Thirty-plus years ago, Steve Jobs introduced the Macintosh at an Apple shareholders meeting by reciting lyrics from the song, The Times They Are A-Changin’. It was great theater, and it turns out he wasn’t exaggerating; personal computers have dramatically changed the world. To bring that into perspective, just imagine your life today without personal computers and their evolutionary cousins such as smartphones and tablets.

Now we’re living through another dramatic shift. This one is much bigger and more pervasive than personal computers. Digital transformation is being driven by the bewilderingly-named “Internet of Things,” which refers to the mind-boggling network of assorted devices that connect and exchange data of every imaginable kind. This network is made up of ten billion objects and is growing unabated, yet it is still considered an “emerging” phenomenon. The IoT is weaving its way into our world, and it’s steadily changing just about everything. Consider the model suggested by technologist John Parkinson which describes the IoT’s connectivity among and impact on people, vehicles, homes, towns, commerce, and industry.* If you’ve ever used Google Maps to check on a traffic jam, then you know firsthand how the IoT is impacting everyday life.

As a result, insurers are confronting entirely new risk paradigms such as cyber threats, usage-based coverages, and “hacked” automobiles. These weren’t conceivable before the IoT. Health plans are using near real-time data to foster wellness and to calibrate plan features for better outcomes. Get ready — life spans will continue to increase. Banks are rethinking products and service models, including the role of branches. Does anyone still use checks? Cash? How often do you visit a branch? More importantly, why do you? The upshot is, these industries (and their customers) are in for unprecedented change.

Companies in the vanguard of this transformation are building market share, fostering new-age customer loyalty, and creating obstacles for the competition. Liberty Mutual’s recent usage-based partnership with Subaru is only one of hundreds of examples. What can you do right now to accelerate your digital company’s digital transformation? Here are a few ideas:

  • Study industry leaders in various industries to understand why their digital formula is working. For example, look at Amazon, Southwest Airlines, Uber, Starbucks, FIOS, NetFlix, USAA, and The Wall Street Journal.
  • Analyze your customer-facing workflows for gaps in automation. Ask your best and brightest to close these gaps quickly using an agile approach.
  • Hold your functional leaders accountable for organizational and informational integration. Are your Claims, Underwriting, Finance, and IT functions working as a team or as independent functions? This isn’t just about big data or culture or systems.  It’s about relentlessly integrating all of those things and many more to create an extraordinary customer experience.
  • Resources are always limited, but that can be an easy excuse for inaction. So think big, start small. Listen to your agents and customers to help prioritize your efforts. Get some high-profile quick wins. Build momentum.

The times they are a-changin’, now at warp speed. Are you changing with them?