Tag Archives: guidewire software

3 Ways to Fix Operations Reports

In a prior life, I worked as a business systems analyst for a global hard drive manufacturer. After successfully navigating the Y2K crisis, we found ourselves inundated with custom report requests. We did an analysis and found that our enterprise system had more than 2,000 custom-coded operations reports, only 70 of which had been run in the last 90 days. Of course, the actively used operations reports were the source of endless user complaints and enhancement requests. That’s how we knew we had a good report: Complaints signaled actual use. Perhaps you’ve heard this broken record before; it happens everywhere.

It’s not hard to understand how this happens. A business person is trying to make a decision. Do I have enough resources? Are there bottlenecks I need to address? Was the process change I made last month effective? To guide the decision, she needs information, so she asks for a report. In the change request, she identifies data fields and recommends an output format. If the report is done well, it helps her make her decision. But that’s not the end of the story. Once the decision is made, the business person needs to make the next decision. Now that I know I need more resources, where should I position them? Last month’s process change wasn’t effective, so what can I do now? The old report becomes obsolete. The person needs another report (or an enhancement of the one requested). Rinse and repeat 20 times for 100 business users, and you get what we had: roughly 100 active reports and 1,900 inactive ones.

Let’s face it, operational reporting is like fighting a land war in Asia. There are no winners; there are only casualties. Although some reporting is unavoidable, there are three things you can do to drive improved business impact:

Get closer to the decision: Business users may request information, but they’re looking for advice. Put the effort into understanding the decisions they are trying to make. It will affect how you conceive your solution.

Apply the 20/80 rule: Providing information is an infinite and unending task. Put 20% of the effort to get 80% of the business value. Then take your savings and…

Invest in innovation: Stop reinforcing outdated paradigms. Columns and rows are food for machines, not humans. Data visualization, advanced analytics, social media and external data sources – the opportunities abound. Save some capacity to pursue them.

Operational reporting is a paradox: Business users sometimes get what they ask for, but they never get what they need. What they ask for is information; what they need is advice. The historical paradigm for reporting is primarily financial: a statement of fact, in a standard format, used by external parties to judge the quality of the company. A financial report has no associated internal decisions – the only purpose of a financial report is to state unadulterated fact. Operational reporting, on the other hand, is fundamentally about advice. A business person needs to make a decision to influence the financial outcomes. The facts are simply just a pit-stop on the journey toward a decision.

Analytics at the Next Level: Transformation Is in Sight

Although insurance companies are embracing analytics in many forms to a much higher degree than other businesses, adoption by the insurance industry is still only in its adolescent stage. Deployment is broad but inconsistent. The use of analytics may be about to mature considerably, though, based on a recent series of mergers and acquisitions.

Currently, while a majority of large carriers use predictive modeling in one of more lines of business, and mostly in personal lines auto, a smaller percentage use it in their commercial auto and property units. Insurers recognize predictive analytics as a critical tool for improving top-line growth and profitability while managing risk and improving operational efficiency. Insurers believe predictive analytics can create competitive advantage and increase market share.

Fueling even greater excitement – and soon to be driving transformational innovation – is the recent surge of M&A activity by both new and nontraditional players, which have combined risk management and sophisticated analytics expertise with robust and diverse industry database services. The list of recent deals includes:

  • CoreLogic’s 2014 purchase of catastrophe modeling firm Eqecat, following its 2013 acquisition of property data provider Marshall & Swift/Boeckh; a significant minority interest in Symbility, provider of cloud-based and smartphone/tablet-enabled property claims technology for the property and casualty insurance industry; and the credit and flood services units of DataQuick.
  • Statutory and public data provider SNL Insurance’s 2014 purchase of business intelligence and analytics firm iPartners, which serves P&C and life companies.
  • Verisk Analytics’ 2014 acquisition of EagleView Technology, a digital aerial property imaging and measurement solution.
  • LexisNexis Risk Solutions’ 2013 acquisition of Mapflow, a geographic risk assessment technology company with solutions that complement the data, advanced analytics, supercomputing platform and linking capabilities offered by LexisNexis.

Other 2013/2014 transactions that have broad implications for the insurance analytics and information technology ecosystem include:

  • Guidewire Software, a provider of core management system software and related products for property and casualty insurers, acquired Millbrook, a provider of data management and business intelligence and analytic solutions for P&C insurers.
  • IHS, a global leader in critical information and analytics, acquired automotive information database provider R.L. Polk, which owns the vehicle history report provider Carfax. 
  • FICO, a leading provider of analytics and decision management technology, acquired Infoglide Software, a provider of entity resolution and social network analysis solutions used primarily to improve fraud detection, security and compliance.
  • CCC Information Services, a database, software, analytics and solutions provider to the auto insurance claims and collision repair markets, acquired Auto Injury Solutions, a provider of auto injury medical review solutions. This transaction follows CCC’s acquisition of Injury Sciences, which provides insurance carriers with scientifically based analytic tools to help identify fraudulent and exaggerated injury claims associated with automobile accidents.
  • Mitchell International, a provider of technology, connectivity and information solutions to the P&C claims and collision repair industries, plans to acquire Fairpay Solutions, which provides workers’ compensation, liability and auto-cost-containment and payment-integrity services. Fairpay will expand Mitchell’s solution suite of bill review and out-of-network negotiation services and complements its acquisition of National Health Quest in 2012.

Based on these acquisitions and the other trends driving the use of analytics, it will be increasingly possible to:

  • Integrate cloud services, M2M, data mining and analytics to create the ultimate insurance enterprise platform.
  • Identify profitable customers, measure satisfaction and loyalty and drive cross/up-sell programs.
  • Capitalize on emerging technologies to improve pool optimization, create dynamic pricing models and reduce loss and claims payout.
  • Encourage “management by analytics” to overcome departmental or product-specific views of customers, update legacy systems and reduce operating spending over the enterprise.
  • Explore external data sources to better understand customer risk, pricing, attrition and opportunities for exploring emerging markets.                       

As the industry is beginning to understand, the breadth of proven analytics applications and the seemingly unlimited potential to identify even more, coupled with related M&A market activity that will drive transformational innovation, indicates that the growing interest in analytics will be well-rewarded. Those that are paying the most attention will become market leaders.

Stephen will be Chairing Analytics for Insurance USA, Chicago, March 19-20, 2014.