Brokerage Ops the March 2015 issue

Information Rich, Knowledge Poor

Data affects your firm top to bottom, left to right, and it’s not just an IT issue.
By Ken Crerar Posted on February 23, 2015

Scary, right?

It comes from Deloitte’s latest “Property and Casualty Insurance Outlook” about achieving information fluency—one of the four pillars Deloitte’s analysis identified to help make businesses more profitable and sustainable. Uncovering barriers and opportunities only begins to scratch the surface in this ultra-connected era of business in which we’re now all operating.

Knowing this, we dipped our toes into something new in February and invited all of our working groups to Washington for a joint working group session on data analytics for brokers. If technology is simply “a tool in the tool belt of every successful leader,” as our own Chris Gagnon says on page 18, we sought to determine if data might be the holy grail of your firm’s operations.

We knew going into it that each discipline represented in the room (human resources, claims, marketing, technology, legal and finance) deals with and struggles with data differently, but the questions and conversations that ensued were eye-opening. In recent years, data has become an issue unlike any other. Some thrive on it; others fear the rearing of its ugly head.

A recent Washington Post article outlined how Timberland used customer data to reposition itself and its brand. The company saw basically flat revenue from 2006 to 2012. Following a two-year customer study, Timberland revamped the marketing, merchandising and product design of its rugged boots and apparel line, and in the past year, sales improved globally, increasing 15% in the most recent quarter. It was all a result of the successful interpretation of the data captured from its eight-country, 18,000-person study.

Timberland’s secret is really no secret at all. The company simply asked its customers what they wanted and provided what they were seeking. It’s Business 101. Regardless of the product you’re pushing, it always comes down to the customer.

“It’s Business 101. Regardless of the product you’re pushing, it always comes down to the customer.”

Disruptors like these are kind of my thing. If used wisely, data and analytics can uproot business models and help make our companies smarter, more efficient and more profitable. They can challenge our thinking beyond today to reimagine and reinvent, and potentially create a new vision that can move us forward.

They can also cause heartburn (but I’ll save cybersecurity for another day).

As data becomes more integral to the way firms operate, those leading the way must determine—on a priority scale—which skills, personnel and resources are needed to keep up with the environment. With virtually every firm approaching data and analytics in different ways though, there’s a lot of gray area to sift through. You may have different concerns, different ideas, different analyses and a different end-game than the firm next door. Not right, not wrong—just different.

I think a lot about what the next big thing will be. I’ve talked time and again about the importance of adapting to change and grabbing the proverbial bull by the horns on any given issue. The worst we can do is sit idle as our playbooks change.

Educating ourselves and developing a culture of information fluency, as Deloitte highlighted, will be critical to how businesses operate. Understanding the data we have, the data we need and how to use it is the first step in a long, winding journey.

Fasten your seatbelts. You’re in for quite a ride.

Ken Crerar CEO, The Council Read More

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