Why The Future Of Insurance Will Be Mobile And What Will It Mean For Insurance Business Models

Anybody out there who doesn't have a mobile device, raise your hand...just what I thought.

The explosion of mobile phones and apps in the everyday lives of consumers--and agents--is powering big changes in the business of insurance.  Heightened customer expectations are getting formed by the changing mobile landscape; new generations of customers; new competitors, and the ferocious pace of mobile tech-enabled innovation that is radically reshaping how customers become informed, purchase, and get service. 

In our new report, the first of Forrester's Mobile Insurance Playbook, we examine how mobile forces are driving customer expectations and how customer demands are going to influence new insurance business models.

Consider that:

  • Consumers are living La Vida Mobile.  Mobile is a pervasive element in the daily lives of insurance customers. With more mobile devices available within easy reach, US consumers are tapping into this ready convenience to research, buy, and service their financial needs, including insurance.  And how about those Millennial insurance customers?  More than one in four told us that they use mobile as their main personal financial channel. 
  • Agents are becoming proficient mobile tool users.  The tablet form factor looks almost purpose-built for the needs of agents.  From their hi-def displays to fast boot-up and super portability, agents are ardent tablet-ers, and half the agents in an informal survey at the end of last year cited mobile as one of their leading business initiatives. 
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SUSEcon2012 — SUSE’s Coming Out Party

Every culture has its coming of age rituals — Confirmation, Bar Mitzvah, being hunted by tribal elders, surviving in the wilderness, driving at high speed while texting — all of which mark the progress from childhood to adulthood. In the high-tech world, one of the rituals marking the maturation of a company is the user group. When a company has a strategy it wants to communicate, a critical mass of customers, and prospects bright enough that it wants to highlight them rather than obscure them, it is time for a user group meeting.

This year, having passed a year since the acquisition of Novell by AttachMate and its subsequent instantiation as a standalone division, as well as being its 20th anniversary, SUSE had its first user group meeting. All in all, the portents were good, and SUSE got its core messages across to an audience of about 500 of its users as well as a cadre of the more sophisticated (IMHO) industry analysts.

Among My Key Takeaways:

  • SUSE is a stable company with rational management — With profitable revenues of over $200M and a publicly stated plan to hit $234 for the next fiscal year, SUSE is a reasonably sized company (technically a division of $1.3B Attachmate, but it looks and acts like an independent company), with growth rates that look to be a couple of points higher than its segment.
  • SUSE’s management has done an excellent job of focusing the company — SUSE, acknowledging its size disadvantage over competitor Red Hat, has chosen to focus heavily on enterprise Linux, publicly disavowing desktop and mobile device directions. SUSE’s claim is that their market share in the core enterprise segment is larger than their overall market share compared to Red Hat. This is a hard number to even begin to tweeze out, but it feels like a reasonable claim.
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Apple Maintains The Status Quo With The iPhone 5, But For How Long?

Apple's new iPhone 5 is a case study in incremental improvement. Nearly every aspect of the product -- the CPU, display, cameras, radio modem, size, weight, etc. -- are all improved over the iPhone 4S and at the same $199 price point. No doubt, the iPhone 5 and iOS 6 will sell millions of units, preserve Apple's momentum, and hold off the competition, but significant threats are mounting that Apple cannot afford to ignore:

  • Nokia is delivering Apple-quality innovation. As Nokia demonstrated last week at its Lumia 920 event, Nokia's innovation engine is firing on all cylinders. When the Lumia 920 launches (rumored for November 2), it will outclass the iPhone 5 in key areas such as imaging (PureView imaging, Cinemagraph) and location (Maps, City Lens, Transit) as well as bring wireless charging and NFC into the mainstream. While the breadth of accessories will be nowhere near what the iPhone offers, Nokia gets strong marks for showing Apple how NFC can enhance the accessory experience. 
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Embrace Mobile To Deliver A New Value Proposition For BPM Excellence

Arguably, mobile is currently the hottest trend driving both business and technology strategies for executives. If you need any additional evidence, just look at all of the enterprise buzz Apple has generated with the iPhone 5 launch. Unfortunately, today’s business and technology leaders continue to respond to the mobile opportunity with the wrong answers. Business leaders respond to mobile with, “Let’s build a really slick mobile app, put it up on iTunes and we’re done!” Technologists respond to mobile with, “We need a strong BYOD policy and to put device management tools in place!” Both of these responses completely overlook the fact that underlying legacy applications and business processes need optimizing for the mobile experience.

We run into examples of this “lipstick on a pig” approach to mobile all the time. In fact, I ran into a perfect example of this recently when I needed to order a pizza for my family after a very hectic Saturday afternoon. When I picked up my mobile phone to call the pizza delivery place, a light bulb went off over my head. Instead of dialing the pizza delivery company and waiting on hold for 15 minutes, why not download its mobile app in two minutes and order my pizza within another two minutes. I figured I could shave off ten minutes of wait time by simply downloading the pizza delivery company’s mobile app.

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What You Can Learn From Facebook's Approach And Mistakes In Building Mobile Services

I listened to the Mark Zuckerberg interview from the  TechCrunch Disrupt event in San Francisco this week. 

There were a few choice quotes (I'll paraphrase them here - these are not literally a transcription. You can find the video/audio on the TechCrunch site):

"The biggest mistake we made (with our mobile services) was relying too much on HTML5 and for too long." 

"We finally realized that a good enough mobile experience would fall short. We needed a great mobile experience. The only path to great is native on iOS and Android." 

"Our mobile users are more engaged and use our services more frequently." 

"All of our code is for mobile."

"We'll build native code for iOS and Android." (And it is building for iOS first)

"Ads can't be standalone on a sidebar in mobile. They need to be integrated into our product." 

"We reorganized. A year ago, 90% of the code check-ins were from the core mobile team. Now 90% comes from other parts of the organization." 

"We reorganized. We were in functional silos. We now have product teams (responsible for delivery)." 

"A Facebook phone doesn't make any sense." 

Some context. Certainly, Facebook is unique with it being a media-centric company and very global. It does need mobile Web to reach much of its audience - now nearing 950M. For many companies, mobile Web will continue to be a relatively low-cost, broad-reach play to get to most of the phones. Mobile Web doesn't go away, but it is not where the differentiation will happen - at least in the near term. 

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Enterprise Mobility: How Fast Can Development Go?

I discuss mobile enablement of enterprise apps every day with our clients. The common trend is that it needs to be done now and in the most cost-effective manner (shocking, I know!). The good news is that meeting these expectations is quickly becoming easier. Recently I published a blog post about back-end-as-a-service (BaaS). I've recently published my latest research on these BaaS platforms. During this research, three things became very apparent:

  • BaaS enables mobile apps to be written in hours, not days. Nearly all BaaS platforms that I investigated had a web-based step-by-step approach to setting up your mobile back-end services, and some even offered a pure command line interface. Depending on preference, either approach allows for the mobile app back-end scaffold to be available in a matter of minutes. Add in some business logic for connecting to your line-of-business (LOB) applications (in your language of choice, no less), and you're ready to focus completely on the mobile interface of your app! At this point, the biggest challenge is how to manage your development vs. production back-end environments. Not surprisingly, some vendors (StackMob and FatFractal, for instance) already have a solution for managing this as well.
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Why Your Company Needs You To Attend Forrester’s Business Architecture & Process Summit

The pace of business change is accelerating. The reason why it is accelerating is the mushrooming of disruptive factors: your customers expecting anytime/everywhere access to you through their mobile devices, competitors leveraging big data technology to rapidly execute on customer-centric value propositions, and new market entrants with lean business models that enable them to outmaneuver your business.

Most companies deal poorly with disruptive change. If they are the “disruptor,” seeking to use these disruptive factors to steal market share, they often run without a plan and only after, for example, a poor mobile app customer experience, realize what they should have changed. If they are the firm being disrupted, the desire for a fast response leads to knee-jerk reactions and a thin veneer of new technology on a fossilized back-office business model.

This is where the value of business architects and business process professionals comes to play: you help your company plan and execute coherent responses to disruptive factors. That’s why your company needs you to attend Forrester’s Business Architecture & Process Forum: Embracing Digital Disruption in London on October 4 and Orlando, FL on October 18–19, 2012.

  • We’ll start with James McQuivey describing how technology is changing the playing field for disruption in his keynote: The Disruptor’s Handbook: How To Make The Most Of Digital Disruption.
  • We’ll look at how firms have used technology to rethink their operating models, eliminating low-value activities to focus on what their customers value in Craig Le Clair’s Implementing The Different In The Age Of Digital Disruption.
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