The Changing Role of Data and Analytics in Insurance Industry

By Jim Tyo, Vice President & Chief Data Officer, Nationwide

Jim Tyo, Vice President & Chief Data Officer, Nationwide

Across the insurance industry, data and analytics play an increasingly critical role in improving company performance. The data and analytics space is rapidly changing, and organizations of all sizes are trying to stay ahead of the curve. Nationwide is no different, and we are actively using data and analytics to move in the right direction. Most organizations and especially legacy organizations face challenges in promoting data and analytics as foundational needs. We continue to successfully tackle those challenges while actively applying advanced analytics. Today, it is critical to use data and analytics to understand and anticipate customers’ needs and improve back-office operations.

Nationwide has been maturing its data and analytics space for several years. There is a need to pivot from a culture-based on instinct and experience to one that’s data-driven while using experience to correctly apply analytic insights. While we know that maintaining a competitive edge requires data and analytics, many IT associates are used to how things have been done in the past. Many people are guided by experience that has shown them their intuition is correct. Getting those associates to embrace a data-driven culture takes advanced change management practices.

To advance the adoption of data and analytics, it’s important to develop advocates across the organization. Over the past couple of years, we have built strong relationships and formed key partnerships. The importance of IT and the business working together cannot be stressed enough. While IT associates know how to access and manipulate data, employees with more of a business background often know which insights are worth pursuing in more detail as well as how to apply the knowledge that the data uncovers. At Nationwide, our Enterprise Analytics Office is the business arm of the data and analytics space. Creating a formal partnership between the data and analytics offices has enabled associates performing analytics work to easily reach out to those people that know where the data sits and how to best access it and manipulate it. It also gives those associates on the data side more exposure to the business of insurance.

"Today, it is critical to use data and analytics to understand and anticipate customers’ needs and improve back-office operations"

Establishing forums for associates at a wide range of levels where they can voice their analytics needs and wants and hear what other areas are doing in the analytics space is also valuable. Data and analytics really aren’t much different from other foundational business areas like finance in the sense that while they don’t necessarily have to be centralized, they should have representation across the enterprise and a singular voice when speaking to the office of the CEO. This piece, representation at the highest level, becomes much more effective when you have multiple areas of the enterprise speaking in one voice. Our data and analytics forums make that possible.

Partnerships are vital to moving data and analytics forward, but they won’t be sufficient for our success. Finding team members with the right skills is ongoing. At Nationwide, we’ve established professions that allow associates to easily see what data roles are available and what skills are required of those roles. Concurrently, we’ve found or created training for new analytics-enabling tools that we’re bringing on board and implemented a job shadowing process for team members that want to start using analytics but aren’t sure how. A pilot with a local college began this year to offer data and analytics certification to our associates. We also build on the intellectual resources that Columbus has available by partnering with the Columbus Collaboratory, a rapid innovation company that spans seven industries.

As we continue to tackle challenges in the data and analytics space, we are actively working on analytics efforts that have already impacted our bottom line. An effective strategy includes taking a capability-based approach that can tie efforts to specific capabilities like text analytics or machine learning. This way we can measure the maturity of various capabilities and fund those areas that are lacking or promote those areas that are excelling.

Our Enterprise Analytics Office is at the forefront of analytics at Nationwide. Some of the work they’ve done to date has already had a positive impact on customer and associate experience. It is important to continuously look for ways to keep customers onboard and engaged. Our focus today is finding solutions that drive value for our customers, partners, and associates. Changes in technology over recent years have made those solutions possible, and we’re constantly looking for new technology that will enable even more advanced analytics. Today, technology allows a greater customer experience that wouldn’t have been possible even five years ago.

While using analytics to improve the customer experience is integral to remaining a top insurance organization, it’s also critical to use analytics to improve the associate experience and the efficiency of back-office operations. Performance improvement initiatives in the past were primarily based on experience and intuition, one of the culture changes we’re trying to drive. Now we can lean on associate experience to identify areas of opportunity and then use data to quantify the state of various operations. Once we apply analytics to identify potential solutions and then apply those solutions to the current state of things, we can choose the best solution. Since those solutions are backed up with data, convincing various areas to adopt them becomes a much simpler process.

To recap, Nationwide continues to promote data and analytics as a foundational need, while moving ahead with using analytics to increase our market share. Key partnerships within and outside of the company have made that possible along with uplifting data and analytics skills.

As data and analytics capabilities continue to mature at a rapid pace, Nationwide is coming up with innovative ways to skill associates. The data and analytics space is only going to grow more important to every organizations’ performance.

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