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Insurance industry expert Matthew Josefowicz, managing partner at Novarica, shares his insights about trends in mobile field technology and how it they will continue to shape the evolving broker / agent relationship.

How do you see CRM impacting field interactions?

There is an emphasis on rich, anywhere, anytime access to information—and CRM is definitely a component of that.  Pushing customer contact history and information out to the person at the point of sale, at the point of customer interaction, is critical. Then giving them a way to record their interactions so that they can become part of the knowledge base is also important and something that we see as important to any insurers’ CRM strategy if they’re developing it now.

What are 2014 budgets for new field technology looking like?

Across the board we’re seeing 2014 budgets going up slightly, although not really outpacing projected premium growth in many cases or at least not significantly.  There is a lot of heavy investment around agent portal, not necessarily replacement of systems but instead making enhancements to the systems that exist today, and a lot of the projects are focused on optimizing performance on multiple platforms and making sure that they are effective on the technology that the agents are using in the field, as well as building in things like pre-fill and richer access to information.

How should CIOs think about cloud-based technology in the context of existing on-premise infrastructure?

There’s a lot of activity around moving various applications to the cloud or exploring the use of different applications in the cloud.  Certainly for field based stuff, where you need to have the capability delivered in near real-time over the Internet or wireless connection, there is some applicability there. The important things to think about in terms of cloud are, “What are the benefits or challenges with regard to any particular application or capability?” as supposed to a general principle of cloud is always good or cloud is always bad. What it typically comes down to is cost, performance and integration, and that’s going to vary based on what the rest of your infrastructure looks like. Obviously security and privacy are part of the equation, but managing those three capabilities are key. Most SaaS companies (and you obviously need to do your due diligence) have better security than most insurance companies do.

What are the most common mistakes made when rolling out tablets to the field?

The biggest mistake is thinking that just having a tablet to access the existing agent portal is going to deliver a massive benefit. The most common mistake is not considering the use case and the end user benefits and then adapting the application appropriately. But we have seen tremendous benefit to companies that have been able to think that through and execute it effectively, even some specialty companies that have deployed tablet-based application entry to the field to their agents, coupled with a straight-through processing capability so that the immediacy of the person-to-person interaction around the tablet is not broken.  Thinking through the total user use-case and making sure that the tablet deployment is backed up with the right enterprise capabilities.

How is ROI of new investments being measured now that tablets are in the field?

ROI has to be measured in a lot of different ways: distributor satisfaction, retention, growth of distributor business and volume.  Adding additional channels is not going to save any money in and of itself.  The business cases of the ‘90s–opening a digital channel and closing mail or fax or phone support—most of those efficiencies have been achieved. Now it’s a matter of meeting stakeholder demand and enabling business growth and general enhanced productivity as supposed to being able to replace a more costly channel with a less costly one.