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Get Smart

Insurance companies know how to collect data. The challenge is doing something meaningful-something intelligent-with it. In the end, only the smart will survive.

On TV game shows such as Jeopardy or Who Wants To Be a Millionaire? winning depends merely on the ability to amass trivia. But in real life-especially in the insurance business- success hinges on identifying and understanding what matters, and knowing how to put it to use. As insurance companies respond to the combined demands of demutualization, convergence and globalization, their success is going to depend on how well they turn their masses of information into working knowledge. Only the smart will survive. The job IT faces in making a company a truly intelligent business is that of getting the right data to the people who can use it-and in a form they can understand.

"Insurance companies are gathering more and more information about their clients and they're able to apply business intelligence tools and suites on top of their existing databases-which are growing not just in volume, but also in metadata data describing other data," says Miguel Roque, a Boston-based business intelligence practice consultant for PricewaterhouseCoopers. "They are increasingly able to pose analytical questions of that data in order to retain their best customers and effectively identify what the value areas are."

Of course customer relationship management is only one area where insurers need to maximize their business IQs, Roque adds. Intelligence benefits the strategic management of finance, risk management, workflow, fraud detection and "any other area where it is possible to arrange data within dimensions of key performance indicators-while at the same time allowing business people to access that data in an 'I-don't-have-to-suffer-six-months-of-training' way," Roque says.

Anthony O'Donnell has covered technology in the insurance industry since 2000, when he joined the editorial staff of Insurance & Technology. As an editor and reporter for I&T and the InformationWeek Financial Services of TechWeb he has written on all areas of information ... View Full Bio

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