By R. Christopher Haines, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer

So, here we are in the land of insurance technology at the beginning of 2017 and #insuretech is all the rage. We’re supposed to be planning for the future, pushing innovation, trying to draw new blood and fresh ideas into insurance IT. If we aren’t, we’re supposedly more behind than we can imagine. Over the last few years, it’s been #insuretech, core in the cloud, Big Data, and agile methodologies. Every time we turn around, it’s something new.

Even if all that’s true (it’s not), have we solved the problems that plague system implementations? Or do we move from one distraction to another? Do we ever address the real problems in insurance technology? Or do we use flashy marketing and new jargon to convince people there are bigger problems than those they currently experience?

If you put your ear to the market and really listen, you’ll probably say nothing has ever gotten fixed. If you ask many software sales guys, they’ll tell you everything is great. Their customers are happy and everything is just peachy. But if you talk to the people in the know, you’d get a drastically different answer.

I get the chance to talk regularly with those working in the reinsurance markets, at actuarial firms, and at rating organizations. They all say the same thing: When they visit their clients and prospects, they hear the same story — the people running insurance companies are not happy with their systems. More than one insurance-services provider has told me, when they’re in the cab on the way to dinner or sitting at the restaurant, their clients tell them repeatedly that systems are their biggest area of concern.

The issue isn’t that the systems are crap. It’s a combination of things:

  1. The insurer might not have the right people in place to lead its implementations.
  2. The roles of employees and vendors in system implementations may not be clear.
  3. There are problems with the vendor.

How do we fix these problems and move on to all the cool stuff? We can start by getting software vendors to fix the present. Spend more time satisfying those who’ve already purchased the software and less time on trying to impress the people you want to attract. Worry about what the system doesn’t do before touting all the things it might do. And insurance companies can start by not blaming vendors for everything. It always takes two.

I know we can’t ignore the future. But it sure would be nice to get a few more people happy with the present.