The groundswell of the implementation of innovative technologies in large companies has already been well underway for decades. In the past, these technology shifts were measured in 10’s of years, but in its current iteration - and exemplified by the Consumer Tech Companies - innovation is now measured in months.
The innovation cycle has been amplified by the global containment of the population in recent months - a global workforce suddenly became disconnected and ‘mobile’ and with it put irrecoverable stress on traditional legacy processes and systems. Indeed, this confinement has cast a harsh light on all the strategic and operational limitations of remote access to the information systems of large groups. There are many anecdotes of employees of large tech-forward companies that were unable to connect to their core systems of record and analytics. A system designed to be used “on-premise” cannot easily and suddenly support access “off-premise”. Admittedly, technological transformations are slower than corporations tend to believe from reading the press and expert reports. But they are also deeper than the leaders of the major groups ever imagined and in the example of COVID driven by global events well outside the control of traditional planning execution models.
Source Gartner study
The democratization of usage
It all starts with the democratisation of the use (point 3) of digitalisation. This first trend finally brings the use of consumer applications (BtoC) into the professional space (BtoB). Fifteen years of using smartphones have made customers and employees demanding about the quality of the interfaces between humans and machines. All interface producers for professional use are now ruthlessly compared to the best of the recreational worlds (choose your favorite personal application here). This is the backdrop for all our business conversations. Generation Z accelerates this trend by not only entering the workforce but gradually gaining access to decision-making positions in companies. I can’t resist the urge to suggest that you read Raymond LOEWY’s “Never Leave Well Enough Alone”. Written in 1953, he is particularly prophetic in this regard.
As a software provider and innovator, we must keep this in mind in allowing the immediate and speed of thought adoption of an evolutionary business application as if it had been designed for the general public and as easy to use and understand like watching Netflix.
I then retain three other trends (I have deliberately grouped traceability and Blockchain together because they are so synonymous for us) mentioned by Gartner (out of the ten cited). The Insurance sector, which is undergoing profound technological change and layered in legacy systems, user experiences and disconnected systems of record, at the moment, is particularly relevant to illustrate my point.
- Traceability and the pragmatic blockchain
- Distributed Cloud
The vast majority of players in the European insurance market have left their claims reporting process unchanged for decades. Caught between the compulsory management of expensive and disparate and bound legacy information systems with the inability to adapt and manage with agile methodology, they have long preferred the status quo. In recent years, however, APIs (Application Program Interface) have changed the situation. This second technology makes it easier to connect the information systems of the various participants in a business process, but the processes themselves are as rigid as their legacy sources and bound in inflexible methods and system tradition.
For example, AXA Partners decided to automate its chain for processing real estate loan guarantees in the event of job loss. Once customer consent has been obtained on the AXA Sweden portal, the formalities are managed by AF (Arbetsförmedlindgen) and AXA Partners without any further intervention on the part of the policyholder.
The result is a more serene and human experience for the AXA Partners client, in every aspect. At a delicate moment in his life, he is assured that his monthly loan payment is covered on time, with no risk of forgetting. Unsurprisingly, AXA Partners’ Net Promoter Score after implementing this solution has been multiplied by 8. This performance is cited here by Gilbert Chahine, CEO of AXA Partners. AF and AXA Partners have also benefited. A drastic reduction in management costs and the limitation of fraud are tangible gains that effectively complement customer satisfaction.
The Covid-19 crisis confirms that the companies that are best prepared for situations of this type with agile systems and processes will be those that will best ride out the shock wave and perhaps display a new level of efficiency and user satisfaction. For since mid-March 2020, claims for this type of claim have increased fivefold in Western Europe. Without hyper-automation, processing times are likely to increase sharply. They will jeopardize many households already affected by the crisis. The alternative solution then becomes the implementation of additional human resources. Carrying out easily automated tasks manually when economies of scale are urgently needed is no less problematic, and it is to be hoped, at least temporary.
As a Software Provider, we enable simple and inexpensive replication of this type of process on a widespread basis. In this way, the teams at AXA Partners and AF can focus on real emergencies and handle tasks with higher added value.
Traceability and the pragmatic blockchain
However, without traceability, the APIs put into production above quickly run into management problems. They become expensive, difficult to manage and navigate the computer “spaghetti dish of systems, processes, and trusted auditability”. This is where the blockchain finds a pragmatic application.
This third technology ensures trusted system governance as it provides a fully automated transaction log at a low cost and in a secure irrefutable manner. It is maintenance-free, and inherently trustworthy and agile. At any time, the participants in a process can know who (Who) did what (What) when (When), where (Where) and why (Why). The traceability of a process is assured and immutable. Without Blockchain the actors must set up a “data lake or chain of lakes”, and a team to manage it (with the associated costs). And still untrustworthy and dangerously brittle.
Thus AXA Partners completes its hyper-automation with the ability to simply manage all the audit trails of its processing chain.
In a similar way, CNP Assurances handles, in times of mourning, the administrative formalities related to the search for beneficiaries of life insurance policies. This relieves families of an unnecessary burden and speeds up the payment of the capital due. CNP has automated its processing chain and uses Blockchain audit trails to prove that unclaimed beneficiary tracing requests have been processed in a timely manner.
As a Software provider, it is our job to make the use of complex technologies such as Blockchain transparent and simple to promote their impact.
However, none of the above would be possible without the use of the third technology, namely the cloud.
The advent of the Cloud
Combined with the two previously mentioned technologies, the cloud allows secure access, from any point in the world, from a simple web browser to a management application that excels in supporting scalability.
This fourth and foundational technologic breakthrough is still encountering strong resistance in France (Adoption of the Cloud), one of the major objections stemming from security, risk, privacy and audit-related issues. By dealing with these objections in a systematic and professional manner, Cloud computing companies have broken through many ‘legacy’ barriers and resistance over the last five years. At the height of the COVID crisis, when remote system access, availability, mutability, became a mandate for every organization the measurement of its ability to execute was either a success or failure. The gap between those organizations who were bound to legacy immovable, and inaccessible systems compared to those who maintained a mobile, high availability, resilient cloud-first environment and it’s inherent agility, Let’s hope that this will finally convince the leaders of the major groups to consider the interest of solutions born in the cloud.
For example, the employees of several AXA Global Re subsidiaries around the world have access to their accounting reconciliation application in the same way as before the crisis. Eventually, the solution will be available to all sixty ceding entities. A year ago, the finance and IT departments made a gamble that optimizing financial flows would be a determining factor in the Company’s performance. The fact that they chose a cloud technology made it possible to maintain nominal conditions for access to this system. The same is true for CNP Assurances, where the use of the beneficiary search system has remained significantly stable and without interruption.
As a Software provider, it is up to us to promote cloud-first technologies as a modern, secure and resilient platform, driven and protected by Blockchain.
Our mission at Stratumn is to enable the use of new technologies for the benefit of the entire chain of users who implement them. From our customers to the companies using our technologies and all the partners (public entities, regulators and suppliers) who work with them. Through technology, we help to establish the timeless foundation of business, a trusted trading system.
To learn more about Stratumn and Trace, our blockchain-based solution, contact us.
Jérôme Lefebvre is the CEO at Stratumn.