Before they landed triple Axels, they learned how to balance on a blade and skate across the ice. Before they attacked moguls at blazing speeds, they cruised down relatively flat planes. Before they maneuvered a puck all the way across the rink while weaving through opponents from the other team, they learned how to carry a stick while skating across the ice.Sure, much of what viewers saw at the recent Olympic Games in Torino, Italy, involved the awe-inspiring skills of elite athletes. All of these competitors, however, mastered the basics first. Many other athletes-think weekend warriors-never move much beyond these fundamentals.

Although the work of insurance companies is not likely to be met with the fanfare of an international sporting competition, some of the dynamics are the same. Insurance companies that are moving ahead with strategic data initiatives involving the use of sophisticated technologies all started by mastering the basics. And, these companies remain in an elite class because the majority of insurers still struggle with data fundamentals.

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