think about it.

Evolve or die.

Ken Crerar President & CEO, The Council Read More

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