IT Training Needs For Insurance Professionals

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Information Technology is now being used in every walk of life. Insurance Service Organizations are among the biggest users of IT. It is a challenge for Insurance Companies to keep their manpower updated on IT knowledge so that they can make best use of IT deployment. It is often seen that huge amount of money is spend on implementing a technology and at a later time found that either this was not the one needed or it remained under utilized.

If we try to categorize the use of Information technology in Insurance service, we can put various uses in following three categories -- Document and Knowledge Management, Workflow automation, and Analytics and Business Intelligence. Let us map these with some of the important Insurance functions such as Underwriting, Product Design, Product packaging, Policy Administration, Claims Management, Customer Relationship Management etc.

Activities like Underwriting risks and Product design/ packaging depend a lot on Knowledge management, powerful analytics and Business Intelligence techniques. Every Insurance Organization must be having some software for Knowledge management and Business Intelligence or if not so, they must be implementing them in near future. For making best use of knowledge management and business intelligence techniques, users must have sufficient knowledge about when and where what technique can be useful.

At the same time, they also need sufficient working knowledge on the software/ tool implemented or to be implemented in the organization. This knowledge is software dependent. If the software is changed in future, the screens and options will change and users will need to be trained again on the new software. However, the first set of knowledge that is about the techniques itself is not dependent on software. This knowledge keeps getting enriched with use and experience and make user more powerful in applying them in practice.

Policy Administration and Claims Management are such activities where document management and workflow automation techniques are mostly deployed. Customer Relationship Management requires good analytics and Business Intelligence techniques as well. In all such implementation and applications, we find that two sets of knowledge are required at users level to make best use of them. First set of knowledge is about the techniques itself and the second set is about the tools implemented to apply the techniques.

For example, Business Intelligence (BI) is useful in almost all the functions of an Insurance organization. For this, the organization implements some Business Intelligence software. To make effective use of it, first a person needs to know about various BI techniques such as clustering, association rules etc. A user need not know the algorithm used in these techniques, but he should be aware of the meaning and use of them. Learning the features available in the software implemented for this purpose is relatively easy and can be learned easily by use. But, if one only learns the software and the features available in that and thinks that he can use BI with that knowledge, then it doesn't work.

In Insurance Organizations, IT Project implementations are regular activities. Project Management techniques such as CPM/ PERT (Critical Path Method/ Program Evaluation and Review Techniques) helps the project team manage the project better. There are more failure stories in IT Implementation Projects than success stories. IT personnel in the organization have to work as interface between the internal users and technology partners. Knowledge of project management techniques and skill to interpret data to convert to smart decisions play important role in success of IT projects.

To summarize, the IT training needs for Insurance professionals fall under two categories-One related to techniques and the other related to tools deployed to use those techniques. Training on Business Intelligence techniques, Workflow design, project management techniques, document and knowledge management techniques etc. are necessary. Tool specific training is generally provided during implementation. There should be some plan to train more number of people on tools by those who are already trained. These tools can be best learned by using and practicing. However, these can be of use only when the user understands the techniques to workable level.

In addition to these topics, everyone should be fully aware of the information security issues and IT policy of the organization. With properly designed training based on above considerations, an Insurance Organization can make best use of Information Technology.