Unified comms and collaboration is increasingly important for insurers

Barry Rabkin, Principal Analyst, Insurance Technology

Unified communications and collaboration (UCC) capabilities are becoming increasingly important for insurers and companies in other industries in the rapidly emerging digital marketplace. To determine how enterprises around the globe are using or planning to use UCC, Ovum interviewed over 1,320 enterprise ICT decision-makers in 18 countries in 4Q12 and 1Q13.

Ovum’s recently published report The Future of Unified Communications and Collaboration: Insurance presents an indicative view of current and planned use of voice and UCC tools in the insurance marketplace, based on interviews with 24 insurance respondents. Specifically, we discuss insurers’ ongoing use of telephony (IP-PBX), the gap between insurers’ views of employee demands and the reality of what employees want or are familiar with, and the fact that insurers realize that smartphones and tablets will have the largest impact on their operations in the next three years.

Telephony (IP-PBX) remains the most widely adopted UCC technology, but IM and web conferencing follow closely behind

UCC suppliers – telecoms and unified communications (UC) vendors and their value-added resellers (VARs) – need patience with the pace at which the insurance industry adopts technology. It is unsurprising that the survey shows that insurers currently use telephony (IP-PBX), instant messaging (IM), and audio/web conferencing as their key UCC technologies; indeed, insurers have decades of experience with telephony and web conferencing.

IM might be considered late to the insurance scene, but claim adjusters can use this communication tool to interact with one another and the claims department in the home office, while life and property and casualty (P&C) insurance agents can use it to interact or send quick messages to clients to confirm a meeting time and place, for example.

Insurers believe their employees inhabit the same time warp as them

Our survey asked insurers to indicate their employees’ familiarity with nine UCC technologies. Unfortunately, the list of UCC technologies that employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in is, according to insurers, short.

Only 42% of insurers state that their employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in consumer applications such as Skype, Twitter, and Facebook. Only 38% of insurers state that their employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in IM. The proportion of insurers stating that their employees are familiar with and have a significant interest in seven other UCC technologies (shared UC such as unified messaging, UC client on smartphones and tablets, audio and web conferencing, personal video, room-based video conferencing, business social media applications such as Yammer, and team workspaces and content tools such as SharePoint) ranges from 3% to 17%.

Ovum is incredulous at this. We believe that insurers are wrong, and to improve their accuracy in this area they should periodically ask their employees which UCC technologies they are familiar with and are significantly interested in.

For insurers, cost both poses a challenge and drives investment in UCC

Insurers say they want to determine a business case or identify a path toward the use of UCC to assist with decision-making before investing in it. They believe they need to overcome the hurdle of lack of user demand. But Ovum wonders if insurers have asked their users about their desire to use various UCC technologies generally and which applications specifically; we are skeptical that such employee surveys have actually taken place.

Cost is also driving investment, along with employee productivity and business flexibility. However, Ovum believes these drivers will prevent insurers from investing in UCC as soon as they should; they could even be considered barriers to UCC adoption.

Insurers believe the next three years will see a shift in important UCC developments

Looking ahead three years, insurers believe that smartphones and tablets will have the biggest impact on UCC. We hope this is because they realize the devices represent platforms on which to expose insurance forms and functionality (e.g. claim forms, quoting/rating, and new policy application forms) as apps. This will enable more insurance employees in the field, whether insurance agents or claim adjustors, to be more productive.

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