By MIKE DUFTON, president, MajescoMastek
How do all of the parties involved in an insurance transaction get access to all of the information they need? That is the question that seems so difficult for insurers to answer. The changing user demographic is driving a new set of expectations.
In general, the Millennials (those under 30) see it as their right to get whatever they want, whenever they want it. They can buy anything online, make transfers at their bank and view portfolio information. So why can't they get more than an insurance quote online? They feel that they should have transparent, easy access to nearly any piece of their insurance data. Consumers prove that the heart of every industry is the simple equation of business. Desire plus need equals demand.
But consumers aren't the only ones who want or need timely data in neat packages. Business users of all types want to flex their fingers and dive into the real data. Business intelligence is the data reconnaissance of the digital elite. Some people may think of it as the wave of the now in insurance IT or the wave of the future, but in fact, it's simply a trend that has always existed. Smart decisions have never been based solely on a hunch. Data drives business.
WHO DRIVES THE DATA?
Imagine you own a car with no steering wheel. Instead, you have a "driver" who assists in pulling the car where you wish to go. Your job is to just give the directions, and if you don't know how to get there, to stop and ask someone else for directions. You and everyone in your family must rely on the driver to pull you to your destination. Then one day, you are given a steering wheel and a set of keys start the engine. Think of the difference it would make in your freedom and ability to move.
This is akin to what is happening in the insurance business with the help of data marts and universal presentation layers. In the past, you may have had to build reports from scratch, having IT help at various stages to get you a little of the data you need. Just viewing the data used to be more than acceptable. Now, the possibility exists for portals that will transform business by giving the right kind of data access to every business user. The possibilities are far beyond what we see in use today. Soon, portal features will provide a whole new level of analytic access, observation and data manipulation.
This one area of technology, more than any other, seems to be ready for full-scale implementation.However, most portals are developed as a reaction to competition, merely answering the questions asked yesterday instead of providing tomorrow's solutions. Many insurers offer their users portals of some kind, but few have something better than basic.A proactive portal development strategy begins with brainstorming future business possibilities and developing an integrated plan for use.
THE FUTURE OF THE DATA PORTAL
Despite the potential for data-driven business benefits, across both the life and P/C markets, data mastery--including analytics, business intelligence and data warehouses--remains a low priority for many organizations. The rationale behind this consistent undervaluation may lie in the way that traditional data warehousing is viewed.
In the past, data warehousing simply meant storage to most executives. They may have understood data warehousing as a central repository, but not as a wealth of untapped business intelligence.
Think of the benefits of a usable data warehouse. A good one can be a single source for report generation. It can predict future behavior, retrieve data without slowing down systems, foster all of your business relationships, provide a transparent environment for knowledge-driven decisions and much more.
Modern systems either store or retrieve data differently to create an environment where reports are easier to build and run. The positive effects of the new methods are numerous. By looking at your business users, you can get a glimpse of how transforming portals can be when they are connected to your data:
Your chief financial officers and chief operations officers have a lot on their plates. They need to make sure operations are smooth and that the company is compliant in every way. The more transparent every piece of data is in your system, the easier it will be for them to make the right decisions. Effective data mining will protect your organization from fraud, allow you to track trends and give you the best performance for analytical queries. It turns planning into a continual effort and allows course changes with greater agility.
Actuaries. New tools for data analytics can give actuarial staff the feeling that the blinders have been removed from your data. Let them look at the real relationships between sales and claims, and you'll see a high ROI on any improvements you make to your data portals. With the right tools, actuaries predict future behaviors with greater accuracy.
From CRM tools to demographic trends and agent effectiveness, marketing benefits when it gets a clear picture of your data in a manageable form. A well-built data warehouse and accompanying portal will have the flexibility to collect data that hasn't even been tracked yet, and report and view with both the wide angle and the fisheye lenses.
Agents. Let your portal do more for your agents, like providing online real-time commission statements, advanced new business and underwriting tools and all that technology will allow. Plus, use CRM data to effectively drive new programs and products. Develop a portal that effectively blends your agent pool and your direct sales process and you've moved into a whole new realm of service.
Relieve IT from the burdens of technical development and report writing. Create a more dynamic partnership between IT and business by considering IT your experts in business enablement, not your drivers.
A proactive portal strategy takes a commitment to get aggressive in your use of new, enabling technologies. Your strategy begins with big questions. How can we transform our business? What is possible? Can I make a case for an impressive ROI?
The first step is to recognize that portal development can change your company's future. Next, contact those consultants or vendors you may trust to help you with your design.Proactive portal development will provide long-term growth and the flexibility to employ hundreds of new business tactics--making your organization much more competitive in the Millennial marketplace.
September 1, 2009
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