This piece is the first in a series of three ASUG Guest Perspectives from Bob Evans, Acceleration Economy Co-Founder, Cloud Wars Founder, and digital business expert. Evans is a keynote speaker for the upcoming ASUG Best Practices: SAP for Cloud conference.

On the New York City subway, an insurance company you’ve probably never heard of (Traverse) is advertising policies for belongings you’ve probably never considered insuring (eyeglasses, skateboards, musical instruments, footwear, etc.) for durations you may find peculiar (per month, for example).

Wait a minute, wait a minute! I thought insurance was just for homes, cars, and health care, and was available only in 12-month increments—with no substitutions allowed, period. What the heck is going on here?

Well, the power of the cloud is rocking the insurance industry by giving providers the agility, flexibility, raw computing power, and AI-driven data insights to create extraordinary, new types of insurance products, services, and coverage timetables. Taken together, this expands the universe for those offerings to digital natives who probably wouldn’t consider buying traditional types of insurance.

Transcend Boundaries; Redefine Markets

The cloud is revolutionizing the insurance sector—and every other industry as well—letting companies transcend the boundaries that had rigorously defined markets for, quite literally, centuries.

That’s why we’re seeing Traverse Insurance advertise insurance policies for “the things you love”: cell phones ($6.50 per month), bicycles ($4 per month), skateboards ($.38 per month), cameras, musical instruments, and more. Oh yeah—I almost forgot to mention: the brains behind this wild new Traverse brand is the 165-year-old insurance giant known as Travelers, which has 30,000 employees and 13,500 agents/brokers.

This is a perfect example of why the cloud, more than anything else, is the Reimagination Machine. I’m sure that at some level, Travelers is using cloud technology to do some of the same things it’s always done, but just a bit more efficiently—and that’s wonderful.

But the real world-changing power of the cloud is in its ability to give business leaders the ability to reimagine:

  • Business models
  • Revenue models
  • Customer-engagement models
  • Recruiting and hiring models
  • Product-development models and cycles
  • Market expansion
  • Pricing strategies
  • Digital commerce and much, much more

Bold Innovation for Next-Gen Customers

Travelers certainly didn’t conceive and execute the bold innovation behind Traverse by thinking, “How can I do what I’ve always done a little faster and a little cheaper?” Instead, it took an entirely fresh look at what a new generation of customers—people about 30 years old and younger—might want to protect financially. The result was new types of insurance, with new pricing models and terms of service, plus new ways of marketing and advertising Traverse. After all, I happened to see one of the company’s ads on the New York City subway.

Talk about reimagination: insurance ads on the subway!

Traditional technology is wonderful. In most cases, it did exactly what we programmed it to do for as long (or longer) than expected. And, thanks to the extraordinary skills of millions of IT professionals, we kept those integrated systems running securely.

But today’s business world requires—in fact, demands—much, much more from the technology systems that underpin those businesses:

  • They must adapt to and fully embrace relentless change and a seemingly infinite range of external requirements from developers, partners, customers, and users.
  • They must deliver in weeks what took traditional technology months or quarters to accomplish.
  • They must provide secure, responsible gateways to data instead of serving as locker-downers of data.
  • They need to be mobile-first, zero trust–first, and be imbued with gorgeous user interfaces.
  • They need to work across heterogeneous clouds, systems that are on premises, and the edge—which, it seems, is becoming less “the edge” and more the vibrantly beating heart of where digital business is happening.

And they need to do all this so business leaders can create the digital-business futures their organizations need to grow, to innovate, and to dazzle their customers. Because as customers—whether B2B or consumers—become more demanding, less loyal, better informed, and more willing to switch than ever before, businesses must move with equivalent levels of speed, nimbleness, and vision.

Create Next Practices

If traditional business were all about stability, efficiency, and best practices, then digital business is all about change, disruption, real-time adaptation, and the creation of next practices.

And that means:

  • Hospitals must think about delivering health care in a world where it’s very likely that the number of traditional hospitals will decrease dramatically as new, better, more patient-centric care-delivery systems emerge.
  • Construction companies need to move upstream into the materials business and downstream into 3D printing.
  • Vacation rental services must expand beyond housing to travel and destinations.
  • Retailers must move upstream into logistics and downstream into consumer packaged goods.
  • Banks must launch more business services that have little to do with banking.
  • High-fashion retailers need to respond to enormous demands for used clothing.
  • Curbside pickup/deliveries, after just two years, may become a staple for multiple industries.

These are all prime examples of vigorous, fully committed reimaginations. They are thereby the antithesis of how many businesses have operated for several years—many quite successfully.

But, to lean on a cliché, what got us here will not take us there. And many (most?) of the business models of the recent past will be insufficient to meet the demands of the rapidly approaching acceleration economy.

By all means, let’s continue paying close attention to costs and promoting efficiency gains wherever possible. But beyond that, let’s put a premium on reimagining our businesses. The future is coming at us faster than ever before. It’s a future that won’t, in many cases, accept the approaches, processes, and mindsets of the past.

It’s time to unleash the reimagination machine—and the cloud is the ideal engine.

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