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January 31, 2019. IBPAP Talks – The Webinar Series kicked off with its topic: Our Digital (R)evolution: Driving Digital Disruption to Cause Chaos. The webinar discussed the basics of digital disruption and how industries’ finance and insurance can adapt to this disruptive innovation. The host is Mr. Kartik Sakthivel, Chief Information Officer at Life Office Management Association (LOMA); an international trade association for the insurance and financial services industry.

Chapter 1: Chaos –  A Common Word in the Industry

Before anything specific could be elaborated upon, it is important to determine what disruption is. In its simplest definition, disruption is an innovation which creates a new market and takes over an existing one. In discussing its root, the webinar presented examples taken from history. There were IBM’s old storage units which could only hold 5MB yet required four men just to move it around. Or when a pager, a phone, and a camera were all separate items before the age of the smartphone.

These were examples of innovations in technology that created new markets and took over previous giants of the industry. In other words, these innovations caused chaos.

Chapter 2: The Information Age

There was a time when humanity lived in what is known as the archaeological periods such as the Stone Age, Ice Age or Bronze Age. Like those, the webinar showed that we are currently living in what is known as the Information Age. This is the age where nearly everything is starting to go digital. Information is easily available with the swipe of a finger. Marketing strategies are going online. Business strategies are now taking into account inquiries sent through digital channels. The primary suspect for driving this change is obvious: Technology.

Innovation is not just about physical products anymore. It could be the birth of online shopping or streaming, eliminating the need for rental CDs. How this technological change affects businesses is the core of the second topic.

Chapter 3: Disrupt or be Disrupted

The webinar distinguished Native and Digital Transformations. Examples like Netflix, Amazon, and Facebook all fall under digital transformations. Tesla, on the other hand, falls under native transformations. Nonetheless, the examples in both categories are all disruptors. All of them were born digital, are digitally native and, change ecosystems.

Take Netflix and Blockbuster. Blockbuster had the chance to be the Netflix of today but badly missed the timing. They believed that online streaming will not replace video rentals when it comes to watching movies. Flash forward to the present, Netflix is now worth around $100 billion while Blockbuster has closed most of its stores. Netflix has adapted to the change in the market; Blockbuster did not.

The moral of the story? Disrupt or be disrupted.

Chapter 4: Complacency due to Incumbency is a Death Knell

The speaker discussed the difference between two generations which are taking over the market: Millennials and Generation Z. The former is digital first while the latter is digital only. Millennials still remember the pre-Information Age and so were able to witness the first of the many digital transformations coming. Gen Z, on the other hand, was born in the digital age.

Both have similar expectations; they expect products and services to be faster and better. They expect these innovations to be rapidly progressing. And lastly, technology must be human-centered and easy to use. Companies need to always keep this in mind.

Nokia, for example, was the undisputed king of mobile phones back in 2003. This year, their presence is quite small as opposed to Apple. Nokia had been complacent, offering products with little in the way of technological innovation. They weren’t able to meet these expectations.

They’ve grown stagnant during their prime days.

Chapter 5: Embrace, Drive, and Lead

With all these examples in mind, what can companies do to keep up? It is all in the organizational culture. The behavior, beliefs, and values inside the community are what affect and drive digital transformations.

There are four challenges to tackle when innovating:

  • Time, money, and resources
  • Talent attraction
  • Accelerating the pace of change through better-calculated risk-taking
  • Legacy systems or old processes the companies have become too reliant on in the past

Fortunately, the right mindset can overcome these challenges Strong community support within the company is the prerequisite for driving and leading innovation.

Q&A

Three primary questions were asked during the Q&A portion of the discussion.

  1. For students and newcomers in the job market, what skills would they need to participate in transformative programs?

Answer: Sakthivel highlighted that it not really a matter of hard skills but more about curiosity. It is curiosity which will question old processes and determine what can improve. 

  1. Where should businesses start with digital transformation?

Answer: Sakthivel presented four key points to answer this. The first is a cultural change via technology. Second is that IT and business must work hand-in-hand. The third is the adoption of cloud infrastructure. Lastly, he recommends starting with digital in mind first then adapt the previous process by working backward.

  1. How does technology disrupt insurance, especially property and casualty?

Answer: Sakthivel considers this an interesting query and presents the example of self-driving cars. Whose responsibility is it when an accident involves a self-driving car? Is it the tech firm that created the car? Is it the owner? As it stands, regulations are not clear on this matter.

For the Health and Wellness Industry, however, wearable tech now makes it easier for health insurance companies to provide personalized care to clients. Wearable technology makes it easy to track a client’s health and condition and is a good sign of things to come. This concludes the Q&A.

Conclusion

From the discussion above, it can be inferred that adapting to the new digital model will come with its own challenges. Only an organization with a determined and forward-thinking culture can find ways around these challenges. Risk doing things differently than what was done in the past. In the age where designing the experience now takes precedence over designing a mere product, company culture is what will ultimately distinguish those that will sink and those that will rise.

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