In order to make sure that it makes the right kinds of technology investments that will enable it to build customer loyalty, improve performance and gain a sustainable competitive advantage, The Hartford Financial Services Group has essentially institutionalized innovation through the creation of its Innovation Lab. John Anthony, director of the Innovation Lab, posed a rhetorical question to the Executive Summit audience. "Is there an imperative for innovation?" he asked. "We think yes."
Part of that imperative stems from changes in the marketplace. "Our traditional growth strategies and value chains are being challenged," Anthony pointed out, noting that recent research indicates that consumers are more focused on price than brand. However, he added, successful innovation needs to go beyond the generation of good ideas. "You need a platform to execute them, and to link to your existing delivery model." That "innovation platform" is the difference between the company's current state and its strategic objectives, Anthony said, adding, "Innovation should be part of the organization's long-term strategies to ensure effective execution and application."
In fact, it's critical to understand that "technology innovation on its own is fairly uninteresting," according to Anthony. "It should be linked with [the company's] product and business models. Innovation [should] synch these agendas across the enterprise." Just as with almost any technology project, "innovation has to be a structured process [involving] transparency, communications and alignment with [business] objectives."
At the Hartford, there's also a recognition that innovation does not happen in a vacuum. "Invention is not our core competency," Anthony said. "We want to take advantage of our innovation partners," which include IBM, Hewlett Packard, Oracle, Accenture and Boston University. Among the benefits these partners provide are insights about both technology and industry trends. "Insight provides context, which comes from strong partnerships," Anthony said. "Innovation should leverage existing ideas."
And, perhaps most importantly, innovation is not a quick hit. "We're looking at sustaining innovation," Anthony explained.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio