Don’t Overlook Data and its Critical Role in Company Operations in Times of Disruption

By: Joe Polizzano, Principal

The COVID-19 pandemic “business unusual” event has generated quite a bit of advice on how to meet this immense challenge. In most cases, the guidance has focused on business operations – such as call centers, claims, renewals – and technology such as business continuity, migration to the cloud, infrastructure improvement, and others.

During this business challenge, I remind leaders not to overlook data and its critical role in company operations. Applications and portals that are used by customers, agents, brokers, claim centers, etc. manage and maintain essential data. These applications, the underlying operations, and people are usually front and center in a business continuity plan.

However, in a modern insurance and financial services company, the breadth of data and the corresponding data processes that are required to keep a large business running and operating at full potential may not be fully appreciated. A comprehensive approach should consider:

Third-Party Data

For example, external market data used in Performance Measurement, Attribution, and Risk (PMAR). Is the provider capable of continuing operations and supplying data during a business-unusual event? What are the contractual Service Level Agreements (SLAs) under these circumstances, and is the provider delivering? Should these SLAs be revisited?

Data Operations

As data is acquired, enriched, and distributed in an organization, there are data management processes that must be maintained. In the market data example above, this might involve reconciling information that has changed due to a company merger or acquisition. Expertise in a specific data domain is often a required prerequisite to executing these tasks. There may be dozens of critical data processes in a large organization.

Data Quality

The company will continue to require high-quality data. Mature data organizations have processes and tools in place to measure and monitor the quality of critical data elements. These processes must maintain during business unusual events. Again, expertise in a specific data domain, often provided by a Data Steward, is required to understand and quickly resolve data quality issues before they impact business performance or lead to a regulatory event.

Database Administration

Databases are a crucial technology, of course. Beyond keeping the servers running and network connections in place, databases also require ongoing tuning, optimization, and troubleshooting when data problems surface.

In summary, during a time of disruption, it is vital to ensure quality data continues to flow throughout the organization. Carefully evaluate and prioritize your data operations based on impact on business operations, identify gaps, and expand support if necessary. During times like these, the company that understands that data is the fuel of business can emerge stronger once the crisis abates.

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