Fall is traditionally the time to plan for the coming new year. Here are the technologies you should be thinking about to accomplish short- and long-term business goals.

No organization wants to build the next Edsel, but neither does it want to miss the Next Big Thing. Being the first to embrace a technology often leads the earliest adopter to the bleeding edge, absorbing risk and pain for the bragging rights of being first,

There’s a big difference between being first and being current, however, and most savvy insurance organizations aim for the latter state, where they can still take a leadership role—but from a safer vantage point. A lot is happening on the technology front that can seriously impact the insurance industry. While your organization is planning its 2017 projects and spending, we suggest you keep five technologies in mind for short-term and long-term consideration.

  1. Cloud Technology. Companies that haven’t already embraced the cloud should start now. Its use is practically an imperative for the agile organization because it can potentially enable a full range of direct and multichannel relationships while adding security to transactions and lowering costs. I recently discussed strategies for adopting cloud technologies in two posts “Don’t fear the cloud—the oldest next big thing” and “Don’t just dream big.”
  2. Internet of Things (IoT). Sensors have come into their own and valuable data have come along with it. Whether in a wearable form like an exercise monitor, or attached to an object like an auto-driving sensor, these devices collect a lot of information and can provide an unvarnished look at customers, their habits and their needs. Several insurers now offer discounts for drivers willing to install a black box that collects their driving data, but this is only the beginning. Accenture research has shown more than three in four insurance customers are willing to give up some privacy in exchange for more personalized offerings, so creative use of IoT and the data it provides are certainly worth considering.
  3. Artificial Intelligence (AI). If change is in your organization’s future, AI can make it work better. AI combines a group of technologies to create a system that perceives and collects data, analyzes it and then uses the data to make independent, informed decisions. Tech giants like Apple and Tesla are investing heavily in AI, but it has found its way into financial service companies, too. Right now, financial services companies are using AI primarily in handling large volumes of data that calls for relatively low-level decision-making and includes human oversight. The technologies are quickly growing more sophisticated, though. AI is moving toward abilities like detecting mood from facial expression and voice tone, so it will be able to handle inquiries and support human decision-making in the future.
  4. Robotic Process Automation (RPA). RPA is actually a subset of AI, but worth some attention because it is gathering steam. Though there’s no little robot scurrying around à la R2D2, these virtual robots are great at automating rules-based tasks within narrow parameters, allowing employees to concentrate on more complex matters. The ease of setup—usually without IT assistance—-plus efficiency gains and rapid returns on investment make RPA a useful addition to most organizations.
  5. Blockchain. Looking ahead, there is little doubt that blockchain has captured the imagination of just about everyone for good and bad. It’s potential for innovation is based on 10 qualities: accessibility, openness, trustworthiness, natural redundancy, disruptiveness, anonymity, real-timeliness, security, safety (without physical possession) and decentrality. One startup, Everledger, is using blockchain to protect diamonds from theft or fraud by creating a digital ledger of the world’s most valuable stones that establishes provenance.

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