January 04, 2011

2011 Insurance Technology Outlook
Editor's Note: A menu of perennial issues continues to challenge insurance technology officers. However, real progress has been made in a few key areas, including open technology architecture, configurable systems and analytics. But as carriers look to leverage these technologies, they must continue to adapt to rapidly evolving business requirements.

Where else are insurers likely to see real technology advances in the coming year, and how can they take advantage of these maturing solutions to meet operating demands?

Today's business environment requires faster decision making than ever before. Business leaders need to understand the implications of various market trends and react quickly to seize opportunities and gain competitive advantage. Their ability to mine data for meaningful insights is critical to this process.

Ironically, as insurers have gathered greater amounts of data, the sheer volume has created challenges in accessing relevant information through traditional data processing approaches. Historically, data processing applications have run outside of the database and storage, requiring the application to reach into the database and storage layers to extract the data and transport it across many technology layers. This has led to long runtimes created by the burden of transporting superfluous data.

But emerging trends in data processing are offering the crisp, quick turnaround that decision makers need. Specifically, changes in technology are enabling companies to bring the application functionality, such as running a query, down to the database and even storage levels -- bringing functions to data rather than moving data to functions. By bypassing many layers of the technology stack, this new approach can produce significant lifts in performance. For example, with our new warehousing platform, queries that previously took hours now run in minutes, delivering a crucial benefit as data volumes continue to outpace data storage and retrieval.

As the industry reacts to this trend, major vendors are responding with a spectrum of data warehousing software and appliances. The bottom line for insurers is enhanced performance in data analytics, which allows for the acceleration of data-driven decision making and improved business results.

Scott Dixon is VP, IT Management at The Hartford Financial Services Group.