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The art of partnering & collaboration in insurance technology

Andre Symes, Genasys Technologies

The days of all the technology and technology skills sitting inside insurers, are long over. And even the biggest of global insurers are more and more moving to partnerships and collaborating with people that have very specific skills, that have markets, and that can provide them with access to markets.

At our recent Insurance Innovation Journey webinar series Andre’ Symes, MD Genasys Technologies UK, and collaboration expert, shared some secrets. Part 2 of this presentation will be published in the next issue.

When it comes to ecosystems and choosing partners we should think about dinosaurs, USB ports, cables, or paint palettes. We need to ask ourselves, why have ecosystems become so important? Dinosaurs have been evolving for hundreds of millions of years at a steady pace, and they would have carried on evolving, unless the asteroid hit. That is very similar to what happened last year, when COVID hit. Effectively, they were not able to adapt fast enough. It is exactly this step change that we need to be able to make to stay relevant and survive.

Changing legacy systems, takes a very, very long time, it really does. So when COVID happened, we didn’t have the luxury of spending two years implementing a new system, we had to adapt quickly. Think about how platforms and digital services have rendered bricks and mortar companies irrelevant, and how the digital era is enabling us to change quickly. I mean, business schools at the moment are littered with numerous cases about Toys R Us versus Amazon and Uber versus taxis.

It’s this digital ecosystem that they can create that enables them to adapt fast for environmental change. This is why ecosystem are so important. Simply put, technology options give us the ability to adapt and pivot quickly. So again, why is this important? Technology ecosystems give us choice. Choice gives us the ability to adapt to change quickly and this ability to adapt or to evolve faster than the dinosaurs could, or existing dinosaurs can, is really what future proofs our business. Nobody can predict the unforeseen or the future, but we can engineer for the unforeseen, and we can architect for it.

The question now is, what do we do to enable these ecosystems? How many of us have got a pile of cables lying useless in a bottom drawer. To create ecosystems, we all have to be able to interact with each other. 20 years ago we all had a Sony Ericsson or Nokia or Siemens, etc and none of them could talk to each other and each needed its own cable to connect to computers. It was a nightmare to set them up. At one stage we brought in all these adapters, which brought with them their own complexity. It wasn’t until we created universal connectors like USB, Bluetooth or Wi Fi that connecting systems or connecting devices became easier.

Right now I’ve got a USB cable plugged into my laptop, and I can access my Garman and my phone, etc, from there, with one connecting port. That is effectively what it is that we need to have. Now USBs are not perfect, but it’s a hell of a lot better than the cables we had before. And that’s where we want to go with our ecosystems. The USB is the API in the ecosystem. I cannot over state how important API’s are. API stands for application programming interface and is basically just a connector between different systems.

Secondly, we need a clear vision for how we want to interact with the ecosystem. We need to have a roadmap that facilitates opening ecosystems. We need to have an API-first approach. That’s super important when looking at how you want to build your roadmap out. However, we also need to be able to iterate and change. I think that’s where my good friend Wimpie from Global Choices brought in design thinking the other day, as part of this series. We need to bring this into our conversation when creating this roadmap towards the creation of your ecosystems.

Last, but certainly not least, we need to get internal buy-in from large organisations. It is currently a huge problem where we have large incumbents that don’t adopt the future. They don’t adopt the change or this open ecosystem mentality. They will know we need to do it but, when it comes time to pull the trigger, things stall. That’s when we start struggling with change and we saw, in our COVID asteroid experience from last year that those that were able to change did change, and they leaped from their competition.

So it is massively important to make sure that you get internal change management, even to the point where you create innovation teams that can help the traditional business understand the need for this open API’s, ecosystem approach rather than the monolithic approach of building everything yourself and attempting to hoard that IP.

Now we know that we need it because we want to avoid the asteroid. We sort of know how to do it because we understand that we have to have interconnection within the ecosystems, but then Who? And there was a question earlier about what the insurer tech ecosystem look like? The question really is, how do you choose out of this? What do you choose? How do you choose, and which partners here will actually create a powerful ecosystem. How do you ensure you don’t end up with something that your company doesn’t want, or that doesn’t add value to your business. I would like to propose a couple of points for consideration, to think about when you are looking at partners in your ecosystem.

Firstly, do they improve the customers life, if they aren’t going to improve your customers or your customers, customers life, don’t bring them on board. Then you are effectively just using tech for the sake of tech. And that is rule number one that you shouldn’t do. Don’t ever try and use tech for the sake of tech. There’s a term “Maslow’s hammer” that often comes out in our hypothesis adoption analysis, Take Blockchain as an example.

Four years ago, blockchain was the be all and end all solution to everything in insurance and, whilst there has been use case adoptions, it has gone through a time cycle, and it is no longer here. So, quite often, we hear people just using tech for the sake of it, it has to improve your customer’s life. In the end, when it comes to ecosystems, the question is whether they are they going to embrace collaboration?

Now, you would think that mentioning ecosystems off the bat, that there is going to be colaboration, but don’t be so sure. In any sort of ecosystem, as well as in the environment and natural ecosystems, there is always a predator. We therefore need to make sure that all ecosystem partners are aligned to the same goal, so that they can all, collectively, add value to the end customer or to the ecosystem as a whole. Andre’ discusses this further in our next issue.

Download the article as it appears in the March edition of COVER

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