Making data make sense (and cents)
Yodil helps agencies make sound operational decisions
By Nancy Doucette
Garbage in, garbage out. Back in the early days of agency management systems, trainers and consultants would warn against sloppy data input practices to prevent the eventual output of erroneous information.
Over time, that phrase has morphed into "garbage in, gospel out." In other words, computer generated reports are presumed accurate, simply because they came out of the computer. (It's akin to saying: "I read it on the Internet, so it must be true.") Agency owners and principals make operational decisions based on those reports. If the data those reports are based on aren't correctly sliced and diced, the agency could be leaking money because of its dependence on incomplete, inaccurate, or misunderstood information.
And then there's the drain on resources that occurs when your highly trained insurance professionals have to stop managing the business, generating income, and serving clients in order to develop, configure, and run reports. Shouldn't they be making better use of their time?
Heading off soft costs
"Our soft costs around report generation are huge," notes Colin Jones, director of technology for Flood and Peterson, a 110-person agency headquartered in Greeley, Colorado. He says the agency's accounting and technology departments are frequently being called upon to do "enormous Excel crunches—Excel analysis, big data draws, and then sorting and sifting the data."
Such projects take a chunk of time, he says, which pulls limited staff in those departments away from their daily tasks. Even the routine report requests are time vampires. "We can get our data easily enough," he observes, "but it's a bit of a process to get the data into a format and then analyze it in a way that provides value."
Through his involvement in NetVU (the Network of Vertafore Users) and Sitkins International, Jones had become acquainted with several agencies across the country that had developed and implemented their own business reporting solutions. "It's always been something we've wanted to do," he says. But he wasn't interested in building a solution from scratch and then being saddled with having to maintain and refresh the program going forward.
So Jones was intrigued when he heard about Yodil, a software-as-a-service provider of business intelligence (BI), management and operational reporting, and data analytics to the insurance sector. He liked that the program bridges to Sagitta, the management system Flood and Peterson uses. He also liked that Yodil's developers and management have deep roots in the insurance industry. "The fact that they speak insurance is a big piece of it," Jones says. "Just as important, though, is the fact that they understand the Sagitta data."
When Flood and Peterson signed on with Yodil earlier this year, Jones says there was no "wasted time. Yodil is ready to use right out of the box." He says the business intelligence capabilities Yodil provides are certainly attractive, but for now, he's delighted to be able to have a reporting tool that will save F&P's people time.
"There are two classes of individuals who are going to appreciate what Yodil has to offer," he maintains. "The number crunchers—that's who we're targeting with this platform—and the executives who just want an overview. They may not even want to look at the data details.
"The Yodil dashboard utility is going to appeal to the non-number cruncher crowd," he continues. "They'll be able to just pop in and get that overview."
An organizational view of agency operations
With more than 20 years of insurance and technology experience, Yodil's CEO, Fred Waite, knows the pain points for agents, MGAs, and carriers when it comes to data management. In developing Yodil, he says, he and his team wanted to create a platform that would enable agents to completely outsource their reporting and business intelligence. By doing so, the personnel who had been tasked with report creation could take on more meaningful projects. "Workloads aren't decreasing," he notes, "and in this economy, agencies need to utilize staff more efficiently."
Waite says Yodil takes into consideration that agencies are no longer reliant on just their agency management system for data collection. Agency owners, principals, and managers need a BI platform that provides an organizational view. "Agencies have multiple systems—some from different vendors, some homegrown," he points out. "Yodil can take data feeds from all of them to provide a more holistic view of the agency's operational performance."
He says that in addition to the middleware component that's been built to Sagitta, Yodil will soon complete the connector to AMS 360. Waite says he hopes Yodil will have the opportunity to work with agencies using Applied Systems as well.
Yodil's "secret sauce," Waite says, is his team's business knowledge. Decades of experience and understanding are built into the platform. Behind the scenes, Yodil takes data and "normalizes" it, standardizes it, and enriches it so that when it's delivered to Yodil's insurance data model, it's more robust and complete. "We have hundreds of insurance specific metrics built into the KPI (key performance indicator) engine," he explains.
Waite says agencies can decide who gets what information, how they see it—pie chart, graph, Excel spreadsheet, PDF—and when. Producers, for example, can receive a daily alert scheduled for 8 a.m. that details claims activity for a prescribed period, lost business, a new business summary, and an expiration list.
Yodil is stocked with numerous pre-defined reports, Waite says. (See adjacent ºsidebar for a listing.) "Based on our knowledge of insurance, we built in a set of reports that we believe represents 80% of what agencies need and want," he says. "Within the platform, though, there's an ad hoc capability so agencies can create new reports, dashboards, or derivatives of existing reports and dashboards.
"All the analytics, scheduling and distribution, the metrics and the KPI engine, the validation, and the standardization are built into the Yodil platform," Waite points out. "Agencies can fully outsource it to us or they can decide how much they want to administer themselves. It will vary by the size of the agency.
"Smaller agencies may prefer to outsource the whole thing," he continues. "They'll have us deliver the reports and dashboards they've requested in the configuration. We can deliver information via Excel, the Web, or PDF.
"Larger agencies will likely want to manage it themselves. The platform is built to allow any combination of delivery options. It's very flexible."
Waite notes, "You can't monitor what you don't measure. Measuring and monitoring your agency's performance is essential in order to know if your business efforts are successful."
Fred Waite says Yodil’s platform delivers business intelligence and reporting drawn from a broad range of insurance metrics so agency owners, principals, and managers can better understand books of business or operational efficiency. Additionally, the reports can be used for claims management or workflow distribution. Below is a list of the pre-defined reports that an agency can use immediately when they sign on with Yodil:
For more information:
Web site: www.yodil.com
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