by Madhav Mohan

How an insurance CIO deployed a BI tool to optimize costs

Oct 04, 2016
AnalyticsBig DataBusiness

Sethuraman Kannan, CIO and Vice President-Information Technology, Star Health Insurance, explains how the company deployed a BI tool to generate reports faster while cutting down on operational costs.

Star Health and Allied Insurance is India’s first health insurance company. It began its operations in 2006, with business interests in Overseas Mediclaim Policy, Health Insurance, and Personal Accident. 

The company uses a variety of reports in a time bound manner to make correct business decisions in areas ranging from claims to product development. As an insurance company, the whole business depends on the accessibility of reliable data.

In 2010, the company decided to invest in a business intelligence tool. But unfortunately, challenges still remained, forcing the company to implement a new solution. Kannan talks about the challenges they were facing, features of the new tool, its benefits and plans for the future.   

What challenges prompted you to opt for a new BI tool?

We relied on a variety of reports generated in a timely manner to take accurate business decisions in various areas – from claims to product development. Before implementing the new business tool in our organization, we were using a BI tool that was extremely vendor-dependent. It was also difficult to accurately estimate report generation time. And since most of our reporting projects required a vendor, we used to incur higher costs. Overall, our former solution caused our analytics and reporting processes to be slower and costlier.

Could you highlight the unique and dynamic features of the new tool?

The BI tool is a scalable platform for creation and delivery of web, mobile and desktop analytics. It combines data exploration and data visualization in an easy-to-use application that anyone can learn quickly. The benefit of the tool is that it works with multiple platforms and IT teams can effectively manage data as well as metadata centrally, control permissions and scale up to enterprise-wide deployments. The underlying technology for the BI tool is a patented visual query language (VizQL) that simultaneously describes how to query data and how to present it visually. The result is basically a new way of interacting with databases and spreadsheets.

The tool offers multiple source connectivity, in-memory technology, and generates reports internally without vendor dependency. With the help of the tool, ad-hoc reports are created in a timely and cost-efficient manner. Moreover, with the new tool the emphasis is on data analysis to take accurate decisions on everything, from new product development to regulation compliance

And the product development team started using the tool to conceptualise and design new products. When a new insurance product is developed, data on existing products is analysed vis-à-vis external information. This helps the team model new prototypes based on market requirements. Before launching the product, the company needs to submit detailed reports with the Indian Government’s Insurance Regulatory and Development Authority (IRDA), which can be done using the tool. 

Related: Blockchain: Is it the next big thing in the insurance sector?

What have been the benefits or tangible gains you have realized after implementing the tool?

The tool fits into our fast-paced culture, connects to multiple data sources, and generates reports internally without any dependency on external vendors. It translates to more processes and cost efficiency. The reports are generated quickly. The time frame required from a report request to the actual report generation has reduced to half the amount of time required before the deployment. The best benefit of deploying this tool is that it is empowering employees to generate reports on their own. This also translates to significant reduction in our operational costs.  

What are your plans for the future?

A separate Management Information System (MIS) and analytics department has been recently formed which will be the focal point of generating the various reports for the top management as well as the various departments that require data to streamline their operations.

We are keen on making full use of business analytics by leveraging all the features of the BI tool.  Although the reports are used by a wide array of users at different levels of operations, the top management expects to have a grasp of different dimensions of the operations through a visual dash board in the BI tool. The IT department is also working to provide the top management with a mobile application which would help them access the information without being tied to a PC or Laptop.

We also plan to get into Big Data analysis to plan our future products and also to embellish our operations based on the feedback from the public through social media networks. The tool has the power to explore big data and we would be using the same in a major way.