Hong Gao, Executive Director of Enterprise Data and Analytics, Indiana Farm Bureau Insurance, speaks with David Zhao, Managing Director of Coda Strategy, in a video interview about using the data unit not just as a cost center but also to generate revenue, the value of collaboration, thorough assessment before engaging third parties, the difference between large and independent consultancies, and the factors to consider while choosing one.
At the onset, Gao believes that the data unit should not be seen as simply a cost center but that it can also be used to generate revenue. Her team works with business partners to drive this value forward by gaining an understanding of their needs and helping them work faster and easier.
Gao shares that this is achieved by setting parameters and variables for calculations, analyzing their needs for data, and providing quantifiable results of business growth. Ultimately, deriving quantifiable business value from data is essential for a company to be called ‘data-driven.’
Moving forward, Gao suggests that insurance is a constantly evolving industry, and collaboration with industry experts and adopting best practices from other sectors are assets that drive continuous development. She encourages having conversations with vendors and consulting firms to exchange ideas and seek win-win opportunities.
When considering whether to engage with third-party entities, Gao evaluates several areas. Firstly, she assesses the availability of expertise and resources within the organization before determining if a consulting firm needs to be engaged. Then, she considers the urgency and timeline of the initiative, its importance to the company, potential external opinions, and budget and costs.
When asked about the decision between choosing large consulting firms and independent consulting firms, she discusses the two in detail. Referring to the large firms as ‘big four’ or ‘giant three,’ she notes that they are biggies with the advantage that they have a wealth of experience, dedicated practices, and more resources to leverage, particularly for large implementations.
However, Gao maintains that independent consulting firms have well-defined specialties for particular areas, making it easier to engage them. When considering such factors, she looks at the cost and what they can deliver.
Similarly, she considers familiarity as an important factor to consider, as well as benchmarking, experience, resources available or referenced, and the maintenance cost.
As she is from a mid-sized company, she cautions against spending, stating that the landscape is different from that of a Fortune 500 company. Therefore, Gao concludes by stating that it is necessary to evaluate consulting firms based on their specialties and availability, versus relying on general experience and broad strategies.
CDO magazine appreciates Hong Gao for sharing her invaluable data insights with our global community.