The Corporation as a Consumer

News and comments about the recently announced Apple and IBM partnership is flooding the mediasphere. As it should. But for me, this partnership will only succeed if both firms have come together to perceive and support the corporation as a consumer writ large. That means, enabling the corporation to compete in a mobile-first, customer-driven mediasphere.

Get with the program – the imperative of mobile-first

There are so many technology capabilities flying at us as consumers and as employees in corporations. The nature of commerce is changing; the nature of entertainment (at least the delivery of it) is changing; the nature of collaboration and communication is changing.

At the core of all of these changes is the device which we keep closer to us than our one true love: our mobile device. Actually, it might not be a stretch that our mobile devices is now our one true love. Ah, mobile devices!: the first thing we turn to in the morning – it doesn’t mind our “just got out of bed” morning breath (well, not yet at least) – and the last thing we look at before shutting our small screen-shuttered eyes for the night.

A mobile-first society

We are a mobile-first society. I’ll leave it to you to get the mobile use trends from any one or more of the gaggle of technology analyst firms. Their numbers will show the same trend: a stratospheric uproar of mobile devices and their growing number of consumer applications.

As consumers we know this. We live it, we love it … mobility is us. But do the companies we do business with know it? Are they showering us and our mobile devices with the love we demand, or at least (rightfully) expect?

Curley’s (New) One Truth – All Enterprises are Media Firms

Remember “City Slickers?” Curley made a big deal of there being one truth. I don’t remember him ever revealing it.

But, I’ll reveal what Curley’s one truth would be now: every firm is a media firm. Every firm, regardless of industry, generates, consumes, stores, manages, and “publishes” information. If that isn’t the essence of a media firm, then I don’t know what is. Of course being an insurance technology analyst I could certainly be wrong. But for those of us in the insurance industry, our industry is entirely information (well, with a legal wrap around a financial promise of paying a claim but even all of that – legalese and money – is entirely information flows).

Wait, was this bit about every company being a media firm a non sequitur? Mais non. Read on ….

Expanding Waves of Data

Insurers (yes, I have switched to my little pond) are being bombarded with waves of unstructured – and semi-structured – data from customer calls, agent/broker calls, social media sites, blog posts, and sensor-embedded tangible assets (but M2M is a topic for another post). Enough data to choke a mainframe or two (or three). Big Data indeed!

But how are insurers handling all of these waves of data (big, small, or some size in-between) – other than running and re-running the same view against refreshed data?

I readily admit I’m shunting aside the catastrophe modeling and pricing models which property and casualty (re)insurers are doing. But I don’t think that I’m doing all that much damage to the insurance industry’s analytical reputation. If so, forgive me.

Enter the Apple – IBM Partnership

And now we’ve arrived at the heart of the matter: what the Apple-IBM partnership can bring to the table.

  • Apple is a consummate media consumption technology firm. Apple lets you explore, intuitively create, and expose your verse, whether it is composed of text, still pictures, sound, video or mix of any of these media components (well, you knew I’d circle back to that).
  • IBM is an applied research-driven enterprise-focused technology firm. (Their acquisition of PwC consulting only made IBM stronger in the enterprise space).

My Expectations

Without knowing exactly what the apps will be for the insurance industry, I fully expect that the apps will be:

  • elegant, usable, and fun
  • secure
  • and the data serving as the foundation of the apps will be well-mannered: that is, well governed, well defined, and well understood.

Because all of the above is what reperceiving corporations as consumers means to me. In fact, all the above are my table stake expectations from this partnership.

Insurance is a different world

But it’s not a strawberries and cream world (even if Wimbledon was still going on now). Our newly announced partners will not find smooth sailing in the insurance industry.

Why? I think that our partners will find that insurers do not consider ERP systems to be systems of record. That honorific falls to the 30, 40+ year-old policy administration, billing, and claim management systems. Additionally, agency management systems and other channel management systems are important sources of customer and prospect data.


Apple and IBM will find that insurers expect, or should expect:

  • the security of the apps to be doubly or triply proven (if not, dragons cometh)
  • to be able to easily clean, govern, and otherwise manage stored data and data flowing into the company through the multitude of value chains
  • employees to be able to use the mobile apps as collaborative platforms to discuss, annotate, and analyze data
  • employees to intuitively interact with the analytically-driven visualizations.

My request

Finally, when will this partnership deliver Watson on-demand by clicking an app? (I would like an outline of Sherlock Holmes on the app, please.)