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The Right Concoction of Science and Data

Robert Regis Hyle | March 31, 2014

It hasn’t been too long ago that a number of people were discussing the issue of CIOs having a seat at the table. With the size of today’s IT staffs and the budgets that CIOs oversee, it seems a ridiculous issue from those aspects alone, not to mention the important tasks being conducted by today’s technologists.

Yet there are still companies trying to come to grips with how their business is being conducted in 2014 and a good number of employees that are going through their own version of post-traumatic stress disorder in the form of culture changes within their departments.

This is not to downplay PTSD in any way. The culture changes within a business may not be life threatening, but anyone who has done a job in a certain way for five years or more can be thrown for a loop by the prospect of a new technology platform. It is not just resistance to change that they are showing; they are clinging to the past that they desperately want to keep.

This is never more evident than in the use of data. Insurance companies have done a good job of collecting data for decades, but only within the last 10 years have some carriers come up with meaningful ways of using it.

This is what leads to the challenge for business users and IT departments. Mistakes made with old data often were never discovered. Today, though, bad data is a sin of massive proportions and failure to recognize its value can be costly for businesses and the employees.

The consultants at PwC, in their outlook for 2014, recommend that insurance carriers consider adding a data science office. As the company writes: “A data science office’s purpose is not to collect and analyze data for its own sake, but to help the company achieve its specific market goals and objectives.”

 Normally, adding another layer to a company’s infrastructure should be met with hisses and boos, but the important part of the PwC recommendation is that the data science office should be staffed not with technologists, but with business analysts that can ask the right strategic questions.

Sharp companies will follow this advice because, as we’ve mentioned more than once, insurers are competing with more than just fellow insurers today. They are competing with anyone that does business in a smart manner and showing consumers there are better ways of doing business in 2014.




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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.


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