There's no question many insurance organizations are interested in better competing on analytics, and are gearing up in different ways, from telematics to data mining. But, for most companies in the insurance industry and beyond, things are only getting started.

Gartner, for one, see business intelligence and analytics virtually exploding beyond its traditional confines of business analysts, and getting baked into every part and parcel of the organization. Here's how Gartner analysts see things playing out over the next few years:

More tangible data analytics for all: “The friendlier, more transparent and therefore more invisible the analytics are to users, the more broadly they will be adopted—particularly by users that have never used BI tools—and the greater the impact analytics can have on business activities,” says Gartner. However, the consultancy's analysts caution that these more accessible tools “will require a great deal of computing power, extended capabilities and skills, and potential complexity in information management systems.” This is being facilitated by the rise of more systems being able to accept natural-language queries, Gartner analysts add.

Siri-like capabilities, everywhere: Within three years, Gartner predicts, “70 percent of leading BI vendors will have incorporated natural-language and spoken-word capabilities.” While most BI and analytics apps are still point-and-click, “BI vendors are expected to start playing a quick game of catch-up with the virtual personal assistant market,” starting with basic voice commands for their standard interfaces, followed by natural language processing of spoken or text input into SQL queries.

A growing emphasis on real-time data: “Organizations should offload event data capture, filtering, mathematical calculations and pattern detection to real-time operational intelligence software, to provide better situation awareness to business people. Where the cause and sequence of events are understood, leading indicators can be used to predict situations of threat or opportunity before they occur—so that the response can be proactive. Where this is not possible, the system can be used to improve the outcome by reducing the lag time between events and responses.”

More automated decision-making: The emphasis is on repeatability and auditability of decisions, especially in an era in which companies are trying to rein in staffing costs while increasing time to market, Gartner analysts state. “In some cases, the system can make the decision (intelligent decision automation). In other cases, the system prepares recommendations or performs part of the analysis and presents information to a human decision maker (decision support systems).” The software is now available.

Mostly Hadoop. Within the next two years, “65 percent of packaged analytic applications with advanced analytics will come embedded with Hadoop,” Gartner analysts predict. The trend toward this open-source data management software “is most noticeable so far with cloud-based packaged application offerings, and this will continue.”

More unstructured data analysis. Within a couple of years, Gartner analysts predict, close to a third of all analytics systems will include unstructured data – graphics, video, documents, log files. Gartner analysts report seeing “a flood of new approaches for relating, correlating, managing, storing and finding insights in varied data.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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