Like many, if not all, insurers, Nationwide is a strong believer in the power of data and analytics to change the insurance business for the better. But effectively using them requires more than just technology, says Jim Korcykoski, the company's SVP and chief technology and information security officer.

"We went out and said, 'Let's create an enterprise data office, get a CDO, build a data lake, get Hadoop -- we'll get tools, techs, skills and machine learning" thinking that would get it to the next level, he explained in a keynote at the Guidewire Connections conference this week. However, decision makers quickly realized that simply bringing in the most powerful technology wasn't an end in and of itself, Korcykoski continued.

"We would run off and talk to [business unit owners] and ask what problem they want to solve. They would respond 'I've got a lot of pain points with the reports,'" he relates.

The technology that Nationwide brought in could do much more than just produce better reports, Korcykoski says, but not enough time had been spent on figuring out exactly what the future state of data and analytics would look like at the company. He says that Nationwide had to think about what unmet needs, or even unknown needs, the business had. That led the company to think differently about how it introduced new capabilities.

"We've got this really cool stuff, we're at the starting line, but we're not sure what problem to solve," he says. "We realized that each of our units have a set of strategies for how they're going to be successful in the marketplace. We decided, if we look at the priorities, there's a lot of levers you can pull around efficiency. What are the steps on the value chain that are less optimized that they could be, and how can analytic capabilities, data sharing and integration, AI or third-party data help?"

In conclusion, Korcykoski said, insurance data leaders need to realize that while most of their colleagues understand the value of data and analytics to make the business more effective, many haven't grown up with it. They need guidance to rethink how to perform their core duties with an analytics mindset.

"Do we want to embrace analytics in being a differentiator or have it just help met needs?" he asked rhetorically. "We have a vision of where we want to start applying it. Better insight is going to influence every step in our value chain."

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