Enterprise Data Warehouse Is The Next Step In Data Warehousing

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The insurance industry is well known for acronyms such as CRM and ERM (customer relationship management and enterprise relationship management, respectively).

Now we welcome the newest member of the club: EDW, better known as the enterprise data warehouse. The EDW is the next logical step in the data warehouse evolution chain. And its a concept that is just beginning to catch on in many industries, including insurance and health care.

No other industry has more information on its customers than insurance companies. For years, data has been collected, stored and analyzed in separate databases that have been built around business units and functions. Over time, these separate data stores have grown both in number and size. And while the more recent idea of pushing data integration sounds good, the lesser of two evils has been to use a Band-Aid approach to a growing data problem. Hence, the proliferation of data marts across an organizations IT infrastructure.

But in todays world of understanding and catering to the customer, managing these disparate sources of data is kind of like herding cats. Its an expensive proposition that increases the complexities of maintenance, flexibility and performance. And while it originally made sense to create data marts around a particular business unit or line of business, the flaw lies in the fact that the information is rarely shared outside their own boundaries. Its like being in a dark room with a small flashlight that only illuminates a fraction of the room at any one time.

There is a new movement afoot for consolidating the myriad of data marts as companies seek the “single version of the truth” afforded by the centralized data warehouse. Sound too good to be true? The benefits of switching to a centralized data warehouse are being demonstrated in industry reports and analyst studies.

Todays business managers can no longer rely on the old “gut feel” or “best guess” approach to making critical business decisions. With razor-thin margins and increased scrutiny on costs and expenses, business executives are calling for timely and accurate business intelligence. The old adage “knowledge is power” still holds true today, but data is adding a new twist to the equation–value and ROI.

Enter the enterprise data warehouse. The idea of the EDW is to provide business data directly to the business users who are best able to use it for business intelligence, business knowledge and business success. The EDW offers a single data resource for all enterprise information and is designed to provide that information in a format that is accessible to everyone, using applications that are in real business terms, in near-real time.

The immediate result is improved operational efficiencies; the longer-term effect is a competitive differentiation and advantage. Whether your customers number in the thousands or millions, the EDW gives a single view of the customer. This means individual customers are no longer counted multiple times in each data mart–whether that data came from sales, finance, marketing, underwriting or claims.

With that view comes a better understanding of the customer. When a policyholder contacts the call center, the service rep needs to know if this customer is profitable, potentially profitable or unprofitable. Customer value has a whole new meaning.

The true EDW cuts across departmental functions–marketing, underwriting, actuarial, claims–to give the company a global view of its business. And with direct access to integrated detail-level data, business users go beyond “what happened” to predicting “what will happen.” Eventually, the user is empowered to take the right action to “make it happen.”

The EDW lets you take a more holistic view of specific business issues. Take your distribution system, for instance. The EDW enables you to focus on each and every channel of your distribution system, down to the granular detail. Are your policyholders calling your agents for questions that could be answered on your Web site? Is your call center structured to handle the current mix of customer volume? Can you shift the servicing of your less profitable customers away from your agents to your call center–or a self-service channel?

You may have heard the old question: “How do you eat an elephant?” Answer: “One piece at a time.” The same is true of an EDW.

The key to the success of an enterprise data warehouse lies in its implementation–drafting a blueprint of what the warehouse should be and taking a step-by-step approach to that vision. Done correctly, the creation of an EDW should not compromise your current IT operations at all. In fact, it should have the opposite impact. Your IT infrastructure becomes part of the business management process. And the information stored in many a corporate data mart finally becomes a corporate asset.

Its like seeing your business in a whole new way.

is director of financial services marketing for Dayton, Ohio-based Teradata. He can be reached via e-mail at WS200001@teradata-ncr.com.


Reproduced from National Underwriter Life & Health/Financial Services Edition, November 11, 2002. Copyright 2002 by The National Underwriter Company in the serial publication. All rights reserved.Copyright in this article as an independent work may be held by the author.