22 Aug 2017

Better Insurance Software Decisions 101 – How to Avoid the Brand Trap

By: John Baker

Better Insurance Software Decisions 101 – How to Avoid the Brand Trap

"No one ever got fired for choosing IBM." So the saying went. Way back in the ancient history of digital technology (ahem, the 70s and 80s), business teams rode heavily on brand equity when making IT decisions – specifically IBM brand equity – not because they had done a thorough evaluation of how IBM actually compared to its competitors, but because they figured they couldn't go wrong. And, to be honest, they were afraid.

To call this out, Gene Amdahl coined the term FUD in 1975 after he left IBM to form Amdahl Corp. "FUD is the fear, uncertainty, and doubt that IBM sales people instill in the minds of potential customers who might be considering Amdahl products," he said.

In its original (pre-1990s) sense, the idea behind FUD was "to persuade buyers to go with safe IBM gear rather than with competitors' equipment,” said Eric S. Raymond. “This implicit coercion was traditionally accomplished by promising that Good Things would happen to people who stuck with IBM, but Dark Shadows loomed over the future of competitors' equipment or software."

Or, as Wikipedia so neatly sums up: "By spreading questionable information about the drawbacks of less well-known products, an established company can discourage decision-makers from choosing those products over its own, regardless of the relative technical merits."

We see the same happening in insurance software today.

Even though there are mid-price options available with strong track records, buyers actually choose to pay three to four times more for a system with a dramatically slower implementation time, simply based on the weight of the big provider’s reputation.

Let's shake those assumptions up a bit, and begin laying out a road map that will help you choose benefits, not just brand, and make strong tech decisions even when you’re not a technical person.

Which problems am I looking to solve?

This is the first, compass-setting question to guide your search.

"Before deciding which innovations to invest in, insurance companies should define the problems they want to resolve, like reducing claims wait times, decreasing operation costs, or providing more tailored insurance products," according to KPMG.

When you know what you want, you can tune out the static and compare providers on that point specifically.

What are my deal breakers?

Once you have your priority set, it's time to look at your deal breakers: the qualities that a solution must provide to remain a candidate. We recommend the following.

  1. User experience. Perhaps it sounds like a fuzzy term, but in fact, experience boils down to tangibles. What does your user interface look like? Is it intuitive or clunky? Does the solution allow you to eliminate complexity elsewhere in your infrastructure? Does it serve multiple audiences well – from your team, to your brokers to your policyholders? The answers will shape the level of ease or frustration that becomes part of your day-to-day, as well as related costs, such as staff training time.
  2. Service. When things come up, you want someone on your side to iron them back down. Pick a worst-case scenario, and ask yourself what the next few steps would look like. Is your provider quick to respond with personalized support, or would you have to slog through mountains of documentation on your own? Does the documentation they provide seem sensible and easy to understand? Choose a provider who offers support that inspires real confidence.
  3. Value. Price should never be the sole determining factor in a tech decision: no one wants to end up with a lowest common denominator. But it is an important point of comparison. How well does the solution compete on value? Is what you get worth every penny, or could you get more from someone else?

In our next post, we'll dig deeper into more specific questions you can rely on to make a strong tech decision. As we'll see, big brands aren't the only ones that can win best in show. Want to see what Silvervine can do? Request a demo.

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