The Impact of Tablet Technology

Solution Perspectives is an ongoing series of publications created in collaboration with IRI's members and valued partners. The purpose of this series is to further inform insurance carriers, broker-dealer/distributors, financial advisors and consumers regarding business trends and information critical to their decisions regarding insured retirement products. This series is brought to you as a part of the IRI Operations and Technology Program.

The introduction of the iPad has forever changed software users' perspectives as to what they consider acceptable software; and most have no real awareness that their perspective has been so dramatically impacted by these devices.

It's truly amazing when we look back at past software as to what was acceptable to the general population of end users. Can anyone remember actually using Windows 3.1 on a daily basis? Think back to early web based applications, they were even worse! These early web based applications were primarily limited by the technology available at that time. Most people couldn't see a future where applications accessed via the Internet and web browsers would ever be a viable option. In early cases we made them work because they provided some benefit over what we were currently doing. So we adapted to what they had to offer and we were glad we had them, but there were ALWAYS issues.

Evolving Expectations
Looking back in contrast to the offerings of today, our expectations continue to evolve. What was once considered acceptable and useful no longer provides real business value. I would argue that the iPad and its tablet marketplace has had the greatest impact on software evolution than anything since Windows versions 3.1 and 95.

The ability for the end user to adapt to software has as much to do with the benefits it provides as it has to do with the feature/functionality of the actual software. Meaning, if the benefits are great enough to the end user they will be willing to adapt their behavior and learning curves to realize the benefits.

In the sales automation space for insurance, doing business via paper probably means not in good order submissions, missing forms, delays in commissions, and constant communication back and forth with the back office of the insurance carrier(s). Even with this space being exceedingly efficient at managing the paper process and having adapted their expectations as to what's acceptable, end users are slowing changing their outlook as they see platforms which leverage what's possible. Historically, change within this space hasn't been triggered by the end users clamoring for a new technology; rather it has been driven by compliance, oversight and recordkeeping and today, even this dynamic is changing, primarily due to the advent of the tablet devices.

The impact of tablet computing has forever radically influenced the end users' expectations. It's obvious when your parents, who have never seen the value or the need for computers, are suddenly using FaceTime with your kids on their iPad, paying bills via their bank app on their iPad, and actually using email as a way of communication. These types of experiences are happening every day. Just walk into an Apple store and take a look at the demographics. You will see people of all ages, from toddlers to grandparents, and I think this is an amazing and impactful story that we are experiencing today.

Growing Mobile Market
Whether it is an iOS, Microsoft or Android operated device, tablets have redefined the market and have become a preeminent computing device of choice. Reported by Gartner, tablet sales reached approximately 195.4 million devices worldwide in 2013 growing by 68% from 2012. The changes in mobility and personal computing continue to impact the PC market with PC sales declining by nearly 10% in 2013. Experts expect that although portable PCs (notebooks) will rise a little, PC sales overall will continue to decline over the next several years. As tablet and other mobile device sales continue to grow, companies will feel the pressure to implement a mobile strategy to capitalize on this growing mobility phenomenon.

How Did We Get Here?
What are the factors that caused this evolution? Did the iPad suddenly open technologists' eyes to what is possible? Have we simply evolved as software designers? Have software developers evolved? Was it simply the intuitiveness or immediate ease of use capabilities? Or has this new form factor for computing forever changed how we interact with and leverage computers?

You could build an argument for each of these questions. However, it all began with the introduction of the iPad, which was only four short years ago. And it has not been apparent to most people that this impact has even happened. It's only in hindsight, leveraging sales and usage statistics, along with kids, grandma and grandpa's experiences that the impact of mobility is becoming clear.

Once limited by technology, the true creative nature of software designers are now leveraging the latest technologies and designing with the "flexibility" tablet devices prominently provide. What started with entertainment focused applications on the iPad has now proliferated into the business world. What was once viewed as an escape from boredom on long flights has become a mission critical component to the insurance industry and a valuable tool for financial advisors.

Just as early software for the computer meant having an application installed locally, the impact of the tablet computing phenomenon has followed the same path in beginning with a locally installed application from the app store. Now computing is using a cloud based software as a service, providing a device-agnostic software experience. Moving from your desktop to your tablet and back to your desktop leveraging the same end user experience is providing value and flexibility that has never been available before.

Embracing and Leveraging Technology
These tablet devices, which are readily available, multiple to the household, at our fingertips, and most importantly are insanely easy to adapt to and leverage when paired with the right software applications, fit perfectly into the insurance focused sales environment. This is especially true when the technology leverages and builds upon the existing knowledge of a forms focused sales experience. By providing the sales force with a flexible, seamless, device agnostic, in-good-order data capture and e-signature directly on the tablet screen, you provide an invaluable process that the end user did not know was possible.

Behavior changing technology advances have historically done just that. They provide a value we didn't really know was possible; they leverage the technology advances in a way that makes our lives, whatever that is, easier. It makes us look at things differently without forcing change—rather it makes us desire the change.

So, why is this important? What business value does all this provide?

In just four short years, tablet form factor computing has provided software designers with the flexibility to provide a value proposition to financial advisors that they can easily adopt and desire to utilize. This is possible because it leverages their existing business processing knowledge in such a way that provides value, igniting a desire to adapt and adopt. By implementing an automated business process that utilizes the flexibility and mobility of these technological devices you provide an overall cost, time and processing benefit, providing incredible ROI which advances sales to a new level by enabling the end user to expedite sales processing in today's demanding instant gratification environment.

by Jim Ferrell, VP, FireLight Product Management, Insurance Technologies