Digital Strategy for a B2B World
It’s easy to see why so many view companies like Uber, Amazon and Google as the business models of the future. They’ve redefined their industries. They’ve rewired the customer experience. They’re not afraid to fail fast, learn from mistakes and make the changes necessary to stay well ahead of the market.
None of this is news to leaders of industrial and other business-to-business (B2B) companies. But these executives also know full well that what works in the consumer realm doesn’t always translate in a B2B context. Failing fast? That’s problematic in industries such as chemical processing or offshore drilling, where the smallest mistake can trigger epic disaster. Moving quickly? We’ll get back to you when our channel partners get back to us.
Redefining the industry? Easier said than done in a business like aviation, where many stakeholders operate in a complex, interdependent ecosystem. The truth is B2B is different than business-to-consumer (B2C) when it comes to digital strategy, and it requires a different approach. There are many lessons to be learned from digital innovators like Amazon, and the opportunities are very real. But simple comparisons to what works for these digital standouts aren’t always useful in an industrial setting and often come off as naive or impractical, feeding the notion that digital is more hype than reality. This gets in the way of deciding how digital can, in fact, transform important parts of a business and makes it hard to create alignment around the right path forward.
Digitalization in Insurance: The Multibillion Dollar Opportunity
The business of property and casualty insurance— assessing risk, collecting premiums and paying claims— hasn’t changed much since 1861, when a group of underwriters sold the first policies to protect London homeowners against losses from fire. Recently, though, the insurance industry has embarked on a radical transformation, one spurred by a series of digital innovations whose widespread adoption is just a few years away. Bain & Company and Google have identified seven key technologies—namely,
- infrastructure and productivity,
- online sales technologies,
- advanced analytics,
- machine learning,
- the Internet of Things,
- distributed ledger
- and virtual reality
—that have already begun to disrupt the industry and whose impact will accelerate in the next three to five years. These new technologies are likely to be a boon for consumers, bringing more choice, better service and lower prices.
For those insurers ready to seize the initiative, digitalization presents an immense opportunity. The companies that stand to benefit the most are those that use the impetus of digitalization to rethink all their operations, from underwriting to customer service to claims management. The impact on both revenues and costs can be enormous. An analysis by Bain and Google shows that a prototypical P&C insurer in Germany that implemented these technologies could increase its revenues by up to 28% within five years, reduce claims payouts by as much 19% and cut policy administration costs by as much as 72%.
These pioneers in digital technology can gain an edge over their rivals by becoming more effective and efficient. They’ll be able to trim costs and pass on those savings to their customers, thereby winning new business and gaining market share. The digital laggards, by contrast, will find themselves fighting an intensified price war and scrambling to protect their competitive positions.
Six IT Design Rules for Digital Transformation
Superior performance in the digital age calls for an adaptable technology infrastructure that manages the complexities of a multicloud environment, embedded security and compliance policies, and deep business alignment. Best-in-class IT operations and the software vendors that support them are adopting a playbook based on six core rules for IT design.
- Break boundaries across IT stacks. Given that companies are unlikely to achieve complete migration to the public cloud anytime soon, CIOs need monitoring, discovery and confi guration tools that function in hybrid, multicloud environments as well as up and down the stack, from legacy systems to consumer-facing apps.
- Embrace DevOps. As firms increase the cadence of their digital offerings, they have no choice but to integrate software development and IT operations. Already, as many as 60% of enterprises are using or planning to use a DevOps approach to building and installing software, according to a survey by Gartner. Modern IT organizations require software that works across the production chain and that’s designed for rapid testing and validation.
- Be open. No modern solution can be an island. As designers produce focused, best-in-class solutions instead of massive monolithic systems, openness becomes critical. Companies need modular, opensource and application-program-interface–friendly software that is designed for easy extensibility and integration with other apps. CIOs expect to be able to combine the capabilities of their disparate systems to serve new needs.
- Incorporate policy engines. Cost pressures have driven CIOs to seek to automate their IT operations. They want to escape the massive manual efforts that they currently rely on to monitor policies, including compliance, data governance and security rules. They need solutions that have builtin logic to identify and remediate against rules in order to enable policy management across a hybrid infrastructure.
- Induce insights. As digital apps proliferate, companies are becoming fl ooded with an abundance of data—some of it useful, some of it not. CIOs need analytical tools that use techniques such as machine learning to glean insights from disparate sources.
- Insist on user-friendly experiences and tools. In a complex world, IT professionals are demanding intuitive, easy-to-use software. They are no longer satisfied with hard-to-master, second-rate applications; they want a consumer-level user experience. They need solutions that are software-as-a-service (SaaS) capable, simple to install and have immediate, out-of-the-box functionality.