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How Secure is Your Company Data?

"This is as ambitious as anything I have seen in my career.”

Torrential rainstorms poured down and a deluge of water headed downstream right into the heart of downtown streets, causing mass evacuations of businesses, offices and residences. 

This was Calgary in 2013, as the rains filled the Bow and Elbow Rivers, prompting even more widescale flooding all throughout downtown Calgary. Disasters happen and it's crucial to be prepared. We think of our physical property including building and vehicles — those are almost no-brainers. But when it comes to less tangible items like your business data and company processes, are you just as prepared? And do your customers depend on you to be prepared?

Richard Jones was one business professional that experienced the effects of the Calgary flood. Included among the damaged and evacuated businesses was Wawanesa’s own Calgary office. As Director, Application Services at Wawanesa Insurance, Jones talked to us about how the Calgary team dealt with the flood. While many businesses were forcibly idled by the flood water damages and necessary repairs, the Wawanesa group immediately sprang into action.

“Instead of waiting, we actually set up at one of our senior manager’s house during the evacuation and allowed a team of claims adjusters to work remotely from our other branches across the country to help Calgarians when they needed help the most. The system gave us the ability to understand in real time how the catastrophe was developing and to understand how our claims needed to be reacting.”

Jones oversees the teams of contractors and staff tasked with software deployments and data migration. The flood resulted in yet another deluge, but this time in property claims coming into their company.  Jones says the 2013 Calgary flood was an excellent example of the increased capacity and customer service that the new systems can provide. 

   Read Related: New MTS Data Centres Keeps Information Secure   

In his role, Jones has a solid understanding of the benefits and interfaces of Information Systems, and he has seen it all over the course of his career. The flood was one example of a dramatic impact in company operations, and it highlighted the importance of having a solid foundation of business tools, teams and systems to handle any situation in order to keep the business running effectively.

Now, Wawanesa is currently undergoing a massive strategic systems renewal project that is about halfway through moving billions of bits of information. All of this data has been accumulated from over 25 years of claims history, and it has definitely caught Jones' attention and enthusiasm for improved business systems and communications.

Since Wawanesa provides coverage to almost two million policyholders in Canada and the United States, they need to strengthen their core business systems in 2013. In particular, a new underwriting and policy administration solution was needed to manage their billing operations. They selected Guidewire Software, a provider of flexible core system software to property/casualty insurers. Wawanesa now has plans to use three Guidewire add-on modules: Rating Management, Reinsurance Management and Client Data Management to make for a more robust solution.

“I am very excited,” says Jones. “From an Information Services perspective, I get more excited as more ambitious IS things are going on. This is as ambitious as anything I have seen in my career.”

According to a 2013 news release celebrating the business move, after successfully deploying Guidewire ClaimCenter, Wawanesa expanded their policy and billing solutions to help modernize its systems, transform its business processes, increase its flexibility, and take advantage of the solutions’ real-time functionality and built-in best practices. The company also wanted to provide its staff with the tools needed to properly service brokers and customers with the speed these groups expect to be serviced.

“A couple of benefits of the new system are the Modern User Interface which dramatically reduces employee training times and error rates,” says Jones. “There is also the real-time functionality which means that we can price and bind a policy over the phone, instead of having to wait overnight. This gives us more flexibility in rating, which means we can implement changes to our insurance products faster and react to a changing risk environment faster.”

By moving the billions of data bits into a data warehousing  system, they now have the data organized to best support their business line decisions.

“We are mutual insurers so we want to use our data to ensure the amount we are collecting from clients is the right amount for the risk to be shared by everybody,” explains Jones. “Fundamentally, this system will allow us to ensure we are pricing properly and gives us the ability to put resources where needed.”

While catastrophes such as the Calgary Flood show the immediate, improved capacity of the new system, Jones says the massive transformational changeover to the Guidewire system will work to further cement Wawanesa’s position as Western Canada’s property insurance industry leader.

What can you do to keep your business data and systems protected? In short, prepare for the unexpected. Business continuity expert, Vito Mangialardi of MTS, offers these tips for your business:

  1. Understand your business: What can fail in the event of a flood or disaster? What services must be maintained and who supports those functions within your company?
  2. Make it easy for your employees to work from any location and on any device: This could mean setting up alternative office space, as was the case with Wawanesa.
  3. Put controls in place to minimize damage and downtime: It’s crucial to have fire and flood protection, as well as business interruption insurance. In some cases you may need backup generators in case you lose electricity so you can support both office and IT production environments. Replication services can also ensure that you don’t lose any vital business data.
  4. Consider your external vendors: When you re-negotiate or form relationships with new vendors, it’s important to make sure they can deliver your services when you need them.
  5. Train your recovery team members: Review roles, responsibilities and actions to be taken on a regular basis to ensure that each employee is prepared.

Follow these steps to build your plan and keep your business and customer data secure and protected. 

Images via Colby Stopa and Wilson Hui.

For more on keeping your data secure, learn how the new MTS Data Centres can help your business.

Duncan Morrison

Duncan is a Winnipeg-based writer and communications consultant that specializes in freelance writing, strategic communications and marketing plans for clients from a wide range of organizations and businesses. His work has been featured in numerous newspapers and magazines.

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