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Data Modernization: Tips from Pekin Insurance


If you’re seeking proof for the value of undertaking an enterprise-wide data modernization, look at Pekin Insurance. The critical first phase of the insurer’s transformation eliminated a 5-year reporting backlog and helped accelerate speed-to-market 70% by cutting new product introductions from 18 months to about five. 

Pekin Insurance, a nearly 100-year old company, achieved these impressive results by establishing a Hadoop-based data mart and transferring 1.5 billion records from its legacy mainframe onto the platform. This effectively unlocked policy and claims data dating to 1996. Then, Pekin Insurance empowered business users with intuitive self-service BI dashboards for accessing data and gaining analytic insights, which is bringing competitive benefits. 

All of these initiatives, and more, are fundamental to reaching Pekin Insurance’s goal to become data-driven by 2020. 

In this final blog of this series on building a data modernization strategy, we’ll learn about Pekin Insurance’s data modernization initiative from Kim Wienzierl, the carrier’s Assistant VP of IT Data, Infrastructure, and Delivery. She shared an insider’s perspective on Pekin’s approach during our P/C data modernization webinar.  

Pekin's 3-Step Approach to Winning Data Strategy 

Like many insurers reliant on legacy mainframes for storing records, Pekin required business users to submit requests to IT whenever they required even a minor change in a report. At some point, business users loaded data obtained into spreadsheets and flat-file databases in an effort to improve accessibility. This created multiple non-compliant shadow data factories, generating divergent sources of truth and increasing risk. The situation eventually caused an atmosphere of data malaise - both from a business and an IT standpoint. For Pekin, this resulted in modernization challenges including generating business interest and excitement around the need for high-quality, accessible data while also gaining the IT expertise required to establish and maintain an updated technology platform. 

To get started, Pekin established a 3-step approach: 
 steps to data modernization figure infographic

Measure It. Before it could modernize or make improvements, Pekin Insurance needed to understand its current state. For data, it required measuring existing data quality and data management maturity level. This step uncovered insufficiencies the enterprise was facing, which included quality, accuracy, accessibility, and cleanliness. 

Frame It. Next came framing the situation to give the business an understanding of where Pekin Insurance was, where it needs to be and why it needs to get there. Critical questions included: Why now? How will we proceed? What resources do we need to invest in? What will it cost? Which specific examples of ROI we can expect? How long will it take to begin achieving our goals? And, because a modernized data approach is an ever-evolving initiative, how will we measure success in a manner that keeps our company excited about continuing to invest in our data platform? 

Sell It. To change the culture of malaise surrounding data quality and access, Pekin formed a Data Governance Committee. Comprised of two individuals from each of Pekin’s 14 functional areas, the Committee spent the first six months learning about data management, data quality, and data governance. Committee members also identified data requirements for their areas. Then, to champion the modernization, the Committee developed and executed a comprehensive education and marketing program, which is ongoing today. 

Components of Pekin’s Winning Strategy

Accomplishing each of the three key steps required a detailed strategy. For Pekin, the important components of the strategy included: 

  • Determining Where to Gain Talent. Pekin pursued a hybrid strategy of forming a strategic IT partnership with an experienced industry-focused solution provider as well as attracting new data-savvy tech employees by highlighting the work and life advantages they offered. 
  • Developing a Data Management Framework. For each piece of data, Pekin determined corporate elements that needed to be fulfilled, such as policies, standards, security controls & audits, and constructed a framework for addressing them. 
  • Creating an Elevator Pitch. Compressing the complexities of data modernization into a concise statement of truth, along with a brief statement of purpose, enabled Pekin to refocus on its legacy culture. Pekin’s truth is - Better Data, Better Access…Better Decisions. 
  • Designing Effective Marketing Tools. To set the tone and continue hyping the data message, Pekin Insurance used multiple vehicles such as buttons, T-shirts, decals and table tents in common areas. It also developed a logo and consistent design across all elements. One innovative tool was a placemat used during data presentations and training. The front side of the placemat depicted the data and analytics strategy at a high level. The back included a timeline tagged to each component from the front.  
  • Constructing a Business Capabilities Roadmap. Pekin assisted the business with visualizing deliverables by placing them on a viewable timeline, which was included in presentations, open forums, and any other engagement-building activities. 
  • Forming the Data Management Team. With internal and external talent acquired, Pekin created the roles and reporting relationships. To improve engagement, Pekin took a whimsical approach with designations such as Data Sheriffs, Data Marshalls, Data Judges, Data Rangers, and Data Wardens. 
  • Mapping Out the Enterprise Data Model. Using universal data models that they obtained from its data modeling software supplier, Pekin developed a detailed enterprise diagram that not only showed what data was used by whom but also the interconnections throughout its enterprise. Depicting the interconnections helped break down silos because all users could see how their data needs related to the data needs of others. 
  • Establishing a Data Architecture Blueprint. This is a visual reference for all of the technology components, hardware and software that comprises Pekin’s new data platform. It includes the internal and external sources of data, as well as the systems that utilize data, such as Pekin’s core Guidewire suite. 

With its strategy in place, Pekin Insurance delivered a new data platform at the end of 2018. In addition to the Hadoop-based data mart, it launched an enterprise data warehouse, master data management, and enterprise reporting. In the process of migrating legacy data onto the platform, Pekin identified and fixed 14 significant data classification flaws, which considerably improved business accuracy and reduced risk.  

To learn more about Pekin Insurance’s experience, you can view the webinar hereA P/C Insurance Data Modernization Journey: Learn from Pekin Insurance's Success.  

Also, if you missed the first two blogs in this series, check out Overcoming Legacy Data Hurdles and 5 Steps to a Winning Data Strategy. Each blog provides actionable information for creating your customized data modernization strategy.  

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