BGL Group, a Peterborough-based insurance broker with 4.6 million customers, is using Information Builders’ WebFocus platform to improve customer relationships.
The company, which provides products and services for 18 UK financial services and retail brands including Barclays, the Post Office, Marks & Spencer, HSBC and the RAC, has implemented business intelligence and analytics from Information Builders to distribute customised data to each of its partners and enable its own expert users to explore customer behaviour and improve decision-making.
Founded in 1992 and employing 2,400 people, one of its business units is price comparison website Comparethemarket.com.
Hasan Al-Madfai, senior manager of statistics, R&D, group MI at BGL Group, says the deployment was part of a strategic review of management information started in early 2011. They selected Information Builders from a final shortlist of two, taken from the Gartner BI and Analytics magic quadrant, in the late summer of 2011.
The project had four aspects: maximising the value of the group’s data assets; delivering management information internally more consistently; internal data governance; and delivering data beyond the firewall to partners.
Al-Madfai says WebFocus has been a vehicle to deliver the classic “single version of the truth”. Also, the relationships that BGL has with each of its partners makes "Chinese walls" between data sets essential. “Partner A and partner B contractually cannot see each other’s data,” he says.
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Previously, BGL Group was using the data file security layers associated with SQL for data governance. That was working well, says Al-Madfai, but was inefficient.
“If I wanted a report for partner A and one for partner B, that would be mean development duplication. WebFocus gives us a means of delivering reports that avoids that, through secure portals,” he says.
In relation to BGL’s internal data consumers, he says: “We wanted a semi-standardised system that allows users to interact with data as much as possible while maintaining a standard, group-wide platform. WebFocus also provides drill-down capabilities that enable us to extract more knowledge from our data."
Strategic, not transactional relationship
He stresses that it was looking for a “long-term, complex, sophisticated partnership” with a supplier, not just a transactional relationship. “We have quite a lot of IT capability within BGL, but WebFocus requires specialist help. Our experience with Information Builders has been quite positive.”
Michael Corcoran, chief marketing officer at Information Builders, confirms what he calls the supplier’s mantra that “we have no interest in selling software as such".
"We want to provide software and experience that helps our customers change their business. We’re privately held, so we don’t have to be short term for Wall Street. No two customers are alike,” he says.
Al-Madfai estimates that around 70% of the implementation, spanning hardware sizing, infrastructure, software installation, security and the portals development is complete. Phase one implementation included two customer-facing business units and the analytics team, which includes four data scientists. Phase two, involving other business units, began in March 2013.
He sums up the technical benefits of the implementation as fourfold.
“One, we have an efficient way to deliver reports through the portals. Two, the authorisation layer makes sure that only the data that people are allowed to see is displayed, though deriving from a single report. Three, it has given us a fresh perspective on how to present the data more efficiently and effectively. And four, it avoids data duplication, which I am personally passionate about," he says.
“Data and network security is also hugely important to us”, says Al-Madfai, in conclusion. “So everything we have done with WebFocus has had to tick all the security boxes.”