Earlier this year, Red Olive hosted a roundtable discussion with Exasol for the insurance and financial services industry. There was much discussion about data governance and real time analytics, but we kicked off the session with considerations on the speed with which data is analysed and included in reporting – particularly in light of future business decision making. Attendees were from insurers and insurance-related companies of various sizes.

We asked them:

“In several cases, we’ve seen insurers with data loading times of 16-24 hours. In one case this was reduced to under one hour, which the client described as ‘transformative’ for its decision making. Do you have similar issues?”

This was an interesting starter for the discussion, and it was clear from attendees’ feedback that this issue depends on scale. If you are in a smaller insurer, handling a few thousand policies, the time taken to process the data isn’t as important. But for those in bigger markets, faster data loading can make all the difference, especially to issues like regular reporting.

“Where this would make a difference to my business is definitely around reporting,” said one insurer. “As an example, we used to have a couple of people working for a week to provide client reporting. After moving to a data lake, those reports took just an hour and a half. And then you can use those efficiencies to give you time to look at other things like modelling – making the best use of your experts’ time.”

Same business, different systems

Another speaker talked about the issues arising from multi-geographical businesses. Not only do branches in different countries upload data at different times; they are also working with different systems and in different legal entities. The location and technical maturity of each brand makes a real difference to the efficiency of the whole business.

“Some are better prepared than others for sending data,” one attendee said, “so for monthly reporting and financial close reporting, for example, it can take much longer than we’d like to get the final data. That can mean delays to our own aggregation and reporting. The business recognises that this as an issue, which is driving technology changes, which is a good thing.”

“Next-day reporting is a challenge when data load times are big,” said another attendee. “If data loading takes 23 hours, there’s no way we can report within 24 hours, so we have to set the business’s expectations on that issue.”

Others reflected that you need systems that can handle regular or even constant refresh of large data sets. “We know that reducing those windows for loading and ingesting data is important, and that it gives us opportunities and insights,” said another. “The rapid speed serves up more insights – the more data we can see and the faster we can interrogate it, the better informed we are.”

Every Chief Data Officer is paying for a previous investment

Our discussions moved to old technology and how it might hamper progress. Our question was:

“We are aware of a number of insurers that have a vision for data usage and advanced analytics but who are hampered by old technology, or analytics being ignored until a major change is made. Are you facing this type of problem and if so, how are you dealing with it?”

It was agreed by all that every Chief Data Officer is paying for a previous investment. Sometimes the investment is made in the right tools but with the wrong approach. Sometimes, companies have been through merger or acquisition and are still trying to work out which system to use – or whether to run two completely different systems alongside each other to avoid the pain of change.

When data professionals come into a new role, they are often faced with technology solutions that aren’t joined up or not delivering the results they want to see. But the finance department wants to see a return on their investment. One attendee stated: “If the business has spent £250,000 on a system, they want you to see out the ROI period, so, you must work with what you have until the next strategy period, or when the technology is up for renewal. It is a tough position to be in.”

Beware new releases

The attendees at the round table also agreed that constant new releases from existing vendors is difficult to keep up with. “New functionality is released so fast that planning ahead is almost impossible,” said one. “Plus, there are new analytics tools coming to market all the time from smaller vendors – so you can spend your whole time picking your way through vendor management and matching them with your own roadmap for the company. It is an expensive thing to get wrong.”

There was agreement that nearly all systems providers are pushing for businesses to move to the cloud, and that this was a good thing, because it prompted change in some cases, and because there was plenty of support from vendors to move. The important thing is to plan your architectural strategy as soon as possible and make sure that any changes or new technology fit with that strategy – and look 5-10 years ahead at least if you can.

If you are interested in joining us for our next round table, email [email protected] and we will send you details about forthcoming events. If you are looking for more clarity on how to get more value from your existing data or moving to the cloud, get in touch with us, or read our case study on how Red Olive has helped Admiral move to Google Cloud.

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