In the current era, I believe few life and annuity carriers need to be convinced that mobility is critically important. Most carriers will agree that mobility is not just a potential source of innovation and competitive advantage, but that it’s essential for serving the next generation of customers who live on their smartphones and tablets. Even if the average customer today might not use a mobile phone or tablet to buy insurance or manage their accounts, in a few years, they certainly will.

Many carriers, however, have failed to realize an adequate return on investment (ROI) from their initial forays into mobility, causing both delay and doubt in bringing this technology to their customer-facing applications.

Why haven’t carriers seen an adequate ROI?

Many factors are involved but from an IT perspective, initial failures have been due in part to underlying platforms being antiquated and not technically capable. Also, carriers have tended to treat mobility as a separate application, developing it alongside other applications, resulting in unnecessary duplication and increased costs. When combined with the frequency of physical and functional changes in devices today, it’s no surprise that carriers are wary of making bigger and bolder investments.

Today’s approach has to be “mobility first”

To avoid these types of failures, carriers need to develop applications using a “mobility first” approach—applications need to be designed to be holistically mobile ready from the very beginning. Such a strategy has implications for both the front-end and back-end of the application:

  • The front-end needs to be layered. As both devices and distribution channels extend, the front-end must be able to adapt quickly.
  • The back-end needs to be flexible to deal with the constant change, but remain decoupled. The only changes to the core that should affect these distribution channels are function and product enhancements.

Back office solutions and policy administration systems in particular need to:

  • Provide extremely flexible integration so that new distribution channels can be handled with the minimum of time and new investment.
  • Include a portal that is “mobile aware” so that it can be either viewed directly by the end consumer or plugged into an enterprise level portal. This means that the portal is not just used as a Web service but is also as an embedded solution.
  • Be browser agnostic. In support of the above, rather than being coded for specific devices, which creates a large, continuous overhead, applications need to be able to work in any browser, so they can also work on most tablets and phones.
  • Anticipate the needs of consumers who increasingly expect to have their needs met through their mobile devices.
  • Support straight-through-processing. In order to provide mobile solutions over and above standard support inquiries, such as self-service business transactions, the back office environment needs to support real straight-through-processing.

Carriers should also consider how to improve the auditing process in this area. They can currently record and analyze what their customers are doing on their regular websites and portals – which greatly streamlines audits. Now, technologies are being developed in the mobile space to capture and simulate mobile transaction auditing, compliance and end-user support, which should be part of any “mobility first” business case.

Lower costs and improved business agility

By following these strategies, carriers can lower costs and improve business agility. Developers do not need to write screens for mobility as well as the back office, nor maintain two sets of applications—both of which adds cost and time. The business as a whole benefits from an application design and architecture that is more flexible and adaptable to change.

Carriers must make mobility efforts cost effective, not only in the initial mobile implementation but in ongoing development and maintenance. Putting “mobility first” means being smart about mobile strategy and not building multiple applications. Instead, it means building an application once and extending it as required to meet changing customer and business needs.

To learn more, download the report: The mobile future of Life & Annuity applications: Designing for “mobility first”, written by Kym Gully, Technology Lead, Accenture Software for Life and Annuity.

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