Why is Test Automation the Next Big Game-changer in the Insurance Industry?

In a world where technology is creating on-demand and bespoke experiences, the insurance industry is ready for disruption. Characterized until now by lengthy and manual processes and limited offerings, the industry has been quick to burst out of its protective bubble by leveraging new-age technologies including Blockchain, Artificial Intelligence (AI), extended reality, and quantum computing.

Key to accelerating this technology disruption is the InsurTech sector seen collaborating with insurance companies to facilitate nimbly and point solutions across the entire value chain. PwC Australia’s Global InsurTech report projects that the number of insurance providers partnering with InsurTechs will reach 84% between 2020 and 2022.[1]

However, in the race to transform their platforms and products, insurance companies—and their InsurTech partners—are facing several challenges. Primary among them are software and application testing challenges.

Insurers and InsurTechs experience different ‘testing’ difficulties

Digital self-service claims platforms, apps that reward policyholders based on their lifestyle and driving behaviors, and even wearables that monitor diabetes and reward condition management, are some of the trending innovations created by InsurTechs.[2] The companies behind these innovations mostly characterize themselves as digital economies. They evolve faster, are more embracing of Agile & DevOps, and have built products from the ground up are usually less complicated from the product stack that they manage. So when it comes to testing, their primary need is speed. To get to the market first, they need to identify failures, test, and evaluate faster than their competitors.

Furthermore, InsureTech players see themselves primarily as product/platform developers. This requires them to customize and dovetail their product into other complex systems. Testing, therefore, will have to extend beyond their primary product stack and include integration as well.

Insurance companies, on the other hand, have a completely different set of testing needs. Equipped with a substantial customer base, but challenged with changing customer needs, they are transforming to meet the digital, omnichannel, tailored offerings that can enrich the customer journey and experience. This leads them to integrate newer systems into their existing technology stack.

Trigent has successfully worked with several insurance companies and InsurTechs to shrink development cycles and increase the speed-to-market of applications. Contact us to know more about our AI-enabled test automation solution.

Testing needs will then have to be heavily focused on end-to-end validations to ensure that customer experiences are not compromised. Additionally, testing will also have to ensure that integration with complex legacy applications is maintained. At the same time, the performance and security of valuable customer data is not compromised when supporting their large customer bases.

Test automation—an essential tool in accelerating disruption

Test automation solves several of the above challenges. According to the World Quality Report 2019-2020[3], which surveyed 1725 CIOs and senior tech leaders, the main benefits reported were better control and transparency of test activities and detection of defects. The respondents also attributed test automation to gaining reduced test costs, test cycle time, and security risk.

For InsurTechs, like any other product innovator, deploying test automation fulfills an essential requirement—it assures improved coverage of their checks, ensuring faster release schedules. More importantly, test automation serves as a strong foundation during the integration of their product with larger insurance players. The features of a full-stack test automation framework, such as cross-technology and cross-platform readiness, and library customization, ensures that the marriage of services play with product play is effectively implemented.

Insurance companies leveraging test automation have experienced quantifiable benefits. A leading benefits administration and general insurance agency leveraged test automation software and reduced regression testing time by 85%. The process which covered 95% of the test coverage area led to a 45% reduced time-to-market rate.[4]

Test automation also plays a vital role in their transformation journey. For instance, when insurance companies are integrating new technologies, it simultaneously increases the testing workload. Vendors who manage their test outsourcing contracts are more interested in maintaining their SLAs and thus are slower in the uptake of the new changes. Test automation, essential to conduct acceptance tests is then best addressed through outside, neutral parties.

The PwC Insurance 2020 report[5] states that disruption is the new reality in the global insurance industry requiring industry players to keep pace with the sweeping social, technological, environmental, economic, and political developments that are categorizing this change. Implementing early test automation, at this juncture, will then work as the key differentiator for insurance companies and InsurTechs seeking to gain a head start in the digital ecosystems of the future.

Learn more about Trigent software testing services or test automation services

—————————————————————————————
[1] https://www.pwc.com.au/
[2] https://assets.kpmg/
[3] https://content.microfocus.com/
[4] https://www.trigent.com/
[5] https://www.pwc.co.za/en/

Ten Blockchain Benefits for Supply Chain Management

Blockchain, as a distributed database that stores digital information securely is transforming supply chain management in the manufacturing space.

Even though blockchain was initially intended for financial transactions, smart factories are finding different usages for this technology, as it can hold, record, and verify anything of value.

Deloitte describes the potential of blockchain for the intelligent factory as, “Smart factories can operate within the four walls of the factory, but they can also connect to a global network of similar production systems and even to the digital supply network more broadly.”

I draw upon our recent experience with a leading manufacturer of food products in NA to write up this blog to list top ten benefits of blockchain for supply chain management in manufacturing.

1. Increase Automation

Blockchain reduces dependency on paperwork and manual processes. Manufacturing supply chains, if they have even one single bit of inaccurate data can result in disputes, and disrupt operations. This leads to operational inefficiencies and the delays can be costly. Blockchain provides `an automated method for storing information in a tamper-evident digital format. This ability of blockchain can benefit planning, compliance, deliveries and inter-department approvals.

2. Efficiency in Connectivity

Supply chains can benefit from high levels of transparency where data silos are reduced and document authenticity is not compromised. A single source of truth helps operations to move documents from one stakeholder to the next safe in the knowledge that the documents are secure and tamper proof. In addition, error-free document flow ensures the free flow of goods, which help to speed up deliveries. A recent survey by Deloitte states that over 90 percent of consumers’ surveyed list, food product transparency, as a critical factor affecting the purchase and they expect manufacturers to provide the necessary information.

3. Erasing Boundaries

Supply chains that are spread across geographies require the management of transportation, customs collaboration and other such dependencies. Accurate documentation ensures that there are no broken links that can cause delays to supply. Blockchain helps to digitize physical assets and create a decentralized record of transactions making it possible to trace and track.

4. Adding Authenticity

Blockchain ensures that authenticity can be added to products which are produced in one country but supplied to another. Especially in the case of luxury items or pharmaceutical products, blockchain provides the authenticity on its source and preservation through tamper-proof digital documentation.

5. Cooperation Between Man & Machines

Blockchain invokes digital trust between partners, customers and suppliers. Trust is the bedrock of supply chain management and blockchain enables this by enhancing communication between machines and humans. “Blockchains allow us to have a distributed peer-to-peer network where non-trusting members can interact with each other without a trusted intermediary, in a verifiable manner.”- Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers (IEEE)

6. Blanket RFQs

Blockchain enables the creation of tamper-proof smart contract that automatically includes multi-party agreements. Smart contracts self-verify terms and conditions and self-execute by releasing payments to concerned parties. Multiple contracts can be created across an entire supply chain where the value and terms are integrated. Though such agreements are tamper-proof, they are outwardly visible to stakeholders across each stage of the chain.

7. Origin Tracking for CRM

In a typical manufacturing supply chain, all stakeholders focus on moving products from one stage to the next. Sometimes the broad picture is ignored for the small, i.e. in this case the customer. Customer tracking from the first order is imperative for long-term relationship management and brand building. Blockchain helps with provenance tracking and ensures that all data is never lost or compromised.

8. Cost Control

A survey of supply chain works conducted by the Digital Supply Chain Institute (DSCI) states that more than one-third of people quoted reduction of costs as the highest benefit of blockchain in supply chain management. By hastening administrative processes, it controls extra costs without compromising transaction security

9. Fraud Management

Digital consumers are making conscious buying decisions and suppliers are searching for newer and better ways to invoke confidence and prove authenticity. Blockchain provides all the proof required by consumers to ensure that compliance has been maintained by the manufacturer. In the food industry, especially, it is estimated that there is a loss of $40 billion every year from food fraud. Food fraud refers to the deliberate and intentional substitutions of inference products for financial benefits. Blockchains can embed origination data and as the food travels down the chain, all other historical data is added and the customer gets the complete origination history.

10. Outsourced Contract Manufacturing

Businesses can maintain more control over their outsourced manufacturing by providing all parties in the supply chain with access to the same information. Less time is spent on data validation and focus remains on improving goods, reducing costs and delivering within stipulated time lines.

Blockchain opens up possibilities to expedite and streamline the everyday processes businesses run on. The beauty of blockchain for supply chain management, specifically, is that it not only simplifies the procurement or precision parts selling process, but it also makes the method safer, faster, and less expensive. Trigent has in-depth domain knowledge and technology expertise of manufacturing systems to help companies optimize their supply chains.

Four disruptive technologies for Banking in 2019

In the brave new world of banking and financial services, technology has become the key to a locker filled with goodies. As a result, it is not impossible to imagine a future where opening a bank or a financial company is as simple as connecting an appliance. In that world, a robot could guide an investor on the best possible options or you could walk into a bank manned by robot tellers. PWC’s report titled ‘Financial Services Technology 2020 and Beyond: Embracing disruption‘ envisages a future where the impossible will become reality. While this list may seem a little too futuristic, banks and financial services organizations are already feeling the tremors of new technology waves that are disrupting existing business models to pave the way for faster, smarter, cheaper operations.

Here are a few emerging technology disrupters:

Distributed ledger technology (DLT)

Algorithms are enabling the collaborative creation of digital distribution ledgers that are far smarter than their paper counterparts. Distributed ledgers are asset databases that can be shared across multiple devices, sites, and geographies where participants can own identical copies of the ledger. Used for various purposes, these ledgers are stored in cryptographic forms and accessed with electronic keys and signatures. Participants, based on rule-based permissions, can update these ledgers, whenever required.

Accelerating change in financial services through Digital Transformation

Distributed ledgers are beneficial to banks as they can reflect changes on a real-time basis. As they are extremely secure, they prevent unauthorized entries, making corruption virtually impossible. As a technology solution, distributed ledgers reside on top of existing applications. Within the field of distributed ledgers, block chain is one more method of distributed ledgers. However, block chain is restricted to a sequential model while DLs do not necessarily fit into a sequential pattern when distributing ledgers. Distributed ledgers may be a good first step forward with immediate benefits for the banking sector.

Artificial Intelligence

Robo-advisor – Fancy though the name sounds, robo-advisors have been around for over a decade. However, it is only in the recent past that this concept has gained popularity. Robo-advisor is an algorigthm-based AI for automated financial advice. This concept has become especially popular for small investors with limited investment options. However, even in cases of larger investments requiring complex decision-making, robo advisors help to automate activities such as tax losses and rebalancing. Robo advisors are useful for single investment goals, and are very good with automated portfolio rebalancing.

As an add-on service, banks can provide value-added services to customers using robo-advisors. Customers can, thus, benefit from customized financial plans and automated investing. One of the key advantages of robo-advisors is the ability to negate human-made calculation mistakes. Uncolored by human emotions, robo-advisors rely purely on algorithms and numbers, reducing chances of errors in investment decisions. In the competitive world of banking, robo-advisors can combine the derive intelligence on existing customers to offer customized investment plans that are beneficial to banks and customers.

e-KYC and identity

Know Your Customer (KYC) is a process adopted by businesses who offer products and services to traders, customers and agents. It is also a process followed by financial services organizations to adhere to regulatory requirements and also to target segment customers. Till recently KYC was a physical activity which required human intervention. While several organizations continue to rely on physical KYC, some forward thinking financial institutions are incorporating eKYC as a procedure for information and verification on customers. By minimizing paperwork and manual labor, eKYC presents a huge opportunity for banks to reduce operational costs without compromising security and information. eKYC reduces paper dependencies thereby helping to avoid identity thefts, and eliminating forgery. Banks can adopt eKYC as it is extremely secure. In the future, eKYC would be the first step forward in a world of secure, paperless transactions.

Cybersecurity

According to the 2017 True Cost of Fraud Study from LexisNexis® Risk Solutions, financial services companies earning at least half of their revenues through digital channels incur up to $3.04 in costs for every dollar lost to cyber-fraud. However, as per the same survey, banks that adopted a multi-layered approach to cybersecurity experience less than 50 percent of the average losses attributed to lapse in cyber security. To ensure cybersecurity, banks are leaning on digital identity intelligence, advanced behavioral analysis, clear-box machine learning technics and integrated risk based authentication. With over one billion new internet users entering the field on an annual basis, the fear of cyber threats can be extremely overwhelming. However, digital identity-based authentication is helping to control fears while providing a real boost to this industry.

To summarize, technology disruptors are providing opportunities and challenges to the banking sector. While challenges such as data breaches, cyber attacks and compromised data will be a fear factor, banks that want to meet the heightened needs of customers should plunge ahead and adapt digital technologies for competitive success.

A walk through ATA MCE 2017

If you think that it takes a long time to walk through the show floor of a huge Trucking Conference like the ATA MCE 2017, try doing it where you know just about everyone behind the tables in the booth!!

The ATA MCE’17 was a great time for me to catch up with existing customers as well as a great opportunity to scout for new prospects.  Being a part of the ATA Management Conference & Exhibition for five days this October has given me a renewed perspective—and pride—about the industry, the people. According to a 2015 ATA report, over 70% of all freight tonnage in the U.S. goes on trucks. In fact, in the U.S. alone, more than 10.4 billion tons of freight were transported by truck.

From “Automated Trucks” and “Infrastructure Funding” to “Big Data” and “Compliance, Safety, Accountability (CSA)”, attendees received a plethora of information to help drive their fleets forward. With continual educational sessions throughout the conference, one of the trends that stood out for me was autonomous vehicles and the challenges as we begin to transition to this advanced technology. The technology, public acceptance, legislation and business cases are all key pieces to successfully deploying automated trucks.

One of the best sessions was “Automated Trucks,” presented by Darryl Oster – Assistant Chief Engineer, Peterbilt; Kirk.T-Steudle – Director of the Michigan DoT; and Dr. Ben D. Sawyer – Researcher at MIT’s AgeLab. Featuring state-of-the-art Advanced Driver Assistance Systems (ADAS) by Peterbilt and their long and short-term investment into the future; platooning, lane keeping and traffic jam assist.  Kirk spoke at length on the new autonomous vehicle policy and how states across the US are adopting to this change. The ELD mandate continued to garner a lot of discussion at the conference. Although the majority of fleets are moving forward, there are still some that are not.

Trigent helps clients in the transportation and logistics industry build better Software as a Service (SaaS) products on the cloud, mobile, and OBD platforms. These products help revolutionize the way customers buy freight, manage their shipments, track their assets and increase compliance. At the event, we showcased our superior software solutions for safe, secure, and efficient transportation and logistics management.

I enjoyed meeting many of our customers and people who are considering our service offerings. I also enjoyed seeing what’s new in the industry and talking one-on-one to learn what’s keeping people up at night and driving the industry forward.

If you missed me at ATA MCE 2017, I’d still love to talk to you, drop me a note and I’ll be in touch shortly.

TMS Suppliers to Enhance Tracking and Visibility of Goods using IoT

The Global Transportation Management market is expected to grow from USD 78.20 Billion in 2017 to USD202.14 Billion by 2022, at a CAGR of 20.9%. This accelerated growth is the changing face of the real-time economy which demands faster and timely execution of business processes. Across industries but more so in the supply chain, logistics and transportation industries, speed, timing, efficiency and optimization are the crucial defining factors, achievable due to the adoption of digital technologies.

Transportation management companies have over the years relied on their existing systems which can range from manual entries to balancing delivery windows with costs. However, the pressure for tighter, faster and more deliveries has increased to a point where the solution is change. Also, technology innovations such as machine learning, artificial intelligence and automation are reinventing the transportation industry. Those companies that are steering ahead of competition are the ones that are reinventing their business strategy. These companies have implemented global logistical functions and features, such as multi-carrier parcel management and 3D load design, owing to the expansion of supply chains globally.

Moreover, TMS vendors are collaborating with RFID providers to develop integrated solutions to increase operational efficiency by minimizing manual inputs and broadcasting signal information about the location and specifications of the product in transit. One of the recent developments in the market is the growing use of intelligent wireless connectivity and smart sensor technology solutions to offer real-time information to organizations about transport vehicles.

Related: Embrace digital transformation, remaster your business, stay ahead of the curve.

There are multiple dynamics that are driving the change. Big Data is providing companies with an unprecedented amount of actionable market intelligence. The Internet of Things is increasingly connecting people 24/7 with all types of devices, networks, vehicles and more. As an alternative to manual methods, shippers have to find on-demand, software solutions such as digital freight matching (DFM) to address requirements such as managing just-in-time requests for quotes or using transportation brokers, third-party logistics providers and load boards.

DFM lets shippers directly and almost immediately find drivers with capacity to transport their truckload, partial truckload and less-than-truckload freight on the right types of trucks on the dates and routes they need. Shippers get competitive and transparent rates upfront and can track in-transit and delivery details so they always know the status of their shipments.

In a recent case study, a leading Transportation Management System (TMS) provider’s cloud-based multi-tenant platform is used by customers for freight purchase and management, with full supply chain visibility, stakeholder collaboration and shipping intelligence. The system brought together comprehensive information from ordering and inventory, to temperature monitoring and transit to expense allocation. The company to sustain its position as a chosen TMS provider had to live up to is reputation of simplifying complex supply chains for which it needed to seamlessly connect internal and third party systems whatever the configuration or size of their systems.

Smart usage of digitalization and IoT resulted in an Electronic Data Interchange (EDI) & web services platform that has simplified procurement, planning and optimization, execution, freight bill auditing and settlement and reporting and analytics for its global customers. The platform connects with every integral piece of data and this visibility and collaboration has resulted in dramatic cost savings for its customers. The disruptive SaaS TMS built on the latest cloud technology has changed how companies purchase and manage freight, consolidating its leadership position the TMS segment.

Digital Darwinism

  • 75% of all Fortune 500 companies will not be there in 10 years.
  • 80 billion objects will be connected starting 2020.
  • The amount of digital data doubles every 2 years. 
  • Your company social network will allow everyone to process 20 times more information than emails.

Just as the industrial revolution of the 18th and 19th centuries changed our way of life with machines, digital transformation is set to disrupt today’s organizations beyond recognition. Previously successful models will be rendered obsolete; indeed, businesses that have grown up with rigid, structured legacy technologies built around predictable, repeatable steps may find themselves under threat from “digital Darwinism”. Nevertheless, for those organizations that can visualize the possibilities for data-driven innovation and creativity, there are market-defining opportunities up for grabs.

In the realm of buzzwords, “digital transformation” earns high marks for simultaneously conveying everything and nearly nothing at all. Beyond the buzz, what is digital transformation, also known as DX?

What’s driving digital transformation?

There are three major forces providing the incentive for digital business, the first of which is changing user demand. Major brands have effectively “trained” customers to use complex products to live simpler, more convenient and connected lives. Employees, too, are using digital innovations to determine where, when, how and why they work.

The competitive landscape is changing, too. Size, which was once a distinct advantage, is now becoming something of a liability, as technology levels the playing field for businesses of any size to disrupt traditional industries (think Über, Netflix, and Airbnb). Bricks and mortar stores are closing and high streets face desertification as omnichannel retailing becomes commonplace. Businesses that cannot gain a single view of their customer are vulnerable to aggressive new “born-digital” entrants who can muscle in quickly with a customer-centric approach based on service and simplicity.

And of course, technology continues to evolve at a frantic pace. Having overcome its initial hype, the cloud is now proving its worth as a growth engine for business, supporting innovation without dramatic rip-and-replace. Mobility is fast becoming an enabler of user interaction with things, data, people and places, not just a bunch of apps. The falling cost of sensors and low-power networking technologies is bringing the Internet of Things within reach of a burgeoning number of organizations, which are now challenged to manage the explosion of data generated by connected devices and convert it into real-time actionable insights. Open-source software, once seen as relatively niche, is now a major component of the next generation of high-performance computing clusters needed for big data analysis and applications, as well as providing the foundation for enterprise-grade mobile management and development.

The barriers to becoming digital-first

So what’s stopping businesses from placing their bets on a digital future? A combined legacy of organizational silos, aging application estates and outdated technology management processes are common practical constraints. However, laggards are also hampered by a legacy mindset: cultural resistance to change, a lack of imagination and appetite for risk-taking, and a shortage of digital leaders to spearhead change from the top. As Professor Jerry Wind of The Wharton School, University of Pennsylvania shrewdly observes, “a successful business is the hardest organization to change”. However, the time is fast approaching when ‘business as usual’ will almost certainly no longer be good enough. Digital transformation is how good companies become great!

Digital is a strategy, not a tactic

Rather than tinker around the edges by deploying individual technologies with a narrow, operational focus, organizations must develop the digital fluency to articulate the strategic value of technology to the future of the business – reflecting the demands of customers, employees, and supply chain partners – and work backward. Digital transformation should, in practice, be nothing more than the continuous business improvement that any established organization should be doing as a matter of course to stay ahead of the game. The rewards go beyond mere survival: those that succeed typically exhibit higher revenue growth and profitability than their industry peers.

Digital transformation is a strategic endeavor with a long horizon. Reinforce the long-term by celebrating short-term wins.

In summary, becoming a digital business requires:

Shifting from a legacy mindset to “digital by default” ways of working and thinking
An end to the generations-old silo mentality, with data integration at the heart of any initiative
A strategy and program that touches every function of the organization
Cultivating innovation through experimentation and learning
Considered use of technology to improve the experience of employees, customers, suppliers, partners and stakeholders, and new business models that exploit digitized assets
We at Trigent help software vendors use technology to radically improve performance and reach. From enhanced social experience, transforming business operations and energizing collaborative communities on the cloud and mobile to data driven real-time process optimization and cross-enterprise analytics.

We would love to hear from you and help you make the most of your digital investment.

This blog was originally published on LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/digital-darwinism-abishek-bhat?published=t

Defining the Digital Landscape for Credit Unions

Credit Unions have been around for more than a hundred years, fulfilling Roosevelt’s law of providing a superior financial service experience for members. However, according to Credit Union National Association’s recent report, the number of credit unions has shown a sharp decline in 2015, and some of the contributing factors include lack of  scale and operational efficiency, rising competitive pressures and members’ demand for more products, services, and access channels. New technology and the resultant digitalization of the financial industry has altered consumer expectations. To summarize, the marketplace has changed and continues to change at an unprecedented pace and in order to remain competitive, credit unions have to keep up with upcoming changes and customer expectations.

Credit unions, due to their community nature, had no necessity to actively hunt for their clients. They were built by people belonging to certain trades or territories, which enriched the member base instantly and automatically. With the new fierce competition, the traditional way of operating is no longer relevant and sustainable. In order to stay in the game, credit unions have to go through a complex omni-channel and digital transformation journey, which includes addressing four key problem areas.

  1. A 360-degree view of the member
  2. Omni-channel data processing
  3. Cross-department lead generation
  4. Operational efficiency

While consumers, especially those who list 4 of the largest US banks among their top 10 most hated brands, and rated banks the lowest of any financial institution on a customer satisfaction survey, support locally owned businesses such as credit unions, they still want the convenience that banks offer. Technology, mobility, and convenience are important and credit unions are mostly rising up to meet the challenge. For example Navy Federal Credit Union, the largest federal credit union in the US, is one of the early adopters of Apple Pay, Apple’s mobile payment platform unveiled as part of the iPhone 6.

DuPont Community Credit Union (DCCU), to cite another example, which supports 72,000 members in Virginia’s Shenandoah Valley, detailed a campaign to increase debit/credit card utilization with rewards dashboards. According to Michael Tranum, Vice President of Information Technology, the campaign-enabled members who could sitting at home, see where they were in reaching the next reward tier and see a tangible value of their products – money refunded, saved and so forth.

Following in the footsteps of the early adopters, many players have already increased their IT spend to include digital transformation. Some of them are favoring responsive design, with a sharp focus on UI/UX enhancements and several others – mobility. New payment types and analytics integration is also being considered important, but most noteworthy is the fact that some credit unions that continue to stay ahead have distributed their spend across all the above. Obviously, these credit unions are following the technology predictions for the financial industry and embracing these, to remain competitive. Based on an analysis of the digital innovations that these early adopters embraced and met with success, we came up with three cannot-be-ignored digital transformers.

Mobility

There is no doubt that mobility is redefining the consumer interaction landscape and credit unions need to include mobility in their digital transformation journey. However, the point to be remembered is that `one size fits all’ cannot be true for credit unions who want a mobile presence. Nor should it be a replica of their online presence. What is required is for members to be actively involved in the development process and view the app from the user’s perspective. Whether the app provides comprehensive coverage or only focusses on a few services depends on a particular credit union. This calls for a strategy similar in many ways to a DevOps environment.

Data Analytics

Credit unions were created with the idea that people should help people and as a result, they already know a lot about their people or members as you can call them. Credit unions can cull out tremendous intelligence by analyzing data of their account owners. The data can include pertinent intelligence, leveraging which they can run targeted marketing campaigns. However, collecting customer data to aggregate intelligence may seem contradictory to the collective character of the credit union business. But, the positives can outweigh misgivings and it is up to a credit union to personalize services while safeguarding its ethos.

The question arises as to what a credit union can do with the intelligence. For one, it can target customers better. It is possible to develop deeper relationships with customers by customizing services which will lead to long-term loyalty. Secondly, it provides a competitive edge. Banks and larger financial organizations are growing larger simply by adopting digital transformation. Analytics can help credit unions to offer incentives to compel customers to make decisions based on transaction data and relevant information.

Personalization

Credit unions while sorting members based on demographics must also remember to segment them based on their overall attitude to technology innovations. Some of them, for example, may be digital enthusiasts. These are the people who are constantly reaching for one device after another to stay engaged online. For these people, credit unions can create slightly more complex apps. In the middle of the spectrum, are the digital know-hows who can `manage’ online transactions but shy away from carrying out complicated functions on their mobile device. Finally, there are the skeptics who do not want to have much to do with the digital transformation. They will probably stick to a particular device and use only those functionalities which they are most comfortable with. An app, in this scenario, needs to offer basic functionalities which are absolutely user-friendly.

Summary

Banks and financial institutions have mostly already adopted the three disrupters mentioned above. For consumers, this translates into ease of usage, agility and faster turnaround time. Banks are cashing-in on the growing list of both customers and transactions and the intelligence they derive from this. It is a win-win situation. If larger, stoic institutions can benefit so much from the digital transformation, how can credit unions not benefit? After all, the fact remains that because credit unions offer what consumers want – i.e. service, respect, convenience, and of course lower interest rates, they will be the preferred choice of consumers, no matter what technology innovation larger banking and financial organizations may adopt. Keeping this fact in mind, this is a good time for credit unions to adopt digitalization to better what they already do well.

Emerging Educational Uses of Technology That are the Most Exciting Right Now & Into 2017

As we Enter a new School Year, Which Uses of Technology Hold the Most Promise to Impact Learning?

Well, it’s that time of year again … the start of a new school year. With it often comes the irresistible urge to make another list, or even better … many lists! Lists help us to plan, and they can also help us reflect and assess.

One list I really enjoy putting together as we head into a new academic year is an updated look at which educational uses of technology have shown the most promise over the last year. Which tools and techniques most excite me as I look forward to another year of striving for continuous improvement as a technologist, and #edtech advocate! And as different technology uses take the spotlight, which of them are standing out a little more?

What will 2017 hold for education? There’s no shortage of articles and reports with predictions describing what to expect for the coming year. It’s tempting to be dismissive—scanning the headlines knowing that predictions are far from a sure bet. Yet for educators, considering trends across industries in conjunction with current developments in education is constructive, strategic and provides an edge; it gives insight, helps us prepare and be proactive. In this post I share my analysis of current trends and developments within higher education and k-12 and outline what to expect in 2017.

There’s a spate of articles on the Web across all sectors: education, business, consumer and design, all describing what to watch for—micro-credentialing, wearable technology, mobile, augmented reality and a host of others. Yet how are these trends applicable or relevant to educators? I analysed numerous sources, some specific to education and many not, to determine what will affect the education sector in 2017.

So, looking back and thinking forward, here are a dozen instructional uses of technology that are the most compelling right now. Some of these are BIG ideas, driving real change in our classrooms and schools, and some are simpler concepts that are making small but meaningful changes in how we engage our students on a day to day basis.

Virtual Reality (VR) Adds New Dimension to Learning

VR is shaping up to be one of the largest technology turf wars of 2016. Several global companies have staked millions of dollars developing their brand of the technology, including Google, Samsung, HTCSony and the Facebook-backed Oculus. And in 2017 many of these iterations of the VR craze are set to go to market.

The immersive power of this technology has also caught the eye of Jon Phillips, managing director of strategy for worldwide education at Dell.

“I think as we head into the next year, we’re going to see more grassroots approaches to bringing technologies like that into the classroom, allowing students to learn experientially,” says Phillips.

Google is already on the case. Its Expeditions Pioneer program is bringing smartphone-powered Google Cardboard devices to classrooms across the country as a way to introduce students to VR technology.

AR is just so much fun and comes in many different flavours. Everything from free or inexpensive smartphone apps to full blown 3D workstations like those from zSpace. AR is just one of the coolest educational technologies that many educators have not even come across yet! To better understand AR in the classroom, check out how these teachers and students are using augmented reality.

Student Response Systems

Engaging with students and gathering feedback are two core benefits of technology in the classroom and Student Response Systems are designed to that end. While ‘SRS’ technology is by no means new, it has morphed considerably over the years, and continues to evolve and emerge.

The first SRS were costly proprietary clickers, but today’s best SRS are free and device independent, which is opening them up to many more educators to use in their classrooms. Tools like Kahoot and Quiz socket enable students to participate in interactive surveys, questions, quizzes, etc., from a phone, tablet, or computer. There is also a great low-tech alternative called ‘Plickers‘ that has garnered a lot of well-deserved attention.

Video Collaboration Tools

The power of today’s easy to use video solutions is empowering teachers to bring the world into their classroom, and to make themselves more available to students. This is another technology that is by no means new, but it continues to evolve steadily. Thanks to the increasingly ubiquitous smartphone, video is becoming an anytime, anywhere solution. In addition to live collaboration, tools like Movenote and VoiceThread make it possible to collaborate via video asynchronously.

If you aren’t leveraging the power of video to bring guest speakers into your classroom, interact with other classrooms across the world, or let a home-bound student participate in class, you are missing out on a world of possibilities.

Social Learning in Online Courses

I truly believe that better incorporation of social learning is vital to making online learning more engaging. Many online programs struggle to attain retention rates similar to most in-seat programs. One of the elements generally lacking in online learning (but natural to the face-to-face classroom) is a healthy level of social interaction. When online teachers make the effort to build social interaction into the digital classroom, they create multiple opportunities to enhance engagement and improve learning outcomes. The growing adoption of online learning makes it more important than ever that online courses incorporate social interaction into their lesson plans and assignments.

  “Mobile First or Mobile Only”

 “Think Mobile First or Mobile Only”. It’s so true – mobile is changing everything and education is no exception. This is surely an area where we are going to continue to see big changes as the world slowly gets its head around the way the powerful devices so many of us have in our hands can seriously change how we communicate, connect, reach out, access content, research, learn, think, act, … and the list just keeps growing.

If learning really can take place anytime, anywhere, shouldn’t we encourage it? This is yet another change that is happening whether we choose to acknowledge it or not. More teachers are embracing the power of this device as an instructional aid.

Wearables Court Mainstream Status

The current star of the Internet of Things concept, wearable technology, still has a lot to prove to educators. Analysts at New Media Consortium (NMC) predict it will be widespread in classrooms in about four years, but there are already examples of the technology making waves in education.

“Indeed, wearable technology has been pushing the boundaries of what students are able to create — even spurring wearable-themed school events and contests,” according to NMC’s 2016 report.

Massachusetts Institute of Technology’s Lincoln Laboratory hosted a wearable-themed workshop as an interactive way of introducing mechanical design and electrical engineering to high school girls, the NMC report states.

In 2015, UNICEF launched Kid Power, a fitness program that tracked the steps of about 10,000 students while they wore fitness bands. Participants accrued points for walking, which were then converted into monetary donations to purchase food packets for malnourished children.

“Wearables not only assist students, but also offer many benefits to educators. From pinging students’ GPS locations during a field trip to recording point-of-view lessons, teachers have more options to monitor and engage with students. And this engagement can also translate to communication between educators, giving them more options for collaboration,” according to the K-12 Tech Decisions blog.

So there you have it …

These are the academic uses of technology that are putting a smile on my face these days, and inspiring my desire to help make a difference. What do you think? What excites you? What are the #edtech ideas, tools, and techniques that you think hold the most promise to make an impact and improve learning for your students?

Out-Source to Out-Perform – 7 Questions on Outsourced Product Development you Always Had, But Didn’t Know Whom to Ask!

Scott & Dilbert always crack me UP! It does address a lot of common questions I have encountered selling IT services to a large number of companies across the globe.

It has become very common for start-ups to begin their entire product development by leveraging companies offshore. From being a long haul possibility for large corporations with deep pockets, offshore outsourcing is accepted as a natural phenomenon of business strategy for even the smallest of companies. Industry reports assess the offshore outsourcing to touch $300 Billion in 2020, of which at least 20% will be contributed by start-ups in product engineering and specialized outsourcing services.

There are a lot of pertinent questions to ask before choosing an outsourcing partner. There could be many reasons why outsourcing is the right answer for your firm but is mostly avoided. I will take a shot at answering the7 most pertinent questions on outsourced product development you always had but didn’t know whom to ask!

1. I am used to my team working under close supervision. How can I depend on a remote team?

This question can be addressed only by taking small steps and continuous improvement. It is always a great idea, to begin with, outsourcing much smaller and non-strategic components and “over-managing” that process. This enables all the stakeholders to identify what works for them and what does not. The earlier the teams on each side feel the camaraderie, the sooner they will trust each other. At first glance, this “over management” may seem to cause some productivity issues. The operational problems may even seem complex when compared to a team that is sitting next to each other. A seasoned outsourcing partner who has successfully worked with numerous client development environments will be able to recommend solutions to these operational problems.

2. I cannot identify a clear outsource-able piece? Can I still outsource product development?

If using outsourced product development is a strategic priority but there is no identifiable piece that can be outsourced, consider with remote team augmentation. Ask your outsourcing partner if they can dedicate team members to support the development of specific portions of the code or work on an independent module. Ensure that the outsourcing partner team dedicated to your work is managed by a team lead that is responsible for administrative management, so deadlines are met promptly. Once a couple of successful projects is under the belt in this staff augmentation mode, the outsourcing engagement can evolve to a hybrid approach. Some finite work can be outsourced to a team that has been working on your project for a while, whereas any additional work could be executed in a staff augmentation model.
Such a hybrid model will give you confidence in the outsourcing relationship to ensure a seamless transition. Yet another successful approach is to start small with maintenance-oriented activities. As you build better communication and trust with your outsourcing partner, specific project opportunities will present itself.

3. What kind of extra documentation overhead would be involved?

This is an important criterion when selecting your outsourcing partner. Some outsourcing firms specialize in product development outsourcing while others are IT generalist outsourcers. IT generalist firms would be more prone to needing complete specifications before starting their work, whereas product specialists would be willing and able to start work with skeletal specifications, which could be changed several times during the project. These product specialists can get your specs overall informal channels such as phone, chat teleconference, etc. and document their understanding into a spec, which could be used in the future.

4. How will I manage my communications with my partner team?

Effective two-way communication with the outsourced team can make a difference between a wildly successful outsourcing relationship and a floundering engagement. Some items to think through include:

Tools & Practices:

· Communication channels: Email, Phone, IM, Web/Tele/Video-conference
· Continuously updated contact information
· Wikis for requirements, specifications and constant comments/questions
· Web-based project management tool completely updated
· Common web-based development environment and bug tracking system

People & Processes:

Communication that often happens through informal discussions and “overhearing” when team members are onsite has to be consciously communicated to the off-site team members. This can be accomplished by encouraging Adhoc daily communications or daily team tie-in meeting sessions held at either the beginning or at the end of the days. Communications should be encouraged at a “peer-to-peer” level as illustrated below. Further, insist on weekly project meetings and monthly business review meetings.

Weekly meetings can bring milestones, schedules, issues, changes, and goals at a tactical level in front of the project teams, while the monthly meetings can focus on large issues like company goals, directions, and plans. These help glue the offsite and onsite teams more effectively especially if you can enable a video conference and meet up virtually.

Ask your outsourcing partner on your team. Work closely with your outsourcing partner during this critical period discussing and resolving issues promptly. Make sure that communications training is received by their staff and also share the best practices that have worked for you in the past. Plan on a “start-up phase” or a pilot project where you can determine what worked best for your team. Work closely with your outsourcing partner during this critical period discussing and resolving issues promptly.

5. However one plans, timely product delivery invariably involves last-minute superhuman efforts. How will this be done?

In my experience, outsourced development teams can be almost equally dedicated as your local teams giving an arm and a leg to make the product launches successfully. I have seen this accomplished by consciously working with the outsourced team members as if they are members of your teams and thereby building the level of ownership in them. Some simple steps include;

Tools & Practices:

· Treat them as an extension of your team and not as a vendor. Work with every team member to get more done through careful communication and understanding individual motivations.
· In the monthly reviews outlined previously, share other business updates that can boost morale, give a sense of project/ product ownership to the outsourced team members.
· Share your sales cycles with them so that they feel like a part of the winning team.
When you go through these steps, your outsourced team members will be motivated to put in those superhuman efforts.

6. How can I protect our intellectual property when the work is being outsourced outside the US?

Your intellectual property is one of your most important assets and you need to take extra precautions to ensure that your outsourcing partner has similar values and policies. The first step is to understand the corporate structure of the outsourcing organization to ensure that they are governed by US laws. Ask to see typical employment contracts and confirm if they include intellectual property assignment and non-disclosure clauses similar to what your employees would sign in the US. Ensure that these are adequately covered in the client contractor agreement as well. Ask the potential outsourcing partner about their information security policy and supporting infrastructure. Once you have these materials ready for review, consult with your company legal counsel.

7. How do I select the right product development outsourcing company to outsource my work?

The selection of a product development outsourcing partner is a crucial business decision. Eventually, this has to be with people you are comfortable working with and the following checklist will help you review all factors that can impact the long term success of the partnership.

Mark your goals and set standards:

Depending on your product-to-market plan, it will help to evaluate goals and standards for the vendor to achieve, within set frames. This gives both parties the right level of commitment.

· Does the prospective partner meet your intellectual property protection criteria?
· Do they have an acceptable security policy?
· Do they have a product development focus or are they an IT generalist?
· Does this team have the capability to put in superhuman effort when needed?
· Do they have the experience and understand the importance and nuances of communication in outsourcing relationships?
· Is the partner flexible to provide the range of engagement models that can be needed to ensure success?
· Do they have the financial strength and stability?
· Do they have prior experience with the product development outsourcing methodologies that have worked well?

These are just seven of the many questions I have been asked many times before across several outsourcing engagements in the last 10 years or so. I firmly believe these will add value and steer you in the right direction ultimately assisting your business in elevating to the next level.

Outsourcing is certainly a means to help your business but only if you know how to go about it and we ensure that you do it the right way!

Also published on LinkedIn Pulse.

5 Ways to Maximize Business Value in Insurance with SharePoint

Today, enterprises have become data-intensive! It is all about controlling expenses, increasing efficiency and above all engaging with customers. The insurance Industry is no exception. To generate a significant business value proposition, improve collaboration among employees and ensuring documentation is properly produced, controlled and audit-able, several insurance companies are harnessing the power of Microsoft SharePoint.

Traditionally, claims and risk management documents were accessed through a hodgepodge of phone calls, e-mails and spreadsheets, making it difficult for the customer to have a unified view of their relationship with an insurer in real time.

In my experience, the primary reason for moving the data from these systems into a portal was two-fold. One was to allow a place for customers to track their transactions and interactions with the insurance company. Secondly, it would allow employees to work with a web-based, user-friendly application that centralized data from disparate (and often not the prettiest looking) enterprise systems internally.

Here are 5 SharePoint capabilities that generate business value in the insurance industry

Improved Records Management:

In this digital age, hard copy documents are still a part of life, especially when you are working with the insurance industry. To have documents 100% digitized is still unrealistic for some insurers. Another challenge faced by many insurers is the shear quantum of information, multiple versions of the same document and the different formats in which information is routinely created.

SharePoint is one of the best tools available to handle all documents – even if they come by email, fax, videos, audio, attachments, others. SharePoint allows you to design effective content structuring & indexing and helps configure easy-to-use records storehouses.

So, not only can SharePoint out-of-the-box fulfill the needs of a complex records management program, we haven’t even scratched the surface of all the other places your organization may be storing data that needs to be governed. This includes email, file shares, Office 365, third-party cloud storage or even physical locations. Having a central file plan that can be applied to all of your records is true records management, or as we at Trigent like to say, complete information governance.

Change Management:

In today’s business, policies and procedures are likely to change more frequently than ever imagined. Whether you are a sales agent, customer service representative or a marketing personnel, it is imperative that you understand the policies and procedures that apply to your business.  While change is unavoidable, as an insurance company you want to have full control around how and when you respond to change.

Change Management around the policies and procedures is a classic example of a perfect use case for SharePoint.  The Enterprise Content Management features in SharePoint is flexible and robust and allows you to control content dissemination. In a more controlled situation, you can use document management capabilities to establish workflows and sanction processes to ensure changes are fully scrutinized and approved before being communicated to employees who are working with customers. In less critical scenarios where change is more frequent and the need for tight controls are not obligatory, a more collaborative approach to information sharing and dissemination with features like wikis, discussions and news-feeds can be applied. SharePoint allows you to manage and control content dissemination via simple to complex workflows that can be customized to meet your business needs.

To successfully develop and deliver your solution, you must put in place the tools and processes and knowledge required to successfully perform change management. Work together. Work faster. Work smarter … ok, that is a Microsoft SharePoint marketing angle as well, but they, all, are equally true.

SharePoint Change Management Benefits:

  • Improved visibility of pending and historical changes
  • Ensure process compliance and accountability with full audit capabilities
  • Enforce estimation, risk management, testing and approval tasks
  • Measure continuous improvement

Process Management:

Just as every company has different approaches to a Change Management process they likely have many different processes. These processes may even differ between parts of the organization. For example, the workflow process to on-board someone in IT will likely be different than the process to on-board a customer service rep or a claims rep. SharePoint has robust workflow capabilities that have been around since 2007 and have gotten better and more flexible with each release.

Adopting a business process management strategy and using BPM tools can help streamline processes, reduce human error, and develop greater integration between systems like SharePoint and the workflows of the people who use them. While SharePoint is not designed to be an enterprise-scale BPM system, this platform can offer some BPM benefits, especially from a workflow management standpoint.

While on-boarding is an obvious workflow scenario that everyone mentions, where I think SharePoint can really shine for the insurance industry/sector is in all the smaller departmental and divisional processes that get overlooked because they aren’t used by the whole enterprise. Workflow in these areas provides value because it can be the tool to create something repeatable out of what is often common knowledge. In many insurance companies that I have worked with in the past, the first part of joining the team entails long orientation and training sessions. Certainly much of this is important training on industry and regulatory information, however, much of it is also trying to disseminate that knowledge on how the departments work. Wouldn’t it be nice if you could build these processes into a system where everyone could follow them more easily?

Savvy managers leverage the amazing out-of-box BPM features of SharePoint to make their lives easier and more efficient. If you’re a staff member struggling with keeping your management informed and in the loop while still getting actual work done, you need to make the case for using SharePoint to make your life much easier.

Another great thing about using SharePoint workflows for process management is that you can invest as little or as much as you feel is needed to support your particular process. You can use many out of the box workflows like approvals, and signatures or you can build your own in a SharePoint Designer. If those don’t fit the need you can go so far as to develop a highly customized workflow using Visual Studio or even other 3rd party tools.

Knowledge Management:

In Insurance, just like any industry, your people and more importantly the knowledge they bring is a critical part of your business. At times, it can be a challenge to know who has what information, especially as a business grows or as employees move from job to job within the organization. With SharePoint you can leverage many capabilities to help provide a place to go for those that have questions.

I have helped many departments both large and small, create knowledge bases with features like Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs), discussions, documentation on processes and so on. Since all this information is also tied into the user answering questions and providing the information, it’s easy to know who is knowledgeable on a particular subject no matter where they are (or who they are) within your organization.

Great Knowledge Management requires a Great User ExperienceThe challenge I often see with knowledge management is getting it off the ground and getting people who are busy with their own work to participate. Many times a reward or recognition system for contributing helps get people to engage and build a community of knowledge that will benefit everyone.

To jump-start Knowledge Management with SharePoint all you need are 3 easy steps:

  • Create, manage and improve your corporate taxonomies as managed metadata in the SharePoint Term Store.
  • Add managed metadata columns to almost any SharePoint list and library. Classify your content by applying your taxonomy terms.
  • Make use of content classification by improved search, filters, navigations, news feeds, content relationship and more.

Search:

Really no solution that provides the ability to create and store so much digital content would be worth as much without a very robust search engine. Search in SharePoint is powerful and flexible and can really be tuned and customized to your needs. It has grown and has been improved with each release. I think a scenario is the best way to describe its value.

Imagine you search for the term “marketing manual” and get back a list of 5000 items. That’s probably more items than you were prepared for, but you know it’s a document, so you apply a filter to get just documents and maybe another because you know the manual was just updated last week. Suddenly you are down to a much more manageable list of items. Items that you can mouse over and get a preview of the contents and the author.

The scenario above is really just the “out of the box” scenario, the great thing about SharePoint is the ability to “truly” customize search. You can change how results and refiners/ filters are shown, change how things are previewed and add previews for other types of files. Of course, you can also configure search to find content that is not even in SharePoint with the ability to show results across many line of business systems all in a single place.

I have summarized my many years of experience, consulting and building SharePoint solutions in the insurance industry and is really just the tip of the iceberg for the many uses for SharePoint.

Trigent has broad experience and competences in the insurance industry; we deliver services and SharePoint solutions that integrate sales, marketing, customer service and other processes, enabling insurers to optimize their business, streamline processes and deliver best products and services across various channels to reach the digitized generation while keeping costs under control.

One of our passions at Trigent is being able to listen to customers, take their needs, and map them to the right SharePoint features. We would love to hear from you and help you make the most of your investment in SharePoint.

NOTE: This article has been published on LinkedIn Pulse: https://www.linkedin.com/pulse/5-ways-maximize-business-value-insurance-sharepoint-abishek-bhat