Monthly Archives: June 2009

What If We Had Smarter Insurance?

Over this past weekend I spent part of Father’s Day watching the U.S. Open Golf Tournament, which was once again a striking display of how competitive pressure and being atop the leaderboard can result in rapid changes in the standings and an unexpected winner.  More on that some other time….

During the final two days of the tourney, the commentators were abounding in “what if” analysis given the rapid changes in the standings as the final rounds of golf were played.   As  I watched, I was also struck by how Metlife  has changed their marketing slogan to be “for the IF in life” as evidenced by presence of the Metlife Blimp in the skies over the U.S. Open course.

Then just a few hours later I was off to Toronto and Montreal to meet with two of our key software partners that have solutions to help our clients in the Insurance industry become “smarter.”   As many of you know, Insurance is one of the 13 key industries that IBM is focused on with our Smarter Planet initiative, and for Insurance companies we have a very defined point of view on the future of insurance that you can understand by viewing these videos.

Camilion Solutions is focused on helping insurance companies develop “product agility” for their products – or said differently – increase the speed and flexibility of how insurance companies can develop new offerings and solutions for their clients.  Most insurance firms have to invest significantly in IT each time they create new products, since as information based businesses they have to link their IT and their products so the right information is collected from clients to enable the rating, pricing and risk management associated with the each policy that is issued and the overall insurance risk pool they carry as a company.     Obviously this doesn’t seem like a fast, lean process for most insurance firms – thus the opportunity for Camilion!  They help clients define products as collections of re-usable “components”, store all product information in one central place, and make this accurate and consistent product information accessible by all stakeholders and systems, across products and even lines of business.   The intended result – increased speed to market, lower risk, and reduced costs.  And for us as clients this means better tailored, more flexible products for our insurance needs.

Then on Tuesday I spent most of the day with Silanis Technology.  If you have ever applied for any type of insurance, you know full well the mountains of paperwork that are required during the application process, and then again once as you are issued a policy.   Despite all the technology in the world, most important transactions like insurance, or buying a home, require an avalanche of paper to be printed out and signed.  Now however,  we can be smarter – with the solution offered by Silanis.   They invented the technology and the business process management solution to handle this type of complexity and they automate the business processes requiring secure, compliant and legally enforceable, electronic signatures and records. They pioneered the electronic signature market more than 17 years ago, and have developed a very large client base.   In many ways they automated “the last inch” of so many processes – where all the documents are created electronically (thankfully no more typewriters and carbon copies!) – but we still print the docs to sign, and then send them off to somewhere to be scanned into electronic records!

It seems like adoption of this type of solution has also accelerated since new legal guidelines for e-signatures were issued in most countries beginning in 2000.  Next time you get an insurance policy, or close on a new home, you might be able to do it all online – saving all that paper printing, all the courier fees, and even the fees to show up at the lawyer’s office in person.  Imagine a world where we don’t have to print all those docs  and how that will contribute to saving our environment!  That sounds like a good first step toward a smarter planet.

Even BIGGER breakthroughs are possible when we then combine real time indicators of risk with real time analytics and business model innovation.  One cool example was unveiled today at the Global Humanitarian Forum in Geneva.   Farmers in developing countries can now take advantage of new Index Insurance contracts to help them insure their crops from a severe drought.  These contracts link the insurance to a measure of the weather in a certain region (i.e. rainfall amount), so that the insurance company can measure the index without having to visit each individual policy holder (huge field cost!) to assess the risk and damage claims. Now farmers who often live on $2 per day can get access to bank loans and lines of credit that are backed by these insurance policies, and can significantly improve their quality of life in a way never before possible.  So far more than 2 million farmers have been aided by this new type of insurance.

Now that sounds like a smarter planet to me!


Life, Swimming, and A Moment

Last night in Raleigh, NC I was serving as the Starter & Announcer for my kids swim meet – which here in NC is quite an affair.  Our team has about 110 swimmers and the opposing team had about 150, so there were 260 kids and about the same number of parents all scurrying around at 5:45pm as we prepared for the meet to start at 6pm.  And as the Starter & Announcer, it’s my job to run the meet as efficiently and fairly as possible.  Starting on time usually helps….

Amid the chaos of this big event, a parent I didn’t know came up to me and told me that the opposing team had a swimmer who was critically injured in a car crash earlier that day, and she and her Dad were both undergoing life-saving surgery at that very moment.  She suggested that I mention it and ask for a moment of silence and prayer.  Of course I did….

It’s amazing how amidst that chaos 500+ people will instantly stop when they hear such news, and remain completely silent to pray for someone they may or may not now.   Surely you all have experienced this at other large gatherings, and I’m always struck by how powerful it can be.  And I’m struck that amidst all the craziness and frenetic pace so many of us keep – how such events and short moments help us all realize that its the relationship and people that matter so much to us in life.

I mention this because today I read today a fascinating post by Irving Wladawsky-Berger – a former colleague of mine at IBM and one of the brightest and most interesting people I have ever know.  He highlights a recent Harvard study – and is the longest known study ever conducted – on what makes people happy over the course of their lives.   His summary of the Atlantic Magazine article that discusses the study is worth a few minutes to check out –

Agree with its conclusions?

Cloud Computing

Yesterday IBM announced a new portfolio of cloud computing offerings for our clients, and they give our clients and partners a new range of options for the delivery and consumption of software to help them provide more flexibility within their businesses.  (

It is no secret that cloud computing is causing significant changes to the software landscape.   It is providing new ways for software companies to deliver their applications, effectively shaping the way they go to market; and offering clients exciting new options around how they acquire and deploy software solutions. One of the areas I think IBM may have an advantage is that we offer a range of capabilities for Private, Public, and Hybrid cloud environments.

We can help our ecosystem of partners tap into these new opportunities – and help them understand how these new offerings can complement the capabilities we have joined launched with Amazon Web Services (

Looks like the announcement has been well received so far by press and analysts – let me know what you think!

Why Bother?

So as I start my blog, many close colleagues in the industry have asked the ever important and sometimes dreaded  “Why….?” question.   Since that is one of my favorite questions for all parts of life — I thought it would be worth answering as the starting point for our discussion.

So why start this blog?  As I reflected on this over the past few weeks I think it comes down to three key areas –

1) To help facilitate a discussion of good ideas and examples within the IT industry – and within the ecosystem of the broader business community that we are all part of.

2) To share ideas and observations from the intersection of sales, marketing, partnerships, and general management in hi-tech and other industries.

3) To listen and learn from all my colleagues and partners around the world in these areas and to discuss related topics in international business, travel, culture, work-life balance, social media, the role of business in society and other relevant topics for our networks.

In my current role at IBM Developer Relations, I have the privilege of working key software, technology, and venture capital partners all around the world.  Each interaction presents an opportunity for insights and learning – and for the conversation to continue.  I hope that you will join me in the discussion – here on this blog, via Twitter, and in person at every chance we get.