In the London Market, the term "Back Office System" is as old as the hills and you'd be forgiven in feeling there was a somewhat disparaging tone in the name - with the need for Patrick Swayze to confidently strut forward and state "nobody puts Baby in the corner"
Back Office systems are the heart of the London and international Insurance market; the silent workhorses, unappreciated, underpaid and highly justified in any lack of confidence or inferiority complex they may have developed. With the new boys on the block: The Internet of Things, Apps, Robotics, Artificial Intelligence it is any wonder the humble BOS could constantly fear the writing on the wall is looming large. But is the Back office System really the old beaten up Landrover, reliable and stable but lacking in modern form or function? or does it possess more within its armoury than its users are aware of?
Whilst start ups make do with an Accounts package such as Sage and MS office, Word for the Slips, Certs, Schedules, and Excel for record keeping! - No controls, No programmed checks, No escalation, No tracking. No single version of the Truth. Granted low cost, but not joined up, and certainly not scaleable, or even really compliant in any modern interpretation of the word.
By the time the organisation reaches its teenage stage, this new maturity and its associated sense of omnipotence obviously requires a more grown up solution.... and the hunt for the biggest decision likely to be made (excluding staffing) begins... Which system?
So what should the buyer have on their check list? "Should I employ a consultant to compile an ITT/RFP/RFI (or any other series of random letters otherwise known as a list of requirements.)? "Should I see every system advertised? "To Cloud or not to Cloud? "What about the one my mate uses at their company? "What do they actually do? "What do they not do? "What don't I know that I should ask?
That first meeting with a vendor takes a predictable form, a series of investigation questions on both sides, the posturing stage, the vendor has resource capacity for you, whatever your size, and whenever you make up you mind! The buyer wants the Veyron for the price of a Fiat 500, and obviously all development for your particular whim (to mirror what you were doing in MSExcel) for free. But is it really that unreasonable, these systems are surprisingly complex, and constant changes in the Broker's processing behaviours, the added layers of compliance, and the integration of other systems has posed the bench mark for the BOS that is flexing its muscle and seeing off the inexperienced less capable offerings. This market's very purpose is to reinvent, redesign and spin up new products, handle unique situations, and one off risks, all of which are a set of parameters that challenge the repeating task approach that computers are built to handle.
So what should your BOS offer you?
So is the BOS really something Management can dismiss and forget about, certainly fail to budget for in User Training to get the very best out of both the staff and the system. In an age where users are reducing their IT literacy in terms of how data relates to other bits of data, or dependencies of one task would effect another, this time spent understanding the system they use every day is paramount, There won't be an App for that!
Is that what the Lloyd's and London Insurance Market is about?, Not thinking? To be replaced by chat bots and automation?
I am definitely no Luddite, I am a pure technologist, a relative rarity - a female, a programmer with Insurance, Marketing and Business credentials, 3rd Generation London Market, forward looking and constantly inventing new solutions to every day problems, whilst firmly up-holding the principles of Agile, generic development and flexible supportive working. But foremost, an IT geek at heart, through and through like Brighton stamped in a stick of rock. But when technology is apparently embraced without understanding the complexities, fundamental basics, the data that is already being captured and available, then I would always question if the tail is wagging the dog and if the right questions are being answered in the right order.
So back to the question, is the BOS to be consigned to the back office or should "Baby" be displayed for all to see, with appropriate investment and understanding of just how powerful a tool may be already within your midst. You may just find, (if you have the right one) it holds a myriad of surprises, and with some dedicated focus you may reap considerable rewards, and (to use one last analogy) your ugly duckling may just be a swan waiting in the wings.
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