Here Comes the Crowd

Here they come. Everybody. Everybody is coming to the web.

Could there be a more obvious statement? Perhaps if this were 1998 this statement would be more visionary. Now looking in the rearview mirror, everyone has already made it to the web. Or have they?

Maybe a better question would be: how deep has everyone made it inside the web? Or has it transformed businesses? Has it eliminated vast amounts of waste? Has it remade markets? It would seem so yet much remains to be done.

In our world, the world of employer-sponsored benefits, and increasingly the world of government-influenced insurance buying and selling, there is much to do. The web is really just beginning to go deep into process transformation, to workflows, to remaking the market. Many people have been trying to force the old ways of buying, selling and administering these programs on top of the web. And they measure the web as to how well it can do the old things.

In the book, Here Comes Everybody, written in 2008, it talks about the nature of the crowd's influence on the web. The overwhelming number of people joining the social conversation and altering their buying patterns based on web marketplaces is creating a new paradigm. It is a mounting phenomenon that is arriving at different businesses in different timetables and in different ways.

We can think of this first decade of utilizing Internet technologies for employer-sponsored benefits as foundation work. Much of what has taken place so far has been groundwork for innovations to come. We have learned how to map the old ways to the new technologies. We know how to show people rates and programs, give them quotes, collect their information (apply and enroll), capture the transaction electronically and even pay online. This has brought major improvements in efficiency, but it is only the beginning. The crowd is coming to the web. Everybody is on his or her way. The transformational power of the Internet, data exchange, mobile technologies, new electronic marketplaces and elegant user experiences is just beginning to manifest itself.

As the crowd arrives at a much deeper level, we will see the power of new technologies emerge. We are at a tipping point where the new technologies will not be graded on their ability to do the old things, but rather they will be graded (in the form of adoption and utilization) by how well they replace the old way. It is exciting to see the shift occur and very rewarding as someone who loves to work with new technologies. I believe we are just getting started, as an industry, in being open to the amazing possibilities of new markets, new social engagements, new connections with millions of people who historically were called "employees" or "dependents" for whom we "checked eligibility" and so on.

The new world of enormous crowds utilizing these new technologies opens up so much opportunity for everyone. Embrace them as they come and see the new technologies as a fresh canvas to paint a better way for all that you do.

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