June was an action-packed month for me, criss-crossing the country multiple times, speaking at four different events, tLondon Tubealking with a lot of people about Social Tech and insurance, meeting with clients, and working with a non-profit in Thailand via Skype. As the local psychologist said about Dr. Mavin at the end of What About Bob after Dr. Marvin leaps and tackles Bob at is own surprise birthday party, “It’s a lot to bite off all at once…”

But the intersection of travel, speaking with people, presenting, and meeting with clients caused me to discuss with others the following critically important question:

Where are things headed with Social Business and Insurance, both B2B and B2C?

(Btw, scan the most recent public tweets on “Insurance #SocBiz“.)

Following are some thoughts based on what I’ve seen and heard around the industry. What do YOU think? I’ll drop a few observations, but I’d like to hear yours, as I’m sure other readers would as well. Please spend a few extra minutes here. I know our time is scarce, so every drop of clarity helps.

The Big Picture

  1. Marketing – The early leader in Social Business adoption and showing mixed early results, although many insurance operations do not appear to be using seasoned veterans to operate the tools, run the content strategies, or develop internal/external engagement tactics. More deep education, strategy, and guidance still seems necessary in these early stages, including executive buy-in, sponsorship, and strategic support.
  2. Sales – Typically the next adopter in an enterprise, most sales operations also seem to still need deep Socially Facilitated Selling skills training – Linkedin, Twitter, Blogging, Commenting, Mobile tools, etc. It’s extremely rare to run across Linkedin Ninja’s in insurance sales. Knowing what I know about the advanced Linkedin Tools specifically designed for sales people, this seems to be a HUGE opportunity.
  3. Executive & Leadership – Organizational Voice (internal and external), industry thought leadership, disaster preparedness and response, driving Social Business across the enterprise – these seem like must-have’s, especially in a competitive environment. I can speak from experience that it takes about a year to develop a cohesive, cross-functional strategy. And then it takes about a year to get good at the implementation. But it doesn’t seem like the majority of insurance executives are taking the time to keep up with Social Technologies.
  4. Legal & Compliance – I hate to put this 4th, but that’s where I see it typically falling. However, the smarter companies are including legal & compliance up front in the strategy development process. At a minimum, the internal Social Media policy should be developed, Listening Systems put in place, an Incident Response Guide finalized, and a departmental Rivers of Information program implemented. These seem to be the common denominators that will protect the enterprise and keep the compliance team squarely in the drivers seat relative to the latest changes in Social Business guidance and regulation.
  5. HR – The Social Business applications for recruiting and retention are now clear and undeniable. It seems intuitive that HR should be included in the development of the internal Social Media policy. Often HR is developing management training systems as part of their rollout of the SM policy. And HR is often tasked with the learning and education processes of Social Business. I’m even starting to see early adopters launching “Adaptive Culture” initiatives. With technology driving the pace of change, this is a very good idea, especially in an industry that is conservative by nature and slow to change as a result. Adaptive Culture.
  6. Claims and Service – Again, technology – and the consumer adoption thereof – is driving change. Consider Mobile apps for claims. Customer are using Twitter and Facebook to ask questions. Ready or not, here we come! Thus, the obvious questions are: Where do we stand with Social Business training and guidance in Claims? What Listening Systems is Customer Service using and who is in the drivers seat? How does our Incident Response Guide tell us to respond? Community engagement and management are typically all open deliverables in Customer Service, though that gap is closing fast. Remember that our clients and customers, B2B or B2C, are our biggest advocates – or our loudest detractors.
  7. Actuary, Underwriting & Finance – As always, Rivers of Information and staying sharp on trends is key. Of course Business Intelligence and Big Data are now looming large on the horizon, although early adopters are already digging into #BigData. (Recent tweets on “Insurance #BigData“) I’m seeing more presentations on Risk Dashboards and Cat Modeling. (Tweets on “#risk #Catastrophe“.) The “Sharing Economy” is a really big deal. Certainly there is an opportunity for Chief Actuaries to become Recognized Experts with their own professional blogs. And it seems intuitive that all of these could contribute to the Organizational Voice.

Clearly, Social Business touches the entire enterprise, literally top to bottom. That said, making this transition in the traditional insurance company is problematic on a number of levels. Much has been written about these barriers.

The way I see it, the solution must begin with a highly educated and energized leadership team, that clearly understands what’s at stake, and what the opportunity is relative to the competition, driving Social Business down and through the enterprise.

But am I out on left field on this? Does leadership REALLY need to understand #SocBiz?

The Apparent Solution

Phase 1: The right starting point seems to be a C-Level Social Business Leadership Training Session, possibly to follow with a replay for invited clients and guests. That provides the necessary knowledge to generate the needed sponsorship and funding of the ensuing phase.

Phase 2: Form a cross-functional team and work through a cross-functional process for Strategy Development over a 6-12 month period. The outcome of this would be a holistic, enterprise-wide, implementation plan suitable for the next 2-3 years.

Phase 3: Depending on the size of the enterprise, (and this isn’t being done yet anywhere that I can see) is to deploy a Chief Social Architect (CSA), reporting to the CEO, with a corresponding team to oversee and support the implementation and rollout of the strategy in every department, at every level.

After 3-4 years, Social Business would then be embedded in the enterprise. Mission accomplished. A Center of Excellence and a CSA would likely be unnecessary at that point. “Social” is now assumed, much like “e” is today.

What do you think?

  • Does Social Business start with deep education across the leadership team?
  • Does it then necessitate a cross-functional strategy development process?
  • Would a Center of Excellence business model make sense?
  • Or is there another way of infusing the enterprise with the foundational essentials of Social Business?

Based on my experience these last 10 years, effectively transitioning to #SocBiz seems like a 3-4 year initiative that has considerable longterm implications.

Please comment. Thanks SO much.