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Business Intelligence Contextual Delivery: A Necessary Ingredient To Create and Maintain a Lean Organization

By Benjamin Bomhoff, Vice President of Enterprise Systems, Security First Insurance Company

Benjamin Bomhoff, Vice President of Enterprise Systems, Security First Insurance Company

Most of us have gotten the basics down: we have organized our data, created a data dictionary, locked down business logic, have a reliable ETL process, all of which produces a single source of truth. We’ve selected our Business Intelligence (BI) solution, created our dashboards and portals.  What’s next? How does that critical data find its way to the right people, under the right circumstances and the right time? How do we reduce the time it takes for the drilldown into data—for users to get the info? How do we deliver information in real-time and in a way that tells the user, before they even know it? I recently had the privilege of presenting on this very topic with Tony Peccerillo of CodeObjects at the 2018 annual IASA Conference in Nashville. I’d like to share some of our perspectives.

Traditional BI Thinking is a Part of Your Past

Dashboards and portals are a great start to distribute important information, but they no longer satisfy the business use-cases in your organization or the needs of your employees, board members, and shareholders.

When I think of creating a business intelligence solution today and how the industry has changed from the way we started traditional BI platforms, the value to the end user is different. It’s a shift from making data accessible hoping users are leveraging the data to make good decisions to having the power of changing an organization, and in some cases, ensuring the sustainability of a competitive advantage and even solvency. In our world of emerging technology, disruption, and attention deficit disorder, our BI solutions have the power to eliminate the actions required to find the data the business needs and instead deliver far more meaningful data exactly when it’s needed. Think about that for a moment. Think about using this type of solution at every layer of your business. Just like meeting consumer expectations in delivering an exceptional user experience, as IT executives, it’s our responsibility to meet the expectations of our employees.  We must evolve to exceed their expectations and create a lean organization that’s producing the highest quality products with the least amount of resources. This will allow every employee to focus on the most important things.

Where do you begin?

If you’re just starting the process of transforming your BI solution, identify the overall business goals you want to achieve. For instance, you may want to increase productivity by 30% in one year, reduce operational costs by 5% in 18 months, or create a culture of innovation that positions the company’s internal brand as an intellectual powerhouse. Your overall aim is an obvious collaboration with various leaders in your business and once that’s defined, you can begin creating a clear vision of your data strategy.

When I think of a data strategy that’s in line with the above business goals, I envision distributed, real-time, meaningful information, in context, that reaches the right users at the right time. As a result, the solution reduces the time it takes to find the information, understand it, and work into a process to complete the task at hand. It increases the level of service employees are able to provide to customers and each other. It gives employees greater insight that drives creativity and innovation at every level of the business. Innovation from the top-down is outdated and slows down an organization. Innovation needs to be driven from the bottom-up and that’s only going to happen if you give employees the insight they need, when they need it.

Let’s see contextual delivery in action

Consider the Claims Customer Service Representative (CSR). A phone call comes in and the person is notably upset about their loss.  Wouldn’t it be great for the employee taking the call to know some critical information about the caller before they even answer the phone? What is the value of the claim? What was the cause of loss and how severe was it? Was their home destroyed? How long has the claim been open? Is the claimant under special investigation?  Is the claimant suing your company?

Even if all of this data is available in our BI solution and operational systems, the CSR would not have enough time to access the system(s), find the information they are looking for, all while handling a difficult phone call. Imagine the empathy and direction on next steps that the CSR could immediately provide.

This isn’t an uncommon situation that we encounter being the second largest, privately held, homeowner’s insurance company in Florida. Making that information available as the call comes in is an example of contextual delivery and equipping our team to transform the insurance experience. The delivery of critical information at the moment needed, in a frictionless, intuitive way is powerful on so many different levels within and outside your organization. The delivery of information is part of the process, not a distraction from it. It is also important to realize that not all BI data has been aggregated and has gone through an ETL process. Some data, as it sits, is critical to a business need as well. To power this level of insight, you need more than a vision. Now you need the right framework and integrated technology.

The framework to support contextual delivery and the technology to deliver

To make contextual delivery a reality, you need to consider your entire infrastructure, well beyond the traditional BI boundaries. Today’s use-cases demand data in real-time, some aggregated, some single data points, at the moment it is needed. This involves access to all data, implying APIs across data sources, call center software capabilities, and much more. You need to ensure that your overall architecture is flexible enough and integrated with the business operations and systems to enable delivery of information to the right people at the right time.

At Security First, we have evolved a software layer that we call the Enterprise Service Bus (ESB), which is effectively a software and services integration layer that sits between our core processing systems and other critical API-enabled data and services. This is the layer where we have exposed and connected various web services that support our externally facing applications (mobile app, customer portal, instant quote, agent portal) as well as open APIs for web-enabled commerce with our business partners.

Having these existing services in place has positioned us to take advantage of other software capabilities, such as Amazon Connect for our Call Centers. Amazon Connect integrated into a technology infrastructure as I’ve described allows companies to take advantage of Amazon Connect’s software ability to make API calls, and power Interactive Voice Response (IVR) and chatbot interfaces. The technology can obtain the claim number, which can be used to retrieve and instantly display information from our claim system to the call center soft phone interface. This is just one of many real applications of contextual delivery.

We have never had such an array of amazing software available to us as hosted applications with fully enabled web services. Let’s understand our business use cases and begin to truly leverage our BI data!

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