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P&C Carrier Gets Down to Business

Providence Washington Insurance improves the usability of its business intelligence reports with tools from Cognos.

Although they were once referred to as intelligence reports, the briefs drawn from Providence Washington Insurance's (Providence, R.I.; $200 million in annual premium) mainframe were anything but. "They just weren't useful to the user," asserts Ed Leveille, the P&C carrier's chief information officer. "Users were able to identify issues in a certain state but couldn't drill down into the reports to pinpoint specific problems."

Instead, the antiquated process required IT intervention when it came to breaking information down by factors like driving age and class codes. "IT was continuously doctoring the data," says Leveille. "We really needed it to be done more quickly and users needed to be able to do it themselves."

So, in early 2000, Providence Washington began its search for an online analytical processing (OLAP) business intelligence (BI) tool that could satisfy its need for anytime/anywhere access. After investigating four BI providers, the carrier chose Cognos' (Burlington, Mass.) PowerPlay and Impromptu applications. PowerPlay is an OLAP tool that uses cubes - multi-dimensional databases that hold data like a 3-D spreadsheet - and Impromptu is a thick-client report-generation tool.

Before the improved business intelligence process was implemented in 2001, the underwriter first developed a data warehouse on a Microsoft (Redmond, Wash.) SQL server populated with mainframe data, explains Leveille. Once the warehouse was completed, the tools were used to draw conclusions from the data in the warehouse, he says. Next, Cognos spent a month or two creating Web-based cubes, which can display different views of data, for use with the tool. "By representing data in cubes, users have the power to slice and dice [information]," relates Leveille.

Ease of Use

Training was provided for users as Providence Washington rolled out its BI tools to employees by line of business. "We paid for one person per business group to go to Cognos and get true user training," explains Leveille. "That person then trained the other users in their business group."

Although the carrier has never formally measured the ROI resulting from the project, the tool's ease of use is apparent. "Users have all of the information at their fingertips as long as they can get to the Internet," says Leveille. "The amount of times that users ask IT to get specialized reports has been reduced to almost nothing."

The need for intervention on the end-users' behalf, however, hadn't been completely eliminated; system administrators were still needed to publish reports. So, to further improve its BI capabilities, Providence Washington recently implemented Cognos' ReportNet tool to replace Impromptu.

"Designing reports with ReportNet is done via a thin-client rather than a thick-client [as with] Impromptu," says Leveille. "ReportNet is completely Web-based and has an easy-to-use query tool and provides more flexibility in the actual designing of a report." So far, Providence Washington has rolled out ReportNet only to its underwriting area, according to Leveille, who relates that the process took about one month.

"We have produced and are now in the final stages of testing two types of reports" with ReportNet, relates Leveille. "One is a summarized formatted report of agents' profitability and experience over the past three years. The other type is a line of business summarized profiling report."

Although it is too soon to calculate the true benefits of the ReportNet implementation, Leveille anticipates that its value will become apparent once all of Providence Washington's reports are transformed to the ReportNet platform. "Basic savings will be realized because requests to IT for new reports will be minimized," Leveille asserts. "Also, there will be savings of paper and printing costs as more reports are put online."

Case Study Closeup


Providence Washington Insurance; Providence, R.I.; $200 million in annual premium.


Personal and commercial P&C.


Cognos' (Burlington, Mass.) PowerPlay, Impromptu and ReportNet tools.


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