Social technology may not promise ROI in a conventional business sense, but the benefits can be culturally and logistically inherent, according to a recent report from Celent.
Some insurers, recognizing the value of sharing and openness across very large organizations, are engaging in the adoption of programs seeking a change in culture via communication networks. Based on the experience of these insurers, Celent lists five key benefits of social platforms: timeliness, visibility, discovery, sharing and crossing of boundaries.
The report, titled “Collaboration and Insurance 2.0: An Overview of Social Software and Enterprise 2.0 for Insurers,” defines social technology as Web 2.0 capabilities and the use of mobile devices, social networks and other technologies that enhance real-time communications and the sharing of information. Some characteristics commonly attributed to Web 2.0 are search, links, authoring, tags, extensions and signals. Collaboration is cited in the report as an overarching feature of social platforms enabled by the Web 2.0 experience, which, the report adds, can prove vital to flourishing internal operations.
Despite a challenging business case for implementation, insurers embarking upon social technologies have observed a reduction in travel among employees, an improvement in processes that require multiple teams and better leverage of knowledge across the organization.
The report acknowledges that many these hard benefits can be achieved through standard technology, but the key benefits quoted by insurers are softer. Because of this, in several cases the investment was based strictly on executive backing rather than a compelling business case.
Social software provides insurers with access to massive amounts of content, internal and external, and the ability to shape this data into relevant packages specific to a company or mission. “The value of this is hard to evaluate,” admits the report, which goes on to list increased staff satisfaction, faster discovery of leads, reduced cycle times for manual processes, leveraging collaboration and real-time capturing of corporate knowledge as some of the soft benefits cited by insurers.
Generally speaking, business processes are shored up through the real-time capture of information. Particularly among today’s workforce, increasingly widespread and mobile, notes the report, “both people and workflow systems can leverage presence, information and unified communications technology to reach out to the right people, in the right manner at the right time. Not only can an agent avoid leaving an underwriting decision in the email box of someone on vacation, but the system could allocate the task to someone who is at their desk at that moment and even connect the underwriter and agent in real time.“
When looking to adapt to social-enabled software, Celent advises insurers to avoid applying too many rules to start with (e.g. allow non-work groups and links to form), account for regulatory and compliance requirements, carefully consider any third-party involvement and avoid relying on pilots for too long.