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Data & Analytics

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What’s Your Business’ Intelligence Quotient?

Before carriers start using business intelligence for competitive advantage, they must first consolidate disparate BI tools.

Curiosity Killed the Cat

With more and more users accessing reports drawn by BI tools, ensuring that all of the data that users might want to reference has already been extracted from operational systems becomes increasingly difficult. "Information works like money - if you give users a little bit, they will come back for more and more," says Michael Corcoran, vice president of corporate strategy and chief compliance officer, Information Builders (New York), a solutions provider.

Still, extracting, transforming and loading (ETL) raw data into data warehouses can be time and cost intensive. Although cutting out the data warehouse and directly accessing legacy information seems like a reasonable alternative, "For the past ten years, there has been an IT rule that says you never give the end-user direct access to operational data without first cleansing it and putting it into a data warehouse," says Corcoran, who explains that such extraction can affect the efficiency of transactional systems. Still, "Sometimes carriers have to go after [operational data] in real time to get up-to-the-minute information," he adds. Since raw data has not always been the optimal fodder for BI reports, Corcoran explains that Information Builders provides adapters that can cleanse this legacy data on the fly. Such a solution can often be more cost effective than populating data warehouses on a one-off basis, he asserts. "The time and cost of moving data into a data warehouse is expensive," he stresses. "If I can access [back-end] data directly, then I don't have to incur that cost."

Another way of avoiding costs associated with bigger data access expectations is to push reports to users. Kevin Furstenberg, project leader for enterprise data management, Amerisure (Farmington Hills, Mich., $562 million in direct written premium), reports that the carrier reuses reports by posting those created from sales-related information on agency portals. Amerisure is able to efficiently create these reports because it has recently updated its antiquated BI system, which had been in place since 1991. "We were operating our [BI tools] in a Cobalt-based environment and we couldn't keep up with report requests," explains Furstenberg. "We needed a fourth-generation language that could provide quicker turnaround."

The insurer found its solution in Information Builder's Web Focus, an enterprise business intelligence suite. Rather than rely on IT personnel to code reports, Amerisure is able to create them instantly - expediting a process that previously had a turnaround time of a few days. Once these reports are posted to producer sites, agents are granted varying levels of access based on their log-in name and password. "The agencies said that it's the easiest thing that they use," boasts Furstenberg, who explains that these reports can be opened either as PDF files or as Excel spreadsheets.

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