Editors at Microsoft News Center recently spoke with Mark Tainton, vice president of global business intelligence at Gallagher Bassett, about how Microsoft business intelligence (BI) tools are changing the way the company works internally and with customers.  

REDMOND, Wash. – April 22, 2013 – Technology is key to success in today’s uncertain economic climate no matter which industry a company operates in. For insurance brokerages, finding innovative ways to serve clients and retain business often means using technology to uncover data and discover new ways to improve their bottom line.

Gallagher Bassett Services, Inc. (GB) is a prime example. One of the world’s largest property casualty third party administrators, GB’s Mark Tainton wanted the company to be able to quickly gain insight into the vast amount of data his company collects to make highly informed business decisions. He also wanted to empower GB’s clients to make the best decisions by presenting up-to-date information in an accessible and intuitive way.

To accomplish these goals, GB has implemented Microsoft business intelligence (BI) solutions including Microsoft SQL Server, Microsoft SharePoint Server, and Microsoft Office to create a proprietary, industry-leading tool called the Analysis Workbench. Together, these solutions are transforming the way GB operates and the future of the insurance industry.

MNC: What challenges were you facing that led you to explore business intelligence solutions?

Tainton: There were several challenges. First, we’ve experienced significant growth through acquisitions in the past few years. We wanted to be able to quickly integrate data from each of these companies into our environment so we can accurately analyze performance and make changes as needed. 

Second, we were sitting on mounds of data, and wanted to be able to tap into it more effectively. The amount of data we’ve been capturing has been exploding, and we needed a quick way to analyze it in ways that allow us to capture more revenue opportunities, while better serving our clients.  In short, we wanted to make a greater number of decisions not on gut, but on cold facts supported by actual numbers.

Third, we wanted to better serve our customers by making the data we provide to them easily accessible, visually appealing, and intuitive to use. We also wanted to make it easy for our clients to view the data we present alongside their own data and data from third-party sources that they might find useful.  We also wanted to improve the way we serve the next generation, the people who use tablets, smartphones, and
touch technology to access information. We realized that if we didn’t satisfy this group of customers, we’d start to lose market share very quickly.

MNC: How are SQL Server, SharePoint Server, and Office improving the way GB makes business decisions?

Tainton: Microsoft BI tools have enabled us to make a greater number of financial, management, and operational decisions based on actual numbers. With the touch of a button, for example, we can now better evaluate where new opportunities lie, both by geography and by industry. We’ve never had that capability before. We can also better assess our needs as we make acquisitions. So if we acquire a company in a city in which we already have a presence, for instance, we can make informed decisions as to whether it makes more sense to buy a new building versus consolidate everyone into an existing office.

MNC: How are Microsoft BI tools helping you to improve customer service?

Tainton: Our goal is to really create a window to the world for customers, so to speak, so we’ve used the analytic components of SharePoint Server and the predictive tools within SQL Server to create new tools that improve customers’ access to information. It’s been a real game-changer for us.

For example, we’ve introduced a new tool called the Analysis Workbench (AWB), which is a huge differentiator in the marketplace. The AWB is a series of modules that provide multiple levels of information ranging from high-level aggregated information for executives down to highly detailed information for managers. All of a client’s information is presented in one window using a tile-based user interface with touch technology. Customers don’t need to move through seven or eight clicks to find a specific report. Their favorite reports are all right there on their computer screen in a carousel-type format that’s easy to access and intuitive to use. We’ve also incorporated Power View into the Analytical Workbench, and our data-crunching clients love it because it allows them to interact with their data and examine it in multiple ways. 

The AWB also enables us to proactively improve customer service. In the past, we’d print out a stack of reports, and clients were left to figure out what the information meant for their portfolio. But with the AWB, we can now easily highlight areas of concern and improvement so we can continually help our clients build stronger portfolios.

MNC: Are these tools available on mobile devices?

Tainton: Yes, and that’s been a big differentiator for us as well. Many of our clients spend a lot of time on the road. Now, they can get updated information on their claims without having to go to the office once a week and print out a paper-based report. We’ve also added new capabilities to help clients better manage large portfolios. For example, we added a feature called a “claims watch list” that allows managers to follow and analyze claims made by specific people within their community.

MNC: Have Microsoft BI tools helped GB to improve its bottom line? 

Tainton: It’s still in the early stages, but we’re starting to see the difference in our financial results. For example, in one of the business units in which we launched the Analytical Workbench, sales rose by an additional 10 to 15 percent from the first to second quarter of 2013. The Microsoft BI platform is really giving us a competitive edge.

MNC: What is the most important information you would like readers to understand?

Tainton: Technology has finally caught up to ongoing BI challenges, so don’t be afraid of the Microsoft stack! It works for us.