Historically, data management and data quality have been internal issues within an organization. But the world has changed with so much electronic data interchange occurring between business partners, says Mele Fuller, interface architect at Seattle-based Safeco Corp. "The scope of data management and data quality is much broader now than it was 20 or 30 years ago."As a result, the industry needs data standards to share data more efficiently. And ACORD XML is fast becoming the standard. "There's no question that ACORD standards are the way to share data in insurance industry," says Fuller, who sits on the P&C steering committee and serves as co-chair of the commercial lines working group for ACORD, the Pearl River, N.Y.-based nonprofit insurance standards developer.

"I want one way to communicate with all my partners," she says. "Safeco is committed to making the buying and selling and owning of insurance easier than anyone else, and I can't do that unless I can communicate well with good data and have good data management."

Although usage of ACORD standards at the production level is still relatively low, ACORD membership and participation is reaching critical mass, according to Matthew Josefowicz, senior analyst at Boston-based Celent Communications Inc. In fact, 72% of the top 50 U.S. property/casualty carriers, 46% of the top 50 U.S. life and health carriers, and 52% of the top global reinsurers are ACORD members, he notes in a report titled, "Insurance Data Mastery Strategies."

Celent predicts that the majority of new insurance IT projects involving XML will be based on ACORD XML standards within three or four years.

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