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Inside American Modernís Transformation Strategy

Executives share the details behind a system modernization designed to better manage data while meeting changing customer needs.

Data management complexities have proven an obstacle throughout the ongoing business transformation project at American Modern Insurance Group. The P&C insurer ventured down the path of system overhaul in order to meet growing demands for self-service capabilities, minimize operational expenses, reduce the complexity of IT, and increase in-house skills.

The implementation of Guidewire’s DataHub and Infocenter is part of a multi-year business revamp, explained Jon Baxter, director of information management at American Modern, in a chat with I&T at the 2014 Guidewire Connections conference held last week in San Francisco. In addition to replacing its policy administration and billing platforms, the insurer wants to build a more robust data governance strategy.  

The system revamp will address a multitude of data-related concerns at American Modern. In evaluating its data management capabilities, the team recognized it was using a lot of outdated technology. Problems with data integration, quality, and consistency were only growing over time. Information was difficult to access and potentially untrustworthy, so the insurer prioritized self-service reporting and the creation of a single source of truth. 

“It’s about making sure the data is intuitive and understandable,” Baxter told us.

[Cultivating Timely & Effective Data Management]

The business transformation kicked off with the formation of a vision to enable operational and strategic decision-making. This vision is based on the principles of simplifying its environment, making data easier to access and use, and establishing a centralized source for information. After evaluating an array of system options, the insurer chose Guidewire because of its simplicity, short implementation timeframe, and commitment to research and development.

American Modern worked with Ernst & Young to assist with planning and delivering the system implementations. This involved conducting business stakeholder surveys to identify issues with its current structure, record market trends, and establish future business intelligence needs.

A three-stage implementation plan involved first integrating the two systems to coexist with its old and new data warehouses, followed by data conversion and integrating the remaining sources of new data in a new enterprise data warehouse. The business transformation team used agile methodology throughout the implementation.

“It’s really not a technology project. It’s really a business initiative,” said Laura Harris, VP of business intelligence and analytics at American Modern, in a conference presentation on its project. Harris has a business background but works closely with IT to ensure that projects align with organizational priorities.

As with any system transformation, the team faces challenges. It was critical to ensure that the necessary business resources were available to efficiently use the agile methodology and help employees understand the business use of the data. The team also has to keep current with data analysis capabilities as the product model continues to evolve.

The project is still ongoing, but the team is starting to see progress. “We’re beginning to see the early results of this vision,” said Harris. The insurer now has a consistent view of its data, robust data governance process, simplified tech platform, and single source of data.

The system transformation is just one way that American Modern is improving data mastery among its workforce. It is also setting aside training time and developing tools to help employees better understand data. One example, said Baxter, is a business glossary that will allow employees to access a data point and see its definition. If both business and IT can understand data, he explained, they can engage with self-service and improve efficiency throughout the organization.

Kelly Sheridan is Associate Editor at Dark Reading. She started her career in business tech journalism at Insurance & Technology and most recently reported for InformationWeek, where she covered Microsoft and business IT. Sheridan earned her BA at Villanova University. View Full Bio

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