From the Internet to smartphones to artificial intelligence, digital technology has changed the way people work, live and do business over the last three decades. The disruption has transformed many industries, including insurance. Recent technological developments relevant to insurers include blockchain, intelligent automation, self-driving cars, big data, analytics and many more.

These new tools have rewritten rulebooks and flipped conventional wisdom on its head. Yet some things remain true through all the change—among them the rule that those who start preparing for tomorrow today will have an advantage.

But what will tomorrow look like?

Accenture spends a lot of time thinking about that question. Every year, our Technology Vision team collaborates with Accenture Research to identify the recent technology developments that will have the greatest impact on the insurance industry in the next three to five years. The resulting report flags emerging disruptive trends and tools that can help proactive leaders get ahead of the curve.

This year’s Technology Vision for Insurance report is built on consultations with executives and entrepreneurs in the public and private sectors, in academia, startups and venture capital firms. The report draws from interviews with tech luminaries, industry experts and Accenture’s own business leaders and dedicated insurance research team. These findings are supplemented with a survey of more than 5,400 business and IT executives from 31 countries on the technological challenges and opportunities they face.

The growing pace of innovation

86 percent of insurance exec agree organizations must innovate rapidly to keep competative edge.jpgThe biggest single takeaway from this year’s report is that the need for innovation in insurance is growing rapidly. A strong majority of insurance executives surveyed report that their organizations need to innovate at a growing pace just to keep a competitive edge.

As the digital revolution accelerates, insurers face two imperatives. First, they must decide what is timeless in their businesses and preserve it. Second, they must identify what needs to change and become more adept than ever at making those changes quickly.

From the printing press to artificial intelligence, technology has always empowered people. But now, for the first time, we aren’t simply incorporating technology into our lives. Our tools are sophisticated enough that we can embed humanity into our technology. Far from eliminating the human touch, cutting-edge tech developments are putting humans firmly in the driver’s seat.

Partnership the path to transformation

As technology becomes more human, the rules of digital success will change for insurers. Companies will need to rethink their business models and their relationships with customers and employees. Insurers will use human technology to shift from providers to partners. They will seize opportunities to integrate digital tools with customers and employees to empower people and deliver hyper-personalized service.

The 2017 Accenture Technology Vision report identifies three “pillars of partnership” necessary to make this transition successfully:

  • Adapting technology to people. This means designing technology that works for people, not because of them. Artificial intelligence and machine learning mean tools can interact with people, learn from them and change. Successful insurers will create tools that adapt to their users, not the other way around.
  • Aligning the goals of people and businesses. This will be a big change for firms accustomed to maximizing each opportunity for profit. To become a true partner with their customers and employees, insurers will need to shift their thinking and adopt new goals. This will change the game: when a company establishes that it truly wants to help people reach their goals, they will come to the company first.
  • A people-first approach. Making this work will require a dedication to a people-first approach. Companies will meet this demand with technology, which will become more focused on helping people as it becomes more human.

If this all seems as ambitious as it is abstract, don’t worry—the Technology Vision report also identifies concrete steps that insurers can take today to start moving toward tomorrow. These are divided into five trends. Come back next week for a look at the first, “AI is the new UI.” Or head here to download the full report yourself.

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