While many people refer to Web 2.0 as a technology, Celent considers it more of an attitude. As already mentioned in one of my previous posts on this blog, Web 2.0 combines the need for more mobility, faster information flows, a higher degree of openness, and a strong reliance on collaboration and community. To do so people need to have easy-to-use tools, and the technologies nurturing this need are usually referred as Web 2.0 technologies.
There is a good example of the transformational power of Web 2.0 currently on the news headlines: the Iran post presidential elections troubles. For the Iranian government in place, Web 2.0 represents certainly a danger since it allows the mass people to be the instant messengers of what’s happening minute by minute in the capital city of Teheran. In this war of information, the Web 2.0 attitude is a strong ally for the protesters and the power in place could consider it as a weapon of mass disturbance. Outside of Iran, many people have understood the importance of the Web 2.0 attitude and the impact it can have in such a chaotic situation. Journalists firstly (just check the CNN website and you’ll understand what I mean) but more importantly politicians. What a surprise when I read that the US Government had contacted yesterday the social networking service Twitter to urge it to delay a planned upgrade that would have cut daytime service to Iranians disputing their election. In other words, these people see the Web 2.0 attitude as a weapon of mass democracy.
I am the author of a report Celent is publishing this week called “Reaping the Benefits of Web 2.0: European Insurers Strategies that Work” and I will present the main findings of my research about this topic in a webinar soon. This report and my webinar try to evaluate how the Web 2.0 attitude is currently perceived and adopted by the insurance industry. The Web 2.0 attitude cannot be neglected by insurance companies, but sometimes it seems difficult for them to determine whether it represents a transformational wave. In addition, it is still difficult for them to evaluate the value of initiatives in this area. The Web 2.0 initiatives launched by European insurers described in this report are very different in terms of the impact they might have and can generate on the organization, the level of risk involved, and their probability of transforming the insurance business. For those of you, who are interested in this topic, I invite you to read my report and/or attend my webinar and then determine whether the Web 2.0 attitude can be a weapon of mass development for insurers in the future!
More than technology, Web 2.0 is an attitude. A short Q&A session helps us understand what Web 2.0 means:
“Everywhere”: Getting access to social networks or being able to communicate from anywhere in the world have become an important aspect of today’s communication. The Web 2.0 attitude requires low restriction in terms of communication capabilities. In terms of technology, portable electronic goods such as mobile phones, portable media players and extra-light laptops are the tools of mobility.
“Immediately”: Impatience is one of the key elements of the Web 2.0 attitude. People need information more quickly but they also want to share it more rapidly. In terms of technology, systems allowing instant communication like chats, Instant Messaging (IM), Really Simply Syndication (RSS) and to a certain extend SMS and Voice over IP (VoIP) are the drivers of spontaneousness.
“Everything (or whatever)”: People have an increasing need to share all kinds of information with others. This propension for openess sometimes includes also very private information. In terms of technology, the need for more transparency is supported by the increasing number of social networks and communities as well as blogs on the internet.
“Everybody (or I don’t care)”: There is a social focus in the Web 2.0. attitude. People like sharing information and opinion but they require collaborative actions in order to feel part of a community. In terms of technology, platform allowing free change of information content such as Wikis and blogs or other types of collaborative online sites emphasize collaboration.
“The easyiest way”: Web 2.0 has a specific focus on usability and any kind of technologies enabling or easing interactivity improve usability. In this context, AJAX, Flash, Flex, Tagging or Mashup represent key enablers for improved usability.
The Web 2.0 attitude is a real challenge not only in business but in our day-to-day personal life. Insurers have already launched interesting initiatives in that domain but it seems that some of them fail to capture their real strategic impacts. I am currently reviewing a few Web 2.0 projects implemented by European insurers and I am planning to describe them in a report to be published by Celent in Q2 this year. Web 2.0 interests European insurers but some of them have failed to make their initiatives pay-back. Reviewing successes and failures will certainly help insurers better understand where is the real value of Web 2.0.
When discussing with most of my friends about my job and the insurance industry, I am often told that insurance is not interesting or is one of the least innovative sectors among the financial services industry. Of course, I don’t agree with them and sometimes I have to argue fiercely to demonstrate that their perception is exaggerated. Web 2.0. and its related-technologies are good examples where some insurance companies have already launched interesting initiatives. Based on contacts I have established so far, I have decided to work on a research, whose objectives are to provide some examples of Web 2.0. initiatives launched by insurers and to understand how the sector perceives and evaluates the value of Web 2.0. initiatives in the long-run. While the first objective seems to be relatively easy to achieve, I expect some difficulties with the second one.In a report published last year called “Capturing the Strategic Value of IT: A Review of IT Investment Evaluation Methods”, I have tried to analyze how insurers can prioritize IT investments and better evaluate the strategic impacts these types of investments can have on their business. Some projects related to social networking launched by insurers are typically the kind of investments, where the question of value is of highest relevance. Of course, entering the blogosphere or a presence in Second Life contribute to launching a signal of modernity and dynamism to potential clients. But do these initiatives really generate new sales or can the new perceived image of an insurer following such initiatives indirectly trigger more referrals? How do insurers evaluate the results of these projects and what factors and criterias are particularly important to them when deciding to adopt the Web 2.0. attitude? Even though insurers’ Web 2.0. initiatives give me some interesting stories to tell to my friends when they tease me about my job and the insurance industry, they do not answer the most important question: what value can they bring to insurers? You will therefore understand that I am very excited and curious to hear what CIOs, marketing managers or other people responsible for such projects within insurance organizations will tell me when I will raise this question! My expectations are high and I hope I will be able to provide interesting findings to my future readers.