If I were to name just one thing that stood out from this year's ACORD LOMA Insurance Systems Forum it was the number of times Facebook was mentioned in my conversations with exhibitors at the event. It may be that one or two people referred to the social networking platform last year, but this year I never heard the end of it. There's a temptation to dismiss such buzz as hype or jumping on the bandwagon, but I believe it demonstrates a real and enormously significant shift in thinking about technology and the insurance industry's use of it.The Facebook buzz is the latest and most alarming signal that consumer behavior is accelerating beyond the insurance industry's ability to keep pace with it. Over the last two years or so, there has been an astonishing increase in the consumer adoption of handheld devices and the anytime/anywhere functionality that comes with it. Insurers have been thinking and talking about mobile technology for the better part of a decade, and yet adoption of applications stalled, in part due to limited available hardware to adopt it. That has changed abruptly, leaving insurers scrambling to catch up through the creation of iPhone apps for quoting, first notice of loss and so on.
On the heels of this mobile, anytime/anywhere revolution comes the even more sudden popularity of Facebook. As someone at the ACORD LOMA show said to me yesterday, it's both hard to believe we're already 15 years into the Internet and to recollect what life was like before it. However, it has been less than a year since I and all my Facebook friends - and several insurers - have been using the platform. There are now over 400 million Facebook users worldwide - which would make Facebook the third most populous country in the world though, to be fair, the relevant statistic would be of literate, or computer literate inhabitants.
This is both a hugely relevant development in terms of consumer behavior but also in terms of the way technology is used to transmit information between human beings and also between information systems. It represents the triumph of distributed systems and remote peer collaboration - both of which have staggering implications for corporate technology, including that of insurance companies. In a certain sense, the Facebook platform is as banal as the great majority of content posted by its users. In other words, Facebook is as mundane as the telephone. But that's the point: think about what the telephone did for culture and business, and you will have an inkling of what this shift may mean for business technology.The Facebook buzz is the latest and most alarming signal that consumer behavior is accelerating beyond the insurance industry's ability to keep pace with it.
Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio