Integrating Silos of Data

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Balboa Insurance is the parent company of Balboa Life & Casualty, which provides products to financial institutions and comprises seven subsidiaries. Balboa itself is owned by Countrywide Financial Corp. As such a large institution providing services to both consumers and financial organizations, our company has an incredible amount of customer data records siloed in our databases. As a result, in the past our processes could be very difficult. In the claims process, for example, you had to go through multiple paths and codes to access information. The pain was also felt externally when our partners wanted to access our information in real time, but could not do so. Ultimately we wanted to create a system where users would not have to toggle between screens, but would be able to access all data about a certain client in one user interface, regardless of whether the information was about an insurance policy or an investment account. It was also critical that new applications could be easily incorporated into the system, and that the solution be repeatable across Countrywide divisions. We felt our best route would be to implement a CRM application developed specifically for the financial and insurance vertical, and settled on Siebel 7. The program was robust and would certainly fill our needs--if we could get past a major roadblock: Our data was siloed in such archaic systems that we were faced with a major loss of information if we simply shoved the data into a relational database and provided external connectors. Accessing the data the way it was stored was critical. If we simply moved the data to a relational database we would have lost years' worth of rules that help scrub and edit that data. We needed to find a middleware solution that could be the link between the two systems. After some research we realized that a homegrown solution would prove too costly and wouldn't be time effective; it would have ultimately extended our time-to- market by two years. Finally, we found a product called Verastream to integrate our data with the Siebel application. Four months later we had a CRM application that was Web-based, connected to legacy applications, and fully utilized all the rules, codes, and edits compiled over the years. We now have a single front end, and through the Verastream middleware we were able to take unique codes of various business and disparate systems and consolidate them into one place. Our difficult claims process became simple, and we could extend the system across to our business partners. We have a very successful application. Today, existing processes that were once merely codes are translated into useable information for claims adjusters. For example, we write certain policies in certain states that have different liability limits and deductibles. Now they are translated into actual limits and numbers, so an adjustor would know that she couldn't exceed certain limits or if certain rules apply in that state. This storehouse of reusable information processed through Verastream allows us to easily deploy new applications into the system. In the next few months a team from Countrywide will be moving the solution across the company, so data siloed elsewhere can be made available to employees, partners, and customers. We are also spending the better part of this year evaluating where we can lend this technology next, including sales, customer service, and policy administration.
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