Our New Year’s Resolutions

No matter how you slice it, 2021 is going to be an extraordinary year, if for no other reason than it follows 2020. Need we say more?

Consequently, we thought it appropriate to come up with an equally extraordinary list of New Year’s resolutions and to share them here. So, as a public service, here they are:

  1. We’re never going to utter or write the phrase, new normal. The fact is the entire world was arduously about the business of adapting to a new reality sometime around March or April of last year. It forced us to wonder about our very conceptions of normal, let alone a new normal. So, this year, normal is out the window. Rather, we’ll look ahead. And we’ll focus on accomplishing what we can in the effort to provide the best products and services to our customers that we can. As the actor, Sir Anthony Hopkins, once said, “Today is the tomorrow you were so worried about yesterday.” We’re going to spend the energy we might otherwise spend worrying about tomorrow to accomplish what we can today and every day.
  2. We’re going to take more chances. We don’t mean we’re going to take foolish risks. We mean we’re going to set our sights just a little higher. Thomas Edison said, “Many of life’s failures are people who did not realize how close they were to success when they gave up.” Not us. We’re going to use the success we’ve already achieved as inspiration and as impetus to extend and expand that success even farther.
  3. We’re going to have more fun. We got into this business because we love it. If 2020 taught us anything it’s that no work is worth doing if it’s not the work of your heart. And if you’re doing the work of your heart, you certainly deserve to enjoy it. We do. We will. We hope you do, too.
  4. We’re going to cherish our relationships — all of them — and be more mindful of them. Especially with the specter of COVID-19 hanging over us, there are no guarantees of anything. Every relationship and every moment is valuable.
  5. We’re not going to be preachy. Okay. We may not have done such a bang-up job on that score with our items 1-4 above. But we’ll try. We promise.

No matter what happens in 2021, we wish everyone who reads this post a healthy, happy, and rewarding New Year.

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A Christmas Tale

’Twas the night before Christmas, and all through Finys,
What most folks were doing was anyone’s guess.
But Kurt was responding to customer queries
While Scott, fast asleep, dreamt of sugar plum fairies.

Their stockings were hung from their chimneys with care:
With COVID around, the home office was bare.
But customer service was still on their minds,
As they all imagined their Christmas-morn finds.

Then suddenly each of them heard a strange sound.
They ran to their windows and looking around,
All of them saw the same fat guy in red,
Pulling some stuff from a reindeer-led sled.

For all of his girth, that old fat guy was quick.
All of them wondered, “Could that be St. Nick?
He could be a sprinter. He moves like The Flash.
He’d beat Usain Bolt in a hundred-yard dash!”

And then, as they watched, he would run back and forth,
Carrying packages all marked, “Pole, North.”
He stacked them right up, and then jumped in his sleigh,
Calling out loudly, “Up, up, and away!”

Sure enough, in a blink, he was clean out of sight,
Headed for places unknown in the night.
And all the Finys folks were scratching their heads,
Wandering curiously off to their beds.

Each of them wondered if they should reveal
The fact to their colleagues that Santa is real.
But then they all reckoned (as wisdom imparts)
That Santa would always live safe in their hearts.

From all of us to all of you, Happy Holidays, best wishes for a safe Holiday Season and a bright, prosperous New Year.

Good Enough is Not Good Enough

There are many ways by which we come by our convictions:

  1. Sometimes we see things that motivate us.
  2. Sometimes we learn things that inspire us.
  3. Sometimes we hear things that disturb us.
  4. Sometimes we hear things that unsettle us to the point at which we realize we can’t let them be true.

Pertaining to #4, we once heard someone say, “Well, you know, sometimes good enough is good enough.” In a sense, Finys is dedicated to the proposition that good enough is not good enough.

Nothing’s Perfect

Some years ago, we saw Roy Firestone in interview Troy Aikman on his ESPN program, Up Close. At the time, Aikman was the quarterback of the Dallas Cowboys, with whom he won three Super Bowls. On several occasions during the interview, Aikman made reference to playing a perfect game.

At one point, Firestone said, “You keep referring to the perfect game. Do you actually think it’s possible to play a perfect game?”

Aikman responded, “I don’t know. But if that’s not what we’re striving for, what’s the point?” Translation: Good enough is not good enough.

By the same token, we don’t know if it’s possible to make the perfect software. But if that’s not what we’re striving for, what’s the point?

What We Know

We do know it’s possible to make software that does what our customers need it to do. We do know we can make sure of that by asking them. That’s why our Innovation Advisory Board comprises members from all of our active customers who want to participate. We do know we will continue to modify and improve our software, enhancing it and adding functionality to it.

We also know we can limit it. We can’t be all things to all people. Neither can our software. So, we’ll make sure it fulfills the insurance-administration objectives of our customers. But it won’t ever contain functionality that doesn’t pointedly and efficiently fulfill those objectives.

Do we believe it’s possible to play the perfect game or to make the perfect software? We don’t know. But we do know Ralph Waldo Emerson was right when he said, “We aim above the mark to hit the mark.”

Good will always be good. But good enough will never be good enough.

The Big Shift

The past is a foreign country: they do things differently there. (L.P. Hartley, The Go-Between)

The coronavirus pandemic has us thinking about that famous quote from L.P. Hartley. It also has us thinking about three other things:

  1. The so-called new normal
  2. Best practices
  3. Thomas Kuhn.

First, the notion of a new normal, of course, suggest an old normal. And that, to varying degrees, suggests stasis — a set of circumstances, unchanging, in which we do or think about things in a particular way. Since nothing in the world is unchanging, that suggests any notion of an old normal was a fallacy. At the very least, it was necessarily temporary.

Second, and by the same token, best practices also reflect stasis — a kind of settling for inactivity or unimaginativeness, rather than a relentless search for active improvement or creative betterment. While the phrase, best practices, has become almost required in business vernacular, touting it can imply we’ve settled for some degree of complacency.

Hello, Paradigm

Third, in his 1961 book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, Thomas Kuhn wrote this, which, one could argue, introduced the term, paradigm (which later became a buzzword), into the vernacular:

Paradigms gain their status because they are more successful than their competitors in solving a few problems that the group of practitioners has recognized as acute.

That one sentence applies to the new normal and the old normal, and it presages the notion of best practices, even as it suggests best practices are, by definition, temporary; that is, we recognize that one paradigm or set of paradigms may be adopted to solve one particular problem or one particular set of problems. It also tells us the success of the paradigm has been perceived and accepted in hindsight. Accordingly and similarly, we can perceive a set of activities to be a best practice only in retrospect. Thats why, later in the book, Kuhn writes this, indicating that — rather than looking to the past to derive practices in the present — we might look to the future; that is, we can choose to pursue, rather than to make do:

If we can learn to substitute evolution-from-what-we-do-know for evolution-toward-what-we-wish-to-know, a number of vexing problems may vanish in the process.

And that brings us back to the coronavirus pandemic and the new normal.

Are We There Yet

Under the constraints of the pandemic, we’re replacing what we were doing for what we want, need, or aspire to be doing. The good news is we’ll always be improving. The bad news is we’re demonstrating that best practices and new normals might not be good things because they have their own obsolescences built in.

In our last post, we wrote about finding our way toward becoming efficiently productive outside of the office and generating new sales activity. We’re not the only ones doing that. We can’t be. As human beings, we’re creatures of creativity. We think. We adapt. We evolve. We grow and change. We develop better ways of doings. We chafe at restraint and aspire to ideals. So, best practices become yesterday’s news; and our quest for improvement never ends. It’s the way of the world and exactly as it should be.

We used to do things differently in the past. We even shifted our cars differently. That was then. This is now.

The coronavirus is The Big Shift. But we’ve stopped grinding our gears and started to move.

And you kids in the back seat aren’t allowed to ask, “Are we there yet?”

Afloat Again

We’re not sure we’ve stumbled on the proverbial new normal. But we’re positive we’ve found new life in the ninth month of the coronavirus pandemic.

Like everyone else on the planet, we slowed down for a while. We had to. Common sense dictates proceeding with caution through uncharted waters. But we started to find our way, to establish a productive heading, to discover like-minded companies that realized as long as the world’s still turning and the sun’s still coming up, there’s work to be done.

Over the last few weeks, we’ve begun to generate a considerable amount of new activity. Our phone and email communication has picked up significantly. We’ve gotten out to call on some prospects in person. And we have more travel booked into December and beyond. It’s definitely not the old normal. But we’re getting the distinct sense that if there’s going to be a new normal, we’re going to have to create it.

Finding Our Way

The poet, T.S. Eliot, once wrote, “If you aren’t in over your head, how do you know how tall you are?” We don’t mean to suggest we’ve gotten any taller. But it’s fair to suggest we were all in over our heads for a while. When the whole world is thrown into the deep end, words like daunting and disorienting qualify as world-class understatements. So, we all had to tread water, find some buoyancy, and find our own ways to stay afloat.

Now that we’re back on the surface, we’re determined to stay here. We’ve kept all our people aboard. We’ve taken care of our customers. We’ve maintained our connections. We’ve stayed in touch with our prospects. We’ve worked through our challenges. And we’ve been as fortunate as we are determined.

As we start to emerge from the pandemic — or as we learn to navigate its previously uncharted waters, at least — we hope you have the same good fortune we have.

You might not be seeing the light yet. But if you keep swimming, you’ll get to the surface.

Hurry Up and Wait

Because we’re incorrigibly curious — and because it’s part of our professional responsibility to stay abreast of things in the industry we serve — we recently conducted an experiment on Google. We entered the phrase, coronavirus insurance industry, and searched. The search returned 496,000,000 results. The sheer number surprised us. But what surprised us more was the chronology of the results. Out of the 13 results on the first page of our search results — other than one CBS news story dated September 21, 2020, that dealt with the evolving definitions of interruption coverage — the most recent of the remaining 12 stories was from July 23, 2020.

Beyond the number and the chronology, we were struck by two other consistent aspects of our Google search results.

Let’s Review

First, many of them had to do with the new normal and hybrid operating models. Wow. The clarity of hindsight notwithstanding, it’s amazing how quickly things have changed, even as the coronavirus pandemic has seemed to slam The Big Brakes on everything. Since July, of course, we’ve realized we can’t wait for a new normal, even if there will ever be any such thing. And we’ve also realized, from the precautionary measures required to gather people in one (work)place to the cautionary tales coming from commercial real estate, that hybrid operating models have already morphed into work from home and even given us a new abbreviation: WFH.

Second, many of our search results had to do with the insurance industry’s lack of foresight when it comes to digitalizing their operations. Most insurers were relatively well-equipped for hybrid operating models and even WFH. But meeting the needs and expectations of their policyholder and prospects who live in a highly digital world? Not so much. The question for us now is: What’s next?

Let’s Do It

As they said on The Six Million Dollar Man, we have the technology. We just haven’t fully adopted it yet. But given the rate at which we’re adapting to the new rules of the coronavirus game, we also have the aptitude. All we have to do now is acquire the determination to make the necessary changes and commit the budgets to getting it done. Everyone from our WFH employees and our policyholders will thank us for it.

There’s no need to panic. But we can’t afford to hurry up and wait.

And We Quote …

We know it’s bad form to quote ourselves. But we have to make an exception here.

We recently watched a panel discussion about the ways in which insurers responded to the effects of the coronavirus and its ensuing shut-down. One comment, from Sean Ringsted of Chubb, jumped out at us:

I draw a distinction between, say, operating remotely and the digital age. For us, the digital age is a much broader perspective in terms of how we think about product and service, and how we think about the customer. By and large, we haven’t moved forward as an industry collectively in that regard. It’s shown that we can operate remotely, but we’re a long way away from being an industry that’s operating and succeeding in a digital age.

To paraphrase Yogi Berra, we had a deja vu all over again.

You Don’t Say

Bad form notwithstanding, we couldn’t help recalling that, on October 8, 2018 we wrote this:

Digital transformation is almost always interpreted to be about technology. It’s not. Here’s why: Unless we manage to experience some kind of once-in-a-millennium event sometime soon, there won’t be any technological transformations. But what we do have is a data transformation. More specifically, with the digitalization of data — and with the technological progress we’re making in storing, extracting, analyzing, and applying data — that’s a transformation worth heeding and on which we should be capitalizing. And it feels like progress.

And on February 3 of 2020, we wrote this:

Objective #1 is to look at thing from the perspective of the prospective buyer … But [insurers are] facing the sobering realities of Objective #2 — getting their core systems to function at levels sufficient to achieve Objective #1. If products remain difficult to change, if integrations continue to be a challenge, and if BI isn’t meaningful enough to improve operational decision-making, customer behavior, responsiveness, accessible information, and self-service capabilities become tough nuts to crack.

Does that make us special? No. Does it make us clairvoyant? Uh uh. But it does make us prepared. And it makes us prepared to help our customers implement the digital platform that will enable them to scale, to accommodate market changes and policyholder demands, and to operate in the world in which their prospects and policyholders already live.

If it takes a worldwide pandemic to get us there, so be it. But we do have to get there.

Don’t Roll the DICE

efficacy:noun — capacity for producing a desired result or effect

We don’t seem to hear as much about digital transformation or digitalization as we used to. There are two pretty compelling reasons for that:

  1. We’re not hearing as much about those things anymore because we’re actually doing them.
  2. The coronavirus gave as a very good reason to stop talking and writing about those things and to just do them.

The fact of the matter is that we — in this instance, insurance companies and their policyholders — are living in a digital world. And an inevitably attendant fact is that outdated systems are far less likely to have the functional capabilities required to keep pace with changing demands, market opportunities, and customer expectations.

Modernization Can’t Be a Crapshoot

Insurers have to keep the technology they use up to date and functionally capable. They have to monitor its usage. It’s all but a given now that policyholders want immediate access to their insurance information through their computers and their mobile devices. So, with the evolving nature of technology and the ever-increasing rate of change, it’s fair to imagine several things will become increasingly prevalent: With IoT and Big Data feeding telematics devices and precipitating usage-based insurance, we’ll see more individualized rates as standard personal-lines products, in particular, become ever-more specialized. That means insurers need to recognize the fact that their systems have to be capable of delivering what policyholders are demanding today. If they don’t have them or the capability to add them, alarm bells should be going off.

To describe insurers’ recognition of these fact and their readiness to keep pace with them, we’ve coined an acronym — DICE (digital insurance capabilities efficacy). Simply put, DICE is a way of determining whether insurers are functionally able to meet policyholders demands in the digital world in which their policyholders conduct their lives and their businesses. It’s not hard. And it doesn’t take long.

If you’re ready to determine your DICE, please contact us today.

You can’t afford to roll the DICE with your business.

What’s In Your Toolbox?

Imagine you have some new friends coming over for dinner. You really want to make a good impression, but your house has a few things that need to be fixed. While not many friendships are lost over broken screen doors, shabby paint, or a picture that needs to be hung, it would better if things were in order. Your honey-do list has been escalated to a more urgent status. What you do next will depend upon your level of skill (are you handy?), the resources available (do you have the right tools?), and how much time you have before you guests arrive (how urgent is your need?). This scenario is similar to situations insurers find themselves in when it comes to maintaining and updating their core systems.

Almost all of the insurers we talk with want to do more themselves, with less reliance on their own busy IT departments and self-sufficient from third-party vendors. Imagine being an insurer, moving your office location, and having all your bills and other print output continue to go out with your old address for more than a month. Imagine that being the result of a third-party vendor that said it would manage all changes in the system, with no provision for you to make your own changes. If you think that can’t happen, maybe it’s because it hasn’t happened to you … yet.

Well, Yeah …

The situation above is exactly why modern core systems come with toolsets that empower users to make significant design, configuration, and product-maintenance changes on their own, if they want to (most do at some level). The skillsets required have evolved from programming to drag-and-drop WYSIWYG tools and proficiency with Microsoft Word and Excel. And why would you want to pay a third party to make mundane changes to verbiage in forms and addresses or minor tweaks to rating algorithms. In many cases, the time required to request a change from a third party exceeds the time it would take to do it yourself. The vendors will always be there to help pick up the slack if resources or timing are an issue.

Going back to our analogy, why wait for (and pay) a handyman to tighten some hinges or drive some nails — if you can even find a reliable handyman? If you prefer to have someone else do things or you’re too busy for home projects, that’s one thing. But doesn’t it at least make sense to have the ability and the tools if you have to do things yourself? What are the risks if you can’t?

Maybe most important: What will your new friends (and policyholders) think?

Portals Are the New Common Sense

We love inevitability.

For instance, it’s often said that insurance is sold, not bought. That means many consumers don’t think of insurance as a necessity and tend to purchase it only when it’s sold to them. (Hence, the classic scene from Woody Allen’s Take the Money and Run in which Woody’s character is sentenced to 10 years in the hole with an insurance salesman.) But there’s something about natural disasters and other catastrophes that makes the importance of insurance evident and the need to buy its protection inevitable.

Connecting Dots

The same logic might be applied to portals. Portals used to be considered just tools. They used to be nice-to-have marketing gizmos with which insurers could tout customer focus and self-service. We don’t know if the coronavirus pandemic caused their sudden inevitability. But we do know it sped up its realization considerably. It was … well … inevitable.

Think about it: Most insurance company employees can’t be in their offices. Many policyholders are less likely to visit their local agents in person. Still fewer folks are likely to engage in the painstaking drudgery of filling out paper forms for insurance applications and claims notices. Given the number of people we now have to call everyday — to verify their health and safety if nothing else — most of us find our time at a premium. Under those circumstances, a portal that can be accessed from anywhere — on a computer, on a tablet, on a smartphone — has become more than a tool. It’s evolved to a point at which it’s a common-sense necessity for insurers, saving them and their policyholder time, energy, and headaches.

Perfecting the Art

With or without the coronavirus pandemic, our portal technology is so important to our customers we’ve branded it and applied for a trademark for it: Customer Engagement Portal™. We didn’t know portals were inevitable when we developed the technology. But we did recognize its contributions to efficiency and customer service. And we try to make a habit of staying ahead of the curve.

Software development is a science. Our Customer Engagement Portal reflects our commitment to its art.

Our approach to both seems like common sense.

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