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Data standardization through use of ACORD XML is "not simple and it's not cheap," agree panelists during a session on "Data Standards: An Industry Update," which took place at IASA's Annual Conference & Business Show.

"It's not simple and it's not cheap," says The Hartford's Gary Knoble about data standardization through the use of ACORD XML. However, "it isn't going away and insurers can't ignore it." Even at The Hartford, which Knoble describes as ahead of other insurers in its XML effort, the insurer "has just scratched the surface," he concedes.

Knoble offered these observations during a panel on "Data Standards: An Industry Update," which took place at IASA's Annual Conference & Business Show in San Francisco. Other panelists included Randy Molnar of NCCI (a shared services organization committed to the collection, management and distribution of information serving the workers' compensation industry) and Beth Grossman of ACORD. The session was led by Peter A. Marotta, ISO.

The importance to the success of an insurer's XML initiative of having resources specifically dedicated to that effort was stressed by the session's panelists, especially Knoble of The Hartford—a company that is active in several ACORD work groups, including business architecture, large commercial risk and claims. "This is not something that can be accomplished on a part-time basis," says Knoble. "You have to dedicate a team and really commit to doing this. Some companies do not have the proper resources, and the lack of internal involvement troubles me."

Results from a recent Gartner (Stamford, CT) study, highlighted by ISO's Marotta, found that 22 percent of P&C companies, 33 percent of life companies and 11 percent of health companies have a person responsible for XML. The same study found that 44 percent of P&C companies and 33 percent of health insurers have a team responsible for XML.

The need for standards such as XML was stressed by Knoble. "Companies will be moving forward" with XML initiatives, he said. "It's a question of whether you'll be on the bus or not."

In addition to dedicated resources, said ISO's Marotta, the business side of insurance companies should drive their company's XML initiatives. Marotta, who has chaired ACORD's Claims Investigation Work Group and Premium Audit Work Group, also gave the following advice to session attendees: "You must define your role as an individual, as well as a company. If you don't, your company's role will be predefined by others."

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