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Cloud computing and 'appification' speed up software innovation

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Technology trends such as cloud computing and “appification” are changing the frequency and speed of developing software and, in turn, the way technology providers deliver those features to insurers and risk managers.

Kathy Burns, Chicago-based CEO of Aon eSolutions, which provides cloud-based and on-premises software to risk managers, said her firm's embrace of the cloud has accelerated the process of innovation. Instead of needing to push updates to separate clients that may be running separate versions of the on-premises software, cloud-based applications allow automatic changes, Ms. Burns said.

“We provide cloud-based solutions to risk managers and it enables us to do more for them more quickly,” she said. “If we create a great report or piece of analytics or a new module for a client, I can then make it accessible to our broader client base.”

Brian Vannoni, San Francisco-based director of product marketing for Guidewire Software Inc., said the firm wanted a hybrid model blending the best attributes of on-premise and cloud-based software. In October, it launched Guidewire Live, a series of hosted applications intended to augment the functionality of the Foster City, Calif.-based company's underwriting, policy administration, billing and claims systems.

The advent of the cloud and app-driven development has freed business units to adopt new technology without taking the time to involve the information technology department, Mr. Vannoni said. “Previously, the cycle time for technology-based innovation was so long that it stifled business innovation,” he said.

Ms. Burns said the advance of technology will help risk mangers shift their focus from the tactical concerns around data aggregation to broader, strategic goals.

“Historically, risk mangers have thought more about technology to help them with the efficiency of their processes,” she said. “Now that the process-oriented tools are more firmly in place, they want to spend more time evaluating and understanding data that they can use to drive down their total cost of risk. It's becoming more about what you can do with data.”