Leveling the Playing Field with Visual Insights

By Stuart Rose, Global Insurance Marketing Director, SAS

(Mar. 21, 2013) – The insurance sector is an incredibly competitive market. Between offerings from big insurers with global reach and smaller players with well-established local customer-bases, today’s consumers have a wide array of choices for their insurance needs. As such, those in the middle may find themselves caught between a rock and a hard place.

Luckily, many of the tools used by the largest of global insurers are increasingly available to mid-sized companies, like a recent announcement from SAS offering its Visual Analytics solution for mid-sized businesses. For those working in fraud, risk-management and actuarial, this means a level playing field when it comes to leveraging advanced analytics technology in its simplest and often easiest to comprehend form: visually.

Anyone can attest to the fact that the human brain works visually, particularly when it comes to sorting through complex information. By tying together visually-based data analysis with high-performance, in-memory analytics solutions data analysis is suddenly faster and easier to understand than ever before. The following are three factors that make visual analytics important for today’s insurer regardless of the size of their organization:

We’re dealing with more data than ever before

Data volumes have been steadily increasing over the past decade, to such an extent that we even have a new term for the data deluge we face every day: Big Data. Insurance has always been a data-centric industry and with growing trends such as every increasing customer bases and the use of telematics, the amount of data insurers have to cope with is only going to mount. The combination of time constraints (needing answers to complex questions quickly) and the increasing size of the data sets we are working with has created a perfect storm. However with new visualization technologies, like Visual Analytics, IT, data managers and business units working in any part of an organization can access and interpret data trends in a visual format. Users no longer have to be data gurus to understand complex combinations and permutations of data.

Real time analysis, real time decision-making

Insurers need information fast. Today’s claim is tomorrow’s payout, so identifying trends quickly, especially in the realm of fraud, can mean the difference between costly mistakes and remaining profitable. Insurers need the most important features of data sets, and they need it exceedingly quick – tomorrow is no longer good enough. Recent advancements in data analysis have kept pace with the growth of Big Data. Just a few years ago data analysis for a major organization could take days or even weeks; today, new technologies and High-Performance Analytics (HPA) software can do the same analysis in near real-time. This means everyone can make informed, strategic decisions faster. It also means that business leaders can create more “what if” data scenarios, where they continually change variables to ascertain the outcome on countless possibilities.

Visualized trends everyone can use

Despite all the benefits of increased computational power, faster data analysis doesn’t always translate into better decision making throughout an organization. Instantaneous or real-time data processing is only an advantage if those analyzing it do so correctly. Traditionally this ability has been limited to those with a data analytics background, and while this skill is increasingly common in the business world, the fact remains that not everyone in the insurance business has a superior ability to interpret data. But if a better understanding of data is at the foundation of business success, and I would argue that this is precisely the case in the insurance world, then finding new ways to present and share data is of growing importance for nearly every department, from finance and operations to human resources and marketing.

Analytics providers have taken note of this fact and now provide results in any form the user wants, regardless of the analytics tools being used. The data mavens can keep their rows and columns while the rest of us can get the same information delivered in a super-charged infographic.

When it comes to data analysis, speed is now just one factor in the equation with interpretation and presentation becoming just as important.

Creating visual representation of complex data along with the ability to make accurate predictions about future trends and behaviors based on this data is at the heart of SAS’ Visual Analytics software. For use with enterprise and mid-sized insurers, these solutions are designed to make visual presentation the cornerstone of data analysis by providing a user-friendly tool to create graphs, charts and other visual representations of data – for both reporting of what has already happened, and predicting future occurrences. Using visual analysis, IT and data professionals, as well as business leaders from all sides of the organization, find themselves able to more easily interpret, locate and share critical trends.

When a broader base of people can all interpret data sets, this translates into more insight for each important business decision. In short, both your company and your customers win.

About the Author

Stuart Rose is global insurance marketing director at Cary, N.C.-based SAS. Rose, a 25-year veteran of the insurance industry, began his career as an actuary. He has worked for a global insurance carrier in both its life and property divisions and has worked for several software vendors, where he was responsible for marketing, product management, and application development.

Stuart is a regular contributor to insurance publications and the Analytic Insurer blog, as well as co-author of the book Executive Guide to Solvency II. He frequently speaks at insurance conferences and will deliver a presentation on Big Data at the 2013 Insurance-Canada.ca Technology Conference.

About SAS

SAS is the leader in business analytics software and services, and the largest independent vendor in the business intelligence market. Through innovative solutions, SAS helps customers at more than 60,000 sites improve performance and deliver value by making better decisions faster. Since 1976 SAS has been giving customers around the world The Power to Know®.