As is evident across the world, the adoption of technology in all aspects of life in Africa relative to global standards is low. Available data show that access to internet remains out of reach for most people on the continent, with only 22% reporting having access in 2019.

Yet, digital technologies offer an enormous opportunity to unlock new pathways for rapid economic growth, innovation, job creation and access to services which would have been unimaginable a couple of decades ago.

To fully appreciate how African can take full advantage of digitization, however, it is critical to understand the elements that make up a successful digital transformation.

There are many schools of thought on success criteria for digital transformation often skewed by characteristics such as societal norms, digital literacy, industry nuances and so on.

However, some key notions persist as a common thread. Digital transformation in the business setting is fundamentally a business transformation driven by more recent technologies (such as mobile, cloud computing, internet of things, advanced analytics, social media etc.) to address consumer expectations.

As a transformative force in the business environment, the digitization agenda, as a matter of necessity, calls for solid and unwavering commitment at all levels for its success. Therein comes need for indefatigable c-suit leadership as well as board level commitment for necessary investment.

Any successful digital transformation in a customer-oriented industry would be led by customer expectations. The next generation customer expects instant action, transparency, and respect of privacy.

They also expect very high-value products and services for which they shouldn’t pay an arm and leg. Perhaps, more importantly, customers expect to be treated as individuals with services and products speaking to their peculiar needs, not the one-size-fits-all.

Insurance companies, within the current discussion, would succeed in their digital transformation efforts if they build solutions to these needs in products and services delivered over digital platforms.

Perhaps one of the far-reaching customer expectations that must guide insurers is the consumer’s need to meet most, if not all, of their related needs from one shop. It is easier to purchase motor and life insurance and pensions services from one provider. And if this provider can also facilitate their purchase of health insurance, road-side assistance and funeral related insurance then all the better. Life is easier. Digital ecosystems and platforms do not only provide opportunity to meet these expectations but can also create new income streams for the insurer.

Furthermore, the influence of organizational culture cannot be underestimated in digital transformation.  Transformation of any kind demands a breakaway or evolution from the status quo and this sort of change is often not a trivial matter. An orchestrated program to orient the organizational culture for digital business would always be a key driver of success in digital transformation.

Agility is equally critical in a digital transformation agenda. Agility speaks to the ability to successfully deliver desired outcomes speedily. With today’s customers calling for instant action, agile and lean approach to work is also central to successful digital transformation. Self-service platforms by which consumers can have contactless engagements with providers from any geographical location and at any time to carry out complete transactions with very little effort become imperative. Products and services offered on metered-usage basis. For example, customers can pay for motor insurance covering only their drive time. Customers are also on the lookout for single-policy solutions that include a bundle of complementary products for a single fee

Other elements such as the use of real time advanced analytics to manage customer interactions and to design personalized products and services for the consumers and segments is an important success factor. This brings into sharp focus discussion about telematics insurance: Insurers can derive insight from data about driving behaviour (driver risk profile) and use that to set premium in a manner that rewards low-risk drivers and makes high-risk drivers pay commensurate premiums.

These things do not come about out of the blue and in a vacuum. To start with, insurers must have a clear vision for digital business supported by a thoroughly crafted digital strategy backed by requisite investment and c-suit leadership commitment. Vision and strategy aside, arguably, the best strategic positioning for taking advantage of the digital evolution is ceaseless listening and responding to ‘voice of the market’. With that as a vantage point insurers should adopt a digital-first culture and drive a sustainable digital literacy program from the board down to the last level of the organization.

Insurers must also start designing and playing out a digital operating model. Digital business plays to different rules from traditional business and so cannot be successfully managed by traditional business models.

Digital related talent takes time to develop from within and so in addition to seeking plug-and-play professional insurers must start a deliberate program to develop digital skills and capabilities organically.

Advanced analytics is critical to most of the customer expectations in the digital era. African insurers must include this capability in their agenda and drive towards maturity via active usage and continuous improvement.

Seyram Akotey

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