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Forget Forests, Give Up On Gas, Dump Diamonds: Here’s The Real Natural Resource

If there’s one consistent message coming from this week’s ACORD/LOMA Insurance Systems Forum, it might be this:  “Put your head in the cloud, and dig deep for data.”

Keynote speaker, Vivek Kundra, former CIO of the US Government and soon to be EVP Developing Markets, Salesforce.com, discussed the challenges he faced and the opportunities he exploited while at the White House. Significant among these were the containment of data centres and opening of massive amounts of information in the Open Government initiative.  (We blogged on key elements of this recently.)  Kundra noted that there are now 400,000  open data sets which are acting as springboards for new, privately developed, information sources which are stimulating economic activity.

That was the starting point. Over the next two days, an attendee would have to carefully plan to avoid  a breakout session, panel, or hallway discussion that didn’t have some reference to data and analytics.  These ranged from executive level BI dashboards, to operational data stores,  to cloud based big data and applications.  The following is but a sample.

While heavily targeting the insurance carrier community, agents were not exempt.  During the ACT meeting preceding the conference, Josh Lee, from MicroStrategy, a BI  Consulting firm, provided information on “How new business intelligence tools are transforming businesses”.  This was followed by an update on he first phase of ACT’s Business Intelligence “Think Tank” project, which is intended “to explore ways in which the Independent Agency distribution system could take better advantage of the opportunities that are available to use business intelligence tools to make smarter, more targeted decisions…” (source: ACT Business Intelligence “Think Tank” Phase One Interim Report.)

The next step in this project is very operational, “to identify and share: (1) what are the key business indicators of success for independent agencies, as well as (2) what are the types of information company marketing reps want to know about their agencies, so that we make sure agencies can easily generate this information from their systems.”

A good summary of the current state of, and future opportunities for insurance came in an IBM presentation – Transforming Business with Analytics and Expert Integrated Systems –  by Neil Isford and Rick Hoehne (both alumni of previous Insurance-Canada Technology Conferences).    The concept of the session  was that data was the next natural resource.  Data are being mined now by straightforward means, but will become more valuable as increasingly powerful techniques are used for extracting and exploiting the resource. This will create a transformation from descriptive uses, to predictive uses, and beyond to prescriptive uses.

Insurers are taking new approaches to making data operational.  Elizabeth Riczko, Group Analytics Leader for Ohio based Westfield Group, described how she created a new unit which helped the organization rationalize data (to create a “single version of the truth”) and move to support operating units as they learn to take advantage of an increasingly rich source of corporate data.  This began with agency focus, but is now moving to operational support for a new group of empowered users within the different business units, utilizing multiple data sources.  Riczko advises that one of the most critical functions is to maintain discipline on the data through effective governance.  “It is not glamorous, but failure to enforce this is high risk,” Riczko says.

In other words, the data asset is not only an important resource, it is valuable, and should be protected.  One nice part, if cared for, no matter how much it is consumed, it is completely renewable.

 

 

 

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