Disruptive . . . community?

Last month, Guidewire hosted Connections 2013, our 9th annual User Conference. We often talk about the “Guidewire Community,” and nowhere is it more apparent than at Connections. As I walked around the opening reception on Sunday night, I couldn’t help but to notice the palpable energy in the room. It was just the beginning of what would be an action-packed conference over the next several days. We were pleased to welcome over 800 customers and partner attendees. However, these people did not come to San Francisco from near and far (from 26 different countries!) to simply sit in a room and listen for 3 days; they came to engage. In fact, we had 30 breakout sessions on the agenda where Guidewire customers were speakers. They shared what was working, what didn’t work, and what they learned along the way. They even took the time to answer questions at the end. And it didn’t stop there - from the online community, to roundtable discussions, to good old-fashioned networking in between sessions, our customers and partners interacted heavily.

What was going on?

“Disruptive technology” is a term that gets thrown around a lot, especially in Silicon Valley (where Guidewire is headquartered). New technologies have the potential to transform their industries, and some of the best of these technologies do just that. The beneficiaries are the technology adopters who are suddenly able to perform at levels previous unattainable. Certainly, the insurance industry has been disrupted by modern core systems technology – insurers are now able to do things that were all but impossible with dated computer systems and paper files. However, what happened at Connections was something different. Insurers came together to share how they were using this technology in new ways to improve their business. Obviously, there are limits to what can be shared across companies, but within this constraint, our customers were very open and honest with each other.

Why would an insurer do this?

The reason is simple. Our customers recognize that by collaborating with each other about their shared technology, everyone wins. I’m not sure if the term “disruptive community” will catch on, but that’s how I would best describe what I saw at Connections. When a significant portion of an industry comes together like this, best practices are recognized across borders and geographies, insight is gained, and the most challenging problems suddenly become solvable. Insurers maintain their proprietary competitive advantage and execute their own strategic initiatives while pushing each other to improve. This ultimately leads to not only a better result for the insurers in this group, but also for their insureds and the industry overall. Property/Casualty insurance will continue to evolve, and insurers will be asked to solve increasingly complex problems while satisfying ever-increasing customer expectations. Which companies will be the best suited to rise to these challenges? My money’s on the large group of insurers from all over the world that work together.