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The Path to Partnership: Technology Vision for Insurance 2017

The biggest innovations in insurance over the next three years will not be in the technology tools themselves, but in how we design them with employees, customers, intermediaries and other human partners in mind.

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The annual Accenture Insurance Technology Vision identifies the emerging IT developments that will have the greatest impact on insurance organizations in the next three to five years. This year, our research reveals how we’re shifting to a people-centric technology environment where the power lies with people to shape technology as they see fit.

The technology we use today is more human and interactive than ever, thanks to innovations in touch displays, mixed reality, and natural language processing. Because of advances in contextual analysis, image recognition and deep learning algorithms, technology can learn to adapt itself to our wants and needs, rather than demanding that we learn to adapt to it.

And the next wave of platform technologies and business models is seeing organizations become partners with customers, agents and employees, and with digital ecosystems of businesses beyond their walls. Success is increasingly tied not only to the success of products and services, but also to the success of partners.

As we look toward a future where quantum computing’s near-unlimited processing and algorithmic power will solve difficult problems in entirely new ways across multiple industries, where robots and artificial intelligence (AI) will work side by side with people in every discipline, we are reshaping our entire world and ourselves within it.

Yet insurers are keenly aware that they cannot move into this new world alone, but will need to form part of ecosystems if they are to succeed. Agents and other intermediaries, customers, the contingent workforce, venture capitalists, technology companies, insurtech startups, and organizations in adjacent industries such as auto manufacturing, healthcare and home security will all be partners of the digital insurer of the future.

The digital insurance leaders are already starting their journey to make the big plays; by empowering people with more human technology, businesses will transform the relationship with them from provider to partner. Through this process, they’ll also transform internally. By helping people reach their goals, these new partnerships will help insurers cement a place in the next evolution of society.

The first step to empowering people: providing technology that works with them

Changing the relationship with people in a digital age means changing their relationship with technology. If insurers are to be partners, and technology is how they will empower people, then the goal is to design technology to be on their side. But making this happen also means changing the way insurance organizations think about their business models and their relationships with both customers and employees.

Adapting technology to people

The first pillar of partnership is designing technology that works for people, not because of them. That means moving beyond technology tools with power that is only unleashed when customers and employees adapt to them. No longer: technology’s great new strength is in its growing humanity. Tools that interact with people, learn from those exchanges, and adapt for future interactions make the experience of using them all the more human. That’s the first step to empowering people – providing technology that works with them.

Aligning goals to people’s goals

To put these new adaptive technologies to use, insurers must adopt people’s goals as their own. This is a sea change for companies that have long sought to maximize each opportunity for profit: from the analog business’s perspective, the ideal relationship is one where every interaction with a customer results in an immediate sale. But these relationships are only as strong as the customer’s need for products and services.

A partnership, by contrast, is much more powerful – and enduring. To become a true partner, insurers will need to shift their thinking, and replace the immediate sales goals of the past with the goals that customers and employees have for themselves. Doing so will change the game: the more goals a company helps people achieve, the more confident they will be in the partnership, and the relationship will grow stronger with each interaction.

When it’s established that a company truly wants to help people reach their goals, they’ll come to the company first for as many of the goals as can be addressed. And when people succeed, so does the company.

The People First approach to business and technology

Making all of this work means dedication to a People First approach. Whether it’s customers or employees, their goals and needs must come first. Insurers will meet this demand with their technology. More than ever, technology is an agent of change – and now it can empower people in an interactive, collaborative way, on everyone’s terms.

When insurers truly enable people, they’re contributing to growth at both the individual level and the societal scale. Leaders have always strived to solve big problems. But the digital age brings opportunities to attack larger challenges than ever, by combining the strength of the enterprise with the passion and power of individuals. Technology that works for and with people makes it possible to have it both ways: insurers can empower the individual and the group at the same time.

“Leaders will empower people—customers and employees—by transforming technology from tools they must learn to use, to a powerful partner that will work with them rather than just for them.”

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