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Elegant Design Speaks For Itself

Rod Travers
Insurance Experts' Forum, January 21, 2010

Anyone who has studied computer science is likely to be familiar with the unique connotation of “elegant” in the vernacular of technologists. It does not connote luxury or glamour or lavishness. It means, roughly, “the simplest, most intuitive, most technically economical design.” Programmers and designers have contests to see who can write a program using the fewest and most ideal lines of code. The winners are admired and envied, sometimes a little grudgingly.

The business world is filled with examples of elegant design, most of which are rousing commercial successes. Examples include:

•    The iPhone and iPod. These devices are highly sophisticated, yet their user manuals are just a few pages long.  

•    Southwest Airlines’ complex business model continues to evolve, yet customers consistently rave about the simplicity of traveling on Southwest.

•    Amazon’s One-Click online buying process is the simplest way to make an online purchase. Not enough time to change your mind!

•    While we may not like paying highway tolls, toll tags and their underlying commerce model are delightfully simple.

•    Twitter is just a text-message rebroadcaster. It doesn’t get much simpler than that. Millions use it.

One common thread among these examples is widespread popularity. Make something that solves a common problem that just about anyone can use, and you have a hit on your hands. You also have a market differentiator.

In financial services we have a tremendous opportunity to incorporate elegant designs into service processes, including self-service and agent-service processes. Capitalizing on this opportunity requires innovative technologies as well as innovative business processes. IT professionals can help lead the charge by quickly championing and implementing the right technologies. Several high-profile insurers have done just that, and the impact on their market presence has been predictably phenomenal.

Take a fresh look at your most frequently used service processes. Reduce steps, eliminate complexity and increase responsiveness. Customers will notice, they’ll tell others, and your bottom line will portend success.

Rod Travers is EVP for The Robert E. Nolan Co., a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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