- Where Insurance & Technology Meet

Is Big Data Bigger Than IT Can Handle?

Is ‘Management of Big Data’ an inherent contradiction?  Perhaps not completely, but recent evidence suggests that it may be beyond many organizations to undertake on their own.

A number of publications have identified data management and analytics as critical to insurance success (this blog identified it as a ‘megatrend’ for 2012).  Recently, a report from PwC, entitled “Top Issues for Insurance” called 2012 the year of the customer and indicated that data management and analytics were key enablers.  In a release, Jamie Yoder, PwC’s US insurance advisory practice co-leader, said: “One of the largest challenges insurers will face in 2012 and beyond is capturing and interpreting data from a growing number of structured and unstructured sources, including but not limited to social media, policy-holder behavior and telematics.”

Some of these data are resident in internal systems, but an increasing amount bridges to outside sources, and linking these data is becoming increasingly complex.  eMarketer  reported on several studies indicating that marketing needs were frustrated by the amount of data and the ability to integrate and report these data in a timely fashion.

As a result, some marketers are turning to outside sources, rather than IT, to meet their Big Data needs.  A recent IBM survey of Chief Marketing Officers (CMOs, reported in Information Week) found:

• 71% of CMOs feel unprepared to deal with the data explosion over the next five years.

• 68% feel unprepared to deal with social media.

• 65% feel unprepared to deal with the growing number of channel and tech device choices.

• Overall, technology is the No. 2 external force affecting their companies, CMOs say, trailing only “market factors.”

However, the CIO and IT are not the first places all the CMOs look to for help.  According to the report, “Just 49% of the CMOs IBM surveyed rank cross-CXO collaboration as key to their success over the next three to five years. And when CMOs want technical help, they’re more inclined to turn to outside agencies than the internal IT department.”

The Information Week piece further reports on a Gartner prediction that “by 2017, the marketing organizations at high-tech companies will spend more on IT than the IT organizations at those companies.”

So what should IT do?  Information Week suggests that “If IT wants to be of use to marketing, it needs to zero in on what people can do with their mountains of data. That work might include analysis of social network sentiments, the rate of abandoned shopping carts on a website, or activity on a company’s mobile app….”  But is this practical for insurance IT organizations which are neck deep in modernization projects, mobile device management, broker connectivity, etc.?

Maybe organizations – and IT managers in the organizations – should recognize that in the new world, it may not be possible or desirable for IT to be the only source for information or information access tools.  Perhaps the best source for information is outside the company.  We recently posted on an innovative service from ISO in the the US which allows users to search for specific subjects across millions of websites, social networks, and secondary data sources such as blogs and photo sharing services.  There were several presentations at the recent Technology Conference which focused on Big Data and methods for utilizing external resources.

The PwC report says that to service customer needs using Big Data “requires a transformation of leadership models, internal culture, and performance drivers.”   Part of this transformation may be relinquishing some IT control over data management in the organization.