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Insurers Finding Multiple Ways To Accelerate The Product Development Process

Insurers like Nationwide, ICAT and Aegon Direct Marketing Services are discovering new and innovative methods to accelerate their product development processes. Along the way, they are finding that speed and quality aren't mutually exclusive.

Few would be so naive as to look to former Secretary of State Colin Powell for insurance systems best practices -- not even as he provided a keynote address at the 2007 IASA Conference in Minneapolis this June. Yet for insurance IT professionals and business leaders looking to improve their companies' speed-to-market capabilities, it couldn't hurt to heed the advice contained within one of Powell's more famous quotations: "Perpetual optimism is a force multiplier."

To a pessimist, the multiple stumbling blocks that hinder speed in the product development process -- regulatory hurdles, repetitive actions and frequent miscommunications between IT and the business side, to name just a few -- are daunting. But to an optimist, each of those stumbling blocks is one more opportunity to attack the problem and accelerate the process.

Streamlining regulatory processes, building a chassis of common capabilities to reduce redundancies and arranging organizational structures to improve interdepartmental communications all are ways for companies to improve speed to market. And as that market becomes more crowded and customer and producer demands become more pronounced, rapid product development will become an increasingly important area for insurers that seek competitive differentiation and growth, according to industry experts.

"Companies are increasingly focusing on the process of bringing products to market and making investments to improve capabilities in this area," observes Van Beach, an Atlanta-based senior consultant with Towers Perrin.

Duck Creek (Bolivar, Mo.) CEO Doug Roller adds that more insurers are looking to close the gap between the time a marketer, businessperson or actuary conceives the idea for a new product and when that new product hits the market. "There's been significant progress in speed to market recently," Roller says. "For a period of time up until about 2000, a lot of the progress and focus was really on policy management."

While optimists can identify several individual pieces of the product development process that each can be streamlined to improve speed to market, it's critical to first understand that process as a whole, according to Towers Perrin's Beach. A company that better understands its own development process is in a better position to improve the speed of that process, he says.

"Investing in technology is an enabler for an improved product development process. Many companies are now making organizational changes to capitalize on these investments," Beach explains. "Without aligning people and process to fit with technology, companies may not achieve their full potential in speed-to-market improvements."

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