Big Data! Big Risk?

Created by Chet Gladkowski 28 May 2014 @ 15:44
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“Big data rhetoric is at an all-time high.” “Technology vendors tout products with claims that seem incredible.”


These quotes from a recent WSJ Blog point to two upcoming Forrester reports on the tantalizing topic of Big Data (Source: ). It is interesting to note that while the term is relatively new, there is not general agreement on its definition.


The traditional insurance vendor community has been joined by new players of all ilk's, prowling the information rich insurance landscape for easy prey to ply their wares. Agents, brokers and carriers alike receive multiple call and emails each week about how simply plugging in their solution will cause countless customers and dollars to fall out of the sky. The pitch goes something like, "You don't have to do anything, you don't even have to install any software. Just dump the data in and Voilà, you'll have complete knowledge and insight into your prospects, customers and partners.


Yes Virginia, there is no Santa Clause and neither is there an instant solution to deep understanding of your information. Knowledge and wisdom always come at a price. A much smarter guy than me once said,


"Though it cost all you have, get understanding."


That was King Solomon. Perhaps he had access to truly "Big Data?"

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Ben makes a good point, but the over-promise mantra seems especially loud and long in the insurance marketplace. Here are a but a few, quick quotes: - "Easy Predictive Analysis - Predictive Analytics for Dummies‎. Download this free eBook now and see how you can start using Predictive Analytics today to drive business decisions" - "Insurance companies now have a cost-effective and easy-to-implement solution encompassing all the elements needed to support better decision making and achieve high performance." -"Inconsistent, incomplete and inaccurate data spread across multiple operational systems – such as policy, claims and billing – often leads to business decisions based on "gut feel" rather than reliable analysis. What if you could consolidate data across the organization and make it easily accessible for analytics and reporting, so you could ensure consistency, reduce costs and data preparation time, as well as enable users to make fact-based decisions?" If the data is inconsistent, incomplete and inaccurate, how can you import into a solution that will make it clean and meaningful? -"Take On Unstructured Data w/ Ease‎" -"This (Big Data) makes it easy for agents, brokers and other distribution channels to do business with insurers and increases the productivity of distribution channels."
I think it's a bit shortsighted to paint with such a wide brush. There are some very real, impressive things being done in the realm of big data. And as with all areas, there are good solutions/vendors and not so good ones.
The old saying that comes to mind for me is... "Lipstick on a pig". Big Data efforts often amount to an attempt to "pretty up" the age old effort to warehouse data and drive meaningful analysis from it. Today the data is "bigger" but the concept is the same. And the vendors are just as unscrupulous as always.