Until recently, we could have safely sworn that infrastructure was purely about managing resources, focusing on success factors like uptime and performance. It even made sense back then. But this changed in the wake of the 2008-2009 financial crisis, when insurers began focusing on reducing the cost of operations. Many insurance organization CIOs and heads of infrastructure closely examined server utilization, working to gain efficiencies wherever possible. And since then, insurers have made tremendous progress in this area.
Today, infrastructure is still about the more practical aspects of managing hardware, software, networks and facilities. But the infrastructure requirements of tomorrow will be very different from those of today. The focus is shifting from simply running data centers and managing servers, to providing the business with the availability, speed, and agility to serve customers and meeting changing business needs.
The changes: Then and Now..
Insurers havent been using infrastructure in this way because previously, there was no expectation for infrastructure to serve these purposes. When infrastructure is up and running and getting the job done, companies do not see the need to make changes. Then, when something goes wrong, they revisit their infrastructure. The need for transformation has never been pushed to this new level. Its an entirely new way of thinking. So why now? Because the business environment has changed dramatically over the past few years, due to factors such as consumerization, security concerns, and regulatory mandates.
Today, you need to make sure your systems enable great customer service and can support proper segmentation to reach the right customers in the right ways, across channels. Leveraging data analytics to provide better service and sell to the right customers is key. No wonder 90% of North American property and casualty CIOs use analytics to help automate and improve the decision making process.
Up until now, however, this hasnt translated into really looking at these requirements from an infrastructure perspective. This is no longer an option. Transforming infrastructure is not just an IT priority any more. Business, which needs to meet growing customer expectations, is now demanding this. For instance, consumers want to be on mobile, on their tablets, laptop and desktops. You will need to provide the same level of service across these channels, and that requirement will drive infrastructure changes.
Similarly, the pressing need to ensure data security strengthens the case for infrastructure transformation. Security today is not only about uptime or denial-of-service attacks, but increasingly about data protection. Data privacy and compliance have never been as important as they are now in insurance and healthcare, where there is a heavy focus, because of regulatory mandates, on protecting patient and member information and ensuring theres no data leakage.
Ultimately, you should look at infrastructure in the same way you look at a front-end application for mobile. It is just as critical to the customer relationship. Infrastructure has the potential to create that wow moment or experience for your customer. Recognizing this, Starbucks adopted a strategic approach to IT infrastructure when it first launched operations in India, opening its maiden store within just nine months.
Its therefore important to understand that infrastructure is the backbone — to enable the right checks and balances to ensure a secure environment, and guarantee that you are able to serve business needs and meet consumer demands. You must consider the following factors when determining your approach to infrastructure: capacity, how to build it, who to partner with, and what platform it will run on.
A modern and flexible infrastructure is the answer to responding to the needs of both the business and the consumers, driving real-time response, and securing data. Infrastructure can no longer be considered a horizontal issue. It needs to be understood as a business capability, along with IT applications. A piecemeal approach to infrastructure planning will only solve immediate problems. But it isnt the strategy you should bank your business plans on. To ensure your infrastructure delivers real business value, it will need a complete overhaul, a transformation.
If you recognize the need to transform your business infrastructure, theres no better time than now. Keeping in mind changing customer expectations and the impact of external factors, where do you see your infrastructure transformation journey starting — from upscaling data security systems or moving to the cloud?