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Call It What You Want, Just Be Sure Governance Is in Place

Robert Regis Hyle | March 24, 2015

Data governance is as important and complicated a process for insurance carriers as anything they deal with. I received some advice on the subject recently from Svetlana Sicular, a research analyst for Gartner who specializes in data governance. Her advice? Quit calling it data governance.

Sicular’s feeling is business users get turned off by the sound of that word. It conjures up horrible thoughts of government lurking over our shoulders like Big Brother.

“I worked with a company with 500 employees and they were successful with governance because they knew what the needed, where they were moving, and understood their goals,” says Sicular. “Large companies have many moving parts and lines of business and feel they are OK without governance because it is often viewed as an artificial barrier. That's one reason why I suggest not using the term governance. It depends on how a company understands the role of data in the company, not the size of the company.”

Sicular is being a bit facetious. Call it whatever you want, but data governance is a necessary evil when it comes to gaining value from an insurance company’s greatest asset: Dozens of years’ worth of data on a single customer, a single agent or, even better, a single class of customers.

As Sicular mentions, governance is an issue that insurers of all sizes face, but unlike most of the challenges faced by the midtier and smaller carriers, the size of the company is not a detriment. Large companies can throw more resources at a data program, but smaller insurers often have a greater understanding of who they are and what they are trying to do as a business.

No midtier insurer can afford to be all things to all people. They must understand their limitations as well as their advantages. When that is achieved, half the battle is over.

So whether you call it data governance or, as Sicular suggests, data advocacy, the key word is data. Its value was under-appreciated for years, but today it has come into its own.  As never before. 

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