The power of embedding one’s data product into a customer’s workflow is well understood by data publishers. Simply put, once a customer starts depending on your data and associated software functionality, it’s hard to cancel or switch away from you because the customer’s work has become designed around your product. It’s a great place to be, and it’s probably the primary reason that renewal rates for data products can sometimes verge on 100%.

But should workflow embedment be the ultimate objective of data publishers? This may depend on the industry served, because we are starting to see fascinating glimpses of a new type of market disruption that might be called “workflow elimination.”

Here’s a great example of this phenomenon in the insurance industry. A company called Metromile has rolled out an artificial intelligence system called Ava. What Ava does is stunning.

Auto insurers using Ava require their policyholders to attach a device called Metromile Pulse to their cars. As you may know, virtually all cars now have onboard computers that log tremendous amounts of data about the vehicle. In fact, when your local auto mechanic performs a computerized diagnosis of your car, this is where the diagnostic data comes from. Metromile Pulse plugs into this onboard computer. The device does two things for insurance companies: It allows them to charge for insurance by the mile, since the onboard computer records miles driven and the device transmits them wirelessly to the insurer. That’s pretty cool and innovative. But here’s what’s mind-blowing: if a policyholder has an auto accident, he or she can file an online claim, and Ava can use the onboard data to confirm the accident, re-construct the accident using artificial intelligence software, and automatically authorize payment on the claim if everything checks out, and all this can be done within a few seconds. The traditional claims payment workflow hasn’ just been collapsed, it’s effectively been eliminated.

How does a data publisher embed in workflow if there’s no workflow? That’s a problem, but it’s also an opportunity, because data publishers are well positioned to provide the tools to eliminate workflow. If they do this, and do this first, they’ll be even more deeply embedded in the operations of their customers. And doubtless you’re already thinking about all the subsidiary opportunities that would flow out of being in the middle of so much highly granular data on automobile operation.

“Workflow elimination” won’t impact every industry quickly if at all. But it’s an example of how important it is to stay ahead of the curve on new technology and always seeking to be the disrupter as opposed to the disruptee.