Companies often keep their infrastructure and IT best practices proprietary, citing competitive strategy. If your competition knows exactly what you’re doing, the theory goes, you lose your edge. This theory may be waning, however, as CIOs and other IT executives realize that by sharing best practices they can help others and reap benefits too, says Craig Weber, senior vice president, insurance, at research firm Celent. “A lot of industries are very insular, and insurers have been that way traditionally, but I think it’s a good idea to share best practices and broaden your field of vision. Insurers that do so effectively have a better chance of understanding where they fit into the world.”
Oracle is helping insurers move toward a more open exchange of ideas with its own Insurance Industry Strategy Council, a group of 15 to 20 executives from leading global insurance companies who meet to offer input and advice, with the goal of driving product development. Members make a two-year commitment to the council. The council meets in person twice per year—in the spring and fall—and augments those meetings with frequent conference calls. Topics include corporate strategy, global technology outlook, current and future business challenges, and industry perspectives. The council also gives participating CIOs the opportunity to network.
“The goals of the meetings are to provide thought-leadership forums where customer executives can provide Oracle with feedback and insight that helps us shape solutions to meet their current and future needs,” explains Srini Venkatasantham, vice president of product strategy, Oracle Insurance. “We are seeking market-based insight, assessments of industry strategies, and diverse perspectives on core business practices, industry trends, and technology issues. This customer input helps Oracle executives make the best decisions to benefit our customers.”
Bill Jenkins, CIO of Penn National Insurance, who sits on the council, says while the group gives him a unique perspective and is extremely useful to him, his networking efforts don’t stop when an Insurance Industry Strategy Council meeting ends. In fact, he continually networks throughout the year.
“We have had a number of insurance carriers through this shop, and we’ve been through other shops. We do it to let other companies see how we’re doing things, and we also go to visit their shops to see how they’re doing things,” he says. “There are at least 10 to 12 CIOs that will call here, and we call them to find out how they’re using technology.”
Jenkins even reached out to other insurance carriers prior to implementing Oracle Insurance Insbridge Rating and Underwriting to see how they used the software, what they thought of the product, and how they were integrating it with existing technology.
This strategy of looking both outward and inward serves Penn National well in the long run, says Weber. “On an industry level, it’s smart to see what everyone else is doing,” he says. “Everyone benefits in the end.”