Getting help to those in need faster

At Allstate Insurance, business intelligence technology must prove itself every time a hurricane blows through Florida or wreaks havoc elsewhere in the U.S.

The insurer's BI functionality hinges on an Oracle data warehouse harnessed to data-gathering tools from Ab Initio Software that extract information from various Allstate repositories. Agents access critical data using front-end BI tools from Business Objects SA.

The insurance giant's data warehouse contains crucial claims information -- including the reams of data gathered by adjusters crawling through a hurricane's aftermath. The data is updated daily and accessed by business analysts and managers. With the swift output of this BI data, Allstate managers can flag and process emergency claims much more quickly -- providing faster relief to the victims of devastating hurricanes and other natural disasters.

But implementation of the system has had its ups and downs. Allstate faced a pair of challenges: user acceptance and the constant struggle to safeguard data quality.

Selling the system internally required Allstate's IT staff to tread lightly, explains James Young, senior manager for enterprise BI. "We were able to balance the new system with traditional sources and explain the nuances that ultimately led to acceptance and adoption of the new solution by the claims area," he says.

The responsibility for checking the quality of the data falls to a group of IT specialists who focus exclusively on the integrity of information contained in the data warehouse. Allstate also relies on Ab Initio's extract, transform and load tools to ensure data quality.

Now that BI has bolstered the insurance company's claims operations, Allstate plans to use the technology more broadly. "BI has helped demonstrate the success of close collaboration between IT and business units," says Young. "This project has laid a strong foundation for exploration into future BI solutions and will prove merely to be the beginning."

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