In my third post in this series about the Accenture Technology Vision 2014 for Insurance, I am going to delve into the trend we call “from workforce to crowdsource” and the opportunities it creates for disruptive innovation in the insurance industry. This concept is all about using digital platforms and technologies to outsource work to the “crowd”.

Using collaboration technologies, insurers can connect with smart, enthusiastic people in the outside world who have the interest, motivation, time and expertise to work with insurers to solve some their most daunting business challenges. Crowdsourcing is not yet commonplace in the insurance industry—the most celebrated example so far is Allstate’s Claim Prediction Challenge, discussed in some detail in a recent video blog by my colleague, John Cusano.

But in other industries, companies tap the wisdom of the crowd for purposes as different as creating new flavors of potato crisps, designing new logos, determining which products should be on retail shelves, and identifying security holes in software or Web sites. Even complex projects can be crowdsourced— automotive startup Local Motors, for example, leveraged a global community of car enthusiasts to design and create a new vehicle.

For insurers, crowdsourcing has perhaps even more to offer than it does other industries. Most insurers agree that innovation is one of their biggest challenges. In many—if not most cases—they lack the in-house skills and culture to keep up with the latest consumer trends driven by digital technologies.

The result, highlighted time and again by studies such as Accenture’s Consumer-Driven Innovation Survey, is a gulf between consumers’ expectations and what insurers are able to deliver. Consider, for example, the finding that 55 percent of customers would be interested in insurance products and services offered on social media.

Crowdsourcing a great way for insurers to close this gap before digital disrupters move in to fill the vacuum. It gives them a way of tapping into people with the sort of skills they don’t have in-house—for example, people with digital backgrounds or those with exposure to the fast-moving-consumer and technology industries.

What’s more, it allows insurers to tap staggering amounts of brainpower and work-hours in a cost-effective manner to solve complex business problems. This is a potential source of labor that complements the traditional insurance workforce—but more importantly, it offers insurers ways to source ideas they probably could not conceive of within their own organizations.

From Digital Wallflower to Digital Disrupter
Read the report.

From the crowd—including insurance customers or professionals working for fun and profit—insurers could uncover new ideas for products, new risk rating models, new routes to market, and more. It’s not as risky as it sounds to tap into the crowd, provided the planning is sound, the brief clear and the project management good. So how does an insurer get started?

We recommend looking at leading consumer brands such Walmart and Lay’s for inspiration. Identify opportunities for crowdsourcing help in areas such as analytics, market research, product development, or innovation.

Then, the insurer could think how it could tap into the crowd using existing platforms like Kaggle, Elance and oDesk. The next step is to engage existing online communities in a pilot to evaluate the value of tapping into a different workforce and set of skills to the ones in the current organization.

As insurers grapple with disruption to their business models, those that get crowdsourcing and other flexible working patterns right could put themselves at the forefront of innovation.

I’ll be taking a short break from blogging during the European summer holidays. I’ll be back on 3 September with the next post in this series. In the meantime, you can find the other posts in this series here, or you can download the full Accenture Technology Vision 2014 for Insurance report.

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