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In its 2007 report titled "Insurance 2020: Innovating Beyond Old Models," IBM looked at why insurers, who were among the earliest adopters of information technology (IT) as a group, are also among the slowest to adopt newer IT. The issue is not that insurers and their ecosystem members, such as agents and brokers, are not automated. Instead, IBM found that insurers are not adopting IT to increase return on equity, reduce prices, and so forth. IT has driven similar metrics in the right direction in other industries, but not in insurance.

A related finding was that the insurers tend to automate and optimize their processes as they exist rather than change to suit new technologies. For example, property and casualty insurers have added global positioning systems (GPS), bar coding of parts, and digital cameras almost seamlessly to replace physical maps, inventory tags and the Polaroid camera. When they did, neither adjusters and estimators nor the subsequent workflow had to change.

While insurers certainly want to improve their financial metrics, they do not feel they should have to change processes to do so. Even if they were willing to do so, IT Investment Research hasn't found an ERP software that can accommodate all of the various geographic/governmental, size-of-company, type-of-business-process, type-of-IT-architecture, type-of-delivery, and most important, type-of-insurance permutations possible. Instead, business process management (BPM) software lets insurers work the way they want to work while embracing new technologies such as GPS.

Workflow the way you work

That's why BPM software is so popular among insurers. Suppliers include Active Endpoints, Adobe, Appian, Cordys, Global 360, IBM, Metastorm, Pegasystems, Software AG and almost any BPM supplier with a workflow heritage. Some offer insurance-specific solutions, others offer templates and/or development frameworks and tools, and others have had success although their BPM offering is not insurance specific. Generic BPM is well aligned with insurance ecosystem needs.

IBM provides both BPM software specifically tuned to insurance and templates/frameworks. In May 2008 IBM released its Insurance Operations of the Future (IOF) solution, a composite application that can recognize inbound tasks (including those coming from unstructured sources), interpret information within the source, and route work to a human or straight-through processing (STP) business process set.


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