A Modern Vision of Data Architecture
The lifeblood of the insurance sector is data, and Optio has long viewed data as their most valuable currency. It informs every level of their decision making and is directly linked to their ability to secure capital from their business partners.
Of course, this is no easy task. As experienced by many of their peers in the insurance sector, the science and art of unifying insurance data is often overcomplicated and antiquated. Bringing together an ever-growing list of data sources into Excel and Access simply wasn’t sustainable anymore. What’s more, Optio’s business partners use different platforms of their own to acquire and report on data, making the challenge of integration even more sizable.
After exploring the potential options, Optio decided in 2020 that building out a data warehouse would be the best path forward. Firstly, this data warehouse would need to be platform-agnostic in order to accommodate the wide variety of sources flowing into it. In addition to seamlessly integrating their data, Optio also sought report automation so that end users wouldn’t have to dig deep to find the relevant insights they need. Finally, the data warehouse would need to be scalable and capable of supporting them as they add new platforms, hires and acquisitions.
- Build a scalable, platform-agnostic data architecture
- Grow an experienced business intelligence team
- Stand up Snowflake and Matillion with InterWorks’ help
With the broad vision of their data warehouse set, the next step for Optio was to build an experienced business intelligence team to develop, deliver and maintain their data architecture. This team would also work with third-party experts to ensure the architecture is as robust as possible. Leading this team were Optio CIO, Kevin Cleary, and BI Consultant Meishan Nunes. They received critical support from Head of IT, Carlos Nunes, Data Engineer Andy Dennison and Consultant Sean Olliffe. Sean is working with Optio to develop a series of SharePoint sites to house all of Optio’s document management requirements within a robust yet scalable environment.
The team identified Snowflake and Matillion as the backbone of their new architecture early on, but they quickly realised that they might need some expert assistance standing these solutions up and ensuring they integrated well with the recent purchase of Tableau Online for business-facing analytics. Fortunately, they knew just the partner to help – InterWorks. Having helped with their evaluation of Tableau Online and regularly assisting them via Assist by InterWorks, it wasn’t long until talks shifted towards the new data architecture project. Given InterWorks’ extensive experience with both Snowflake and Matillion, the decision to bring us into the larger data architecture project made perfect sense. Running point on the InterWorks side of things were Strategic Account Executive Richard Smith, Data Engineer Chris Hastie and Analytics Consultant Robin Bergmans.
“InterWorks were selected due to the experience and pedigree in the data/BI solution arena and quickly became a trusted partner of Optio’s. This was from a technical perspective as well as from an aesthetic/presentational perspective, as our goal was to provide not just a data warehouse and not just a functional reporting suite, but a ‘wow’ moment for internal and external users.”
Kevin Cleary, CIO, Optio
Implementing a Full Stack of Data Solutions
Serving as the foundation of Optio’s new data architecture is Snowflake, which goes beyond the function of a mere data warehouse and serves as an entire cloud data platform where Optio can ingest and collate data from various data sources in a way that’s user friendly and scalable. This included key financial data from Total Objects, accounting data from Xero and proprietary systems like Optio Connect, which houses a number of core group product lines. As Optio continues to grow their business, they will be able to add new data sources with ease and increase their Snowflake footprint in tandem if need be.
- Ability to ingest and collate data from diverse sources with Snowflake
- Creation of innovative solutions from Optio SharePoint team
- Efficient data flow and less manual effort via Matillion
- Improved UX and Tableau adoption using Curator
Working within Snowflake, InterWorks worked with the Optio SharePoint team and has provided guidance and technical input on a series of innovative solutions. This input created new solutions and gained valuable workflow efficiencies, utilising new software and techniques that have positively impacted another mission-critical project for Optio.
Once the data makes it to Snowflake, the next step is to prepare it for analysis and ensure a seamless flow to Tableau. That’s where Matillion came in as the ideal data transformation tool. Cloud-based and user-friendly, Matillion saved countless hours of manual development and ensured that the flow of data was efficient and uninterrupted.
Finally came the most visual and user-oriented aspect of the new data architecture: Tableau. Having already used Tableau, Optio was familiar with its powerful analytical capabilities, particularly via sharp data visualisations. Augmenting this experience even further was the addition of Curator by InterWorks, which allowed Optio to take the dashboards they already created in Tableau and put them into a completely customisable and branded web interface. Being able to tailor every aspect of the user experience would be a crucial boost in ensuring that end users can discover relevant insights quickly and organically.
“As the person responsible for getting the spend approved and delivering this project, I found the people at InterWorks (namely Chris Hastie and Richard Smith) amazing to work with. I work with a lot of vendor partners across our entire business, and I always looked forward to our discussions as both Chris and Richard ‘got’ the vision immediately and never swayed from that vision. They – along with Meishan, Carlos and Andy – simply made it all happen.”
Kevin Cleary, CIO, Optio
Diving Deeper into the Data
With their new data architecture off the ground, Optio has cemented the data warehouse as the central component in their digital ecosystem. Further, they’ve already created a strategic roadmap for what should happen next. A big objective is to automate as much as possible. To that end, they’re already embarking on a new project with Lloyd’s Lab graduate DistriBind to automate production of Risk and Premium Bordereaux directly from their data architecture. The boost in efficiency, accuracy and time savings is not only operationally sound in the present, but it will also help to future-proof their business. This, and many other proposed data initiatives, all center around their data architecture that’s built to empower people, underscoring Optio’s mission statement of connecting people and technology.
This article was originally published by InterWorks on 18th February 2022. See original post here.
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