Why Handhelds Offer Crucial Design Lessons for Insurance Systems

Our experience as consumers raises questions about the need for commercial insurance software developers to incorporate principles and practices of good design.

In less than 15 years, the design of mobile phone interfaces has evolved from a black and white pixelated screen to a highly intuitive interface that offers us a personalized and integrated user experience. Unfortunately, the impressive progress in product design experienced in our personal lives contrasts with design deficit in the software we use in our business lives.

In an effort to win our loyalty, handheld manufacturers virtually invented “user-centric design.” Today we are awash with a choice of multimedia devices, apps and services where design plays a key role. Having enjoyed these benefits as a result of manufacturers’ competition, it’s reasonable to ask what role design should play in the development of business software, and of insurance software in particular. For example, we might ask the following questions:

  • How important should design be in the development of today’s commercial insurance software?
  • What influence does design have over boardroom decision makers?
  • Are manufacturers really listening to today’s user needs?

In the past, green screens were king. No one outside of your four walls could see them. User-related design was a mere twinkle in an insurance system developer’s eye.

Then – albeit a little late to the ‘customer centricity’ party – insurers began to sit up and listen. Policy and transaction-based systems started to look dated, and customer-centric systems garnered a voice in the market – even by insurer’s own staff wanting to give their customers more. These rumblings have grown louder and triggered radical implications for the design of insurance software. So what is ultimately influencing the change?

  • Customers want to interact anytime, anywhere, anyhow.
    Customers want to get closer to insurers – they want to access their information without your being around. In parallel, you need to get closer to your customers through face-to-face meetings; for example, with policy info in hand. Such changing demands are drastically oiling the wheels of design for device-agnostic, intuitive software that offers mobility and 24/7 information access.
  • Board-room decision makers consult users pre-purchase.
    Rather than presenting new systems as a fait accompli – organizations are seeking user opinions as to the design and usability of new interfaces before committing. It’s a buying practice which is causing insurance software vendors to raise their game as they begin to recognize user and consumer power.
  • IT investment decisions are being made in the boardroom.
    No longer being driven purely by CIOs or as short-term fixes, expenditure on technology is being made strategically, with input from many. Moreover, decisions are greatly influenced by design-led solutions that meet customer-centric corporate objectives.

It would be untrue to say that design in our personal lives is the only reason for the insurance sector to make a seismic shift in emphasis from substance to style. B2B insurance is highly complex – and the approach of “there’s an app for that” is some way off from covering every aspect of a commercial insurer’s workflow. However, the most astute insurance software vendors are starting to study B2C form and pay heed to the importance of design. Those that don’t will fail to help insurers keep pace with each other and the ever-morphing world outside.

Matthew Isaly // Matthew Isaly is responsible for Xuber’s product strategy in the North American region. He joined Xuber in 2000, bringing with him over eight years of market experience with Houston Casualty Company, managing core business software implementations, training, and support for all areas of the business across multiple subsidiaries. He has been a Certified Public Accountant for nearly 20 years.  

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