The insurance industry has a longstanding record of IT use. So it's no surprise to hear that this sector is a large consumer of cloud computing. What's interesting, though, is how clouds are actually reshaping the insurance business itself -- and what that indicates about the potential for clouds to change other sectors.
Take one example: In a recent announcement, DynaFront Systems Berhad, an insurance firm in Malaysia, revealed its choice of the IBM PureSystems platform for its own Web-based cloud services. The reason for creating this cloud isn't just to streamline applications and reduce capital and operating costs, the insurer said. The customers served by the company, who used to rely on face-to-face meetings with insurance reps, now don't want to communicate anywhere but on the Web.
"We selected the IBM platform to launch our new offering because we recognized the game-changing role PureFlex System can play not only in how we run our back office, but also in how it enables the industry to build relationships with its customers," said Chan Eng Lim, chairman and CEO of DynaFront.
In an area such as Southeast Asia, where consumer insurance sales are on the rise, it's vital to offer prospective customers access to information online in real-time -- followed by forms that let them complete the process of buying coverage easily in a digital format. If they can't get this access easily from one broker, they'll move to another firm's site.
The insurance business isn't unique in having moved its favored customer interface to the Web, but the way cloud computing enables Web applications to be set up quickly and flexibly across distances has made clouds an ideal solution for delivering that interface. In an article a couple of years back, the IT services firm Accenture put it this way:
For many industries, insurance included, the increasing importance of cloud computing derives from its fit with current business priorities: it provides the capabilities businesses need on a flexible basis, helping companies respond quickly and cost-effectively to changing conditions.
In another instance showing the happy marriage of insurance and clouds, the software provider Applied Systems Inc. boasts that its insurance customers prefer cloud services because they find the cloud approach makes applications more secure and easier to manage.
"Agents and brokers have realized that moving to a cloud-based environment affords them greater security to minimize business risk, and it enables them to drive greater growth and profitability," said Applied Systems CEO Reid French. "Cloud-based software allows insurance professionals to focus on the business of insurance so they and their customers benefit from the advantages of a SaaS-based system."
The idea that clouds can effect real change in the nature of business isn't just a publicity plug. The software-as-a-service pioneer Salesforce.com Inc. offers specialized solutions for the insurance industry, as do a range of other vertical SaaS providers.
Clouds have changed the insurance business and continue to change other kinds of businesses. How have these services changed yours?
— Mary Jander , Executive Editor, Internet Evolution