Changing the way we think about data

The problem that confronts all of us, not just in the insurance industry, is that we have too much disparate data. And where data exists in multiple systems, it prevents joined up thinking – join up the data and you can join up your thinking. But how do you actually achieve that? That’s one of the problems that keeps me awake at night, and also inspires me to think differently for illumifin and for our customers.

The problem used to be that everyone had so many technical systems, and we couldn’t connect them. They may have been running different kinds of software, so you couldn’t connect the different pools of data. So what are your choices? Run everything on one platform, often an Enterprise Resource Planning system, or try to export the data from all of your system into one specialist data management system (we used to call these data warehouses.)

But data warehouses got a bad reputation as never-ending projects, as there was always something new to integrate into them, or the systems supplying the data were changing so fast that the warehouses never caught up.

SAAS and Cloud-based platforms present new challenges in defining ownership of data and, particularly, meta-data. Jurisdictional issues, realtime accessibility, API availability, and bandwidth limitations complicate the picture and require us to leverage new technologies and new thinking.

For us, the challenge is therefore to manage data better, and look at data differently; over the last 20 years new techniques have enabled more efficient movement and transformation of data. Here at illumifin, we are focusing on understanding how we collect our data, challenging the way we store data, and looking at more efficient ways of moving and transforming it. And we aren’t afraid to ‘shake it up’ and think differently.

We want to leverage our data in a smart way to provide value to our clients. One of the ways we are transforming our thinking, is by considering our role in data stewardship, and focusing on three goals.

Firstly, data stewards are committed to working and collaborating with other with the goal of unlocking the inherent value of data to serve the public good. Secondly, data stewards manage private data ethically, which means sharing information responsibly, and preventing harm (either to customers, users or corporate interests).

And finally, data stewards are committed to proactively acting in order to identify partners who may be in a better position to unlock value and insights contained withing privately held data. These are values which we are embedding at illumifin to establish data stewardship as a discipline.

We are exploring foundational technologies that help us grow and move towards the future. Our strategy has grown from simple in-house data warehousing through cloud-based data lakes to finally embrace the concept of a Data Mesh.

Think of Data Mesh as a connecting entity/layer that allows structured and unstructured data to be pulled from multiple systems in a seamless manner so that data can be combined, enriched, optimized, and consumed across the organization. Data mesh simplifies and integrates data management across cloud and on premises to accelerate digital transformation.

Overall, enterprise data strategy is a game changer in our space as a whole and is going to create insights for the marketplace in the future.

And it’s an exciting future – where we will be able to leverage demographic data to extrapolate new insights for our carriers and our customers about aging in place, a reduction in claims, health preventative measures, and social determinants of health, as just a few examples. We can look to a future where we can leverage data to solve problems that we aren’t even aware of yet.

There are so many things that we don’t do right now that could tell a very powerful story, as we create new pathways, new journeys and new adventures – right here at illumifin.

— James Gain · Chief Digital and Technology Officer