Developing a Mobility Strategy

Boyd Fittes

You may not yet have had the opportunity to read our recent paper on mobility options, Current & Future Needs: Mobile Device Access for Core Systems. The paper outlines the technology that’s important to any carrier's analysis and decision on taking core insurance processing out to the field. Never have the options been so many. As a solution provider, we are constantly asked to describe and demonstrate our mobility offering within our P&C solutions. That is a conversation we like to have and can discuss at length. However, this is often a question that needs to be answered with another question: What is your mobility strategy?

What we often see is high interest in providing mobility to field users but no clear understanding of the business need or plan to deliver. Mobile applications can be used by a number of field staff … adjusters, CAT teams, appraisers, agents, underwriters, and inspectors, among others. Enabling the field staff to quickly and easily access and update information has long been a desire and can be delivered today. But, a one-size-fits-all approach cannot deliver the business goals for such a diverse group of users with unique needs.

Many modern insurance applications, like StoneRiver Stream™, are web applications. The term 'web application' is not definitive, and many systems are merely a web front-end to a legacy application; that is not the case with Stream. A true web application, like Stream, is portable and allows users to go out into the field with a laptop computer and have the exact same computing power as the internal adjuster or underwriter. That is a key part of a mobility strategy: Power users in the field that have the same applications needs as an internal person may expect (or even demand) to have the same function, UI, tools, etc. Part of a mobility strategy is to then consider the needs of the field specialist (appraisers, inspectors, agents, etc.). Do they have a need for a unique user experience that would vary from the dedicated office user? Do they have a need for a different platform than a laptop? Are their communications needs directed to fast access with less data sent/received? These are only a few of the considerations required.

Defining the needs and solutions for a field specialist is where the fun begins. There are many options regarding hardware platform, operating system, and presentation technology. Carriers can define one preferred platform for all of their specialists or decide that different users have different requirements. Tablet devices are probably the most widely discussed tool for field specialists. The devices are light, portable, have a variety of tools, good battery life, and a screen large enough to display several pieces of data and allow for entry/update. But which device is best and what is the best presentation technology? That depends on the carrier's expectations of the role and the amount of information required at the point of entry. A field specialist may have a laptop (home / car) and a tablet for the walk-around work. Tablets also support touch selection and can make the entire process of inspecting or appraising very fast when you distill the UI work down to what is required for the user and allow the heavy-duty information processing to happen on a laptop.

The actual device selection depends on the needs of the user, the hardware device, third-party tools licensed, or solution developed. The key here is to have a solution that best supports user requirements. None of this can be easily delivered unless the backend management system can support the integration to a variety of mobile platforms that can deliver what’s needed for each field user. People have been trying to surround legacy systems for years to try to make these older systems web-enabled. A mobile strategy requires a modern platform that goes beyond tactically patching these old dinosaurs. The goal is to quickly, easily, and seamlessly access, enter, and share information with all users all across your insurance enterprise. Relying on temporary databases, data synchronization, or batch cycles does not deliver the goal. Only modern architectures that drive the seamless integration among internal and external users can truly sustain a mobile strategy.

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