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Data-Driven DecisionMaking Starts with Partnerships between Business Leaders and the Data Team

Ajaz Akhtar, VP - Chief Data & Analytics Officer Decision Sciences Center of Excellence (DSCOE) at Utica National Insurance Group

Utica National Insurance Group is a nationally recognized group of insurers, providing personal and commercial insurance products and services, with the second-largest errors and omissions business in the United States. The member companies of Utica National sell their products through more than 2,500 independent insurance agents and employ over 1,200 people countrywide. The lead insurance company of the group, Utica Mutual Insurance Company, was founded in 1914 and is headquartered in New Hartford, New York, with eleven offices.

While there can be seemingly endless challenges confronting the implementation of a data-driven decision-making strategy inside any company, an important one to overcome begins with establishing strong partnerships between the data team and business leaders at all levels in the organization to ensure there is clear alignment between the objectives of the business and the objectives set by the data team.

"At Utica National, our data strategy continues to successfully integrate our data into a cloud enabled enterprise data hub that creates a single source of truth"

Above all other obstacles, transitioning from a legacy model to a data-driven business model that works from one source of truth (data) requires partnerships that ensure data teams work will help leaders make strategically sound decisions and prevent the implementation of solutions that are out of sync with the needs of the business and its leadership team.

Once this alignment is in place, accurately interpreting the available sources of data and putting it at the fingertips of the right decision makers at the right time while following a process that utilizes facts, metrics, and data to ensure it’s aligned with business goals has been a key focus for the member companies of the Utica National Insurance Group during the past few years.

Ultimately, the benefit to the business is having accurate information and being consistent with it over time, so the data can fuel growth and help leaders identify new business opportunities. So, it is critical that we (the data team) are making sense of the information that comes in, to ensure that Utica National employees are using the data properly to make informed decisions.

At Utica National, our data strategy continues to successfully integrate our data into a cloud enabled enterprise data hub that creates a single source of truth. Typical implementation tasks include accessing the data, identifying the data business leaders need most, harvesting the data, storing the data, establishing clear data governance policies, and enabling data sharing and visualization among all employees.

As we’ve moved through this process, we’ve employed a use-case driven strategy that delivers value after each successful project implementation while maintaining flexibility and agility as we transform our systems and processes.

Use cases at each phase of implementation continue to help us prioritize data points and guide the direction that we move in. Coupled with that, we are successfully using an agile framework that delivers a high degree of traceability within the business requirements, which is important as it ensures we deliver what is expected from our partners.

As we look to the future at Utica National, we will continually strengthen our core data platform and technologies with a distinct focus on delivering our customers new value. Information derived from our data can provide our business partners with tools that can proactively predict and understand their customers’ needs and preferences and also establish advanced risk profiles that can present new business opportunities for the organization.

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