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Management Strategies

10:00 AM
John Vercellino
John Vercellino

Value: The Ultimate Test of Innovation

What is innovation, and how can insurance companies ensure projects and products succeed rather than end up in the dustbins?

I recently attended a product management workshop, which focused on innovation, among other topics. When I hear “innovation,” I often think about the latest technology and processes, engaging with highly intelligent people, and impressing customers with new features and functions through multimedia presentations and demonstrations.

Well, this class covered none of that. First, the instructor began with a slide on innovation, which contained this quote from Peter Drucker: “The test of innovation lies not in its novelty, its scientific content, or its cleverness. It lies in its success in the marketplace.”

Second, the presenter said that companies should only build solutions that solve problems that are urgent and pervasive. I didn’t see anything about having flashy displays, sophisticated interfaces, or high-tech mobile user experiences. The focus was on a single criterion: the ability for customers to see value in the innovation that was created.

How many projects and products that never took off are lying around in the dustbins of insurance organizations? They looked great on paper or on a screen, and may have been developed with the latest technology, but for some reason they just weren’t adopted. Everyone’s had a few relegated to that heap, but there are some that have really taken off and been highly successful, according to Dr. Drucker’s criterion.

For insurers, measuring how well their investment portfolios comply with the various policies and mandates the investment manager must follow is valuable. Being able to measure compliance certainly has become an urgent and pervasive problem in our industry, and insurance companies are paying a lot of money in salaries or fees for people to measure, report, and ensure compliance. Business intelligence (BI) tools help facilitate the examination process and achieve the end goal. It must be easy to use and intuitive, but it doesn’t need to use what one might consider “cutting-edge” technology.

BI is one of those technologies that can either be truly innovative or end up in the dustbin. According to a recent SunGard survey of senior executives across financial services and energy, many current BI programs lack proactive, investigative reporting tactics. A company’s ability to adjust and improve processes, use proactive analysis techniques, and align IT with the business will enable it to analyze changes in business performance and operations, and ultimately get value out of it.

So the next time you’re faced with a project that involves investigating or implementing a new solution for your organization, start by asking your team two things: “What is the problem we’re trying to solve?” and “Is this problem urgent and pervasive?” That way, you can improve the chances that the innovation will be a success for your organization.

John E. Vercellino is vice president of product management for SunGard's iWorks Financials solutions, and has more than 30 years of experience in insurance and information technology. He works extensively with insurers and regulators to solve the financial, investment and ... View Full Bio

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