REVIEWER: Dan Simpson, senior vice president and chief information officer for Physicians Mutual.

BACKGROUND: Physicians Mutual Insurance Company and Physicians Life Insurance Company, a member of the Physicians Mutual family, provide a full portfolio of health and life insurance products, as well as financial products. The companies have total assets exceeding $2.76 billion. Founded in 1902, Physicians Mutual headquarters are in Omaha, Nebraska.

PLATFORMS: IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server is running on IBM p Series hardware with the AIX operating system.

PROBLEM SOLVED: Please describe the problem/issue that this product solved/addressed. Physicians Mutual wanted a unified approach to information management that, in turn, would enable them to make faster and better decisions in response to changing market conditions. At the heart of this project was a shift from a product-centric business model to one that was customer-centric. This business model change gave Physicians Mutual one source of the truth about customers and prospects that could be utilized across distribution channels and customer touch points. Information was previously scattered among application silos and there was no collective history of customer interactions. This made it difficult to collaborate and coordinate across marketing channels such as direct mail, agency channels, telesales and the Internet for the company’s many lines of insurance products. The data needed to be stored in one place and kept accurate.Using IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server, Physicians Mutual now has a consistent enterprise view of information that enables it to collect and report on data with a comprehensive view of individual customers and demographic data.

PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: One of the most noteworthy functions for Physicians Mutual is the ability to deduplicate customer records by recognizing that two entities with different names are actually the same person. This helps organize related customer data and collapse those records for better efficiency. Within the first couple of weeks in production, nearly 20,000 duplicate records were found. The deduplication of that data not only freed up valuable system space and reduced job run times, but, from a direct marketing perspective, equated to real dollar savings. As a result of finding those duplicates, the company no longer spends money on redundant pieces of direct mail. The deduplication effort also enhanced the marketing organization’s ability to target potential and existing customers with better product offerings, track what offers had been sent previously and determine the customer responses to those offers. An additional, powerful feature allowed us to adjust or customize the standard matching rules that came with the product to better align with our company’s business drivers and priorities. Physicians Mutual was able to start with the product’s matching matrix and then customize it to provide consistent, accurate customer data from a variety of sources. This further helped identify distinct parties and collapse additional duplicate records. InfoSphere Master Data Management Server also provided the ability to capture identifying keys from the source systems and maintain them using the golden record. Better records of data lineage will provide complete traceability, a factor that should be useful as new compliance issues and mandates emerge. We now have the ability to extend the data model without changing the table.

STRENGTHS: Our ability to adjust the rules and customize them based on the needs of our business is a key strength of this product. The product’s scalability is another important strength that positions us well for future growth as we merge additional data into the system. Additionally, the product has the strength of portability. We have moved it across several different platforms - from the test environment into production - all without difficultly. Another core strength of the InfoSphere Master Data Management Server is its customer data integration software that worked well with our legacy customer data repositories. During the initial implementation, Physicians Mutual extracted customer information from a legacy source and loaded it. The new system provided updates to the eight million plus records in a matter of minutes, something that would have taken the legacy system an hour or two to accomplish.

WEAKNESSES: The enterprise architecture at Physicians Mutual, based on components and Java services, is mature and well conceived. We currently rely on XML exchanges. As a result, to integrate with IBM’s customer data integration product, a more Java-oriented API would give the product more flexibility and allow us to integrate at the Java code level. Better documentation that details the integration between the IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server and the IBM InfoSphere Information Server’s Quality Stage module is needed. The successful integration of these two products can yield powerful capabilities, but this integration requires extensive training to accomplish.

SELECTION CRITERIA: In a thorough evaluation process, Physicians Mutual considered homegrown solutions and IBM products, as well as other commercially available software. Since we were already using a number of IBM products for our data integration efforts, this selection of another IBM product seemed to fit in with the rest of the company architecture better than other vendor offerings. The cost was competitive, and numerous positive recommendations and endorsements from other customers using the product made everyone confident we had made the correct purchase decision. Additionally, the strength of the product’s data model and the tight alignment with IBM Insurance Application Architecture made it work within our architecture right out of the box.

DELIVERABLES: The primary deliverable of InfoSphere Master Data Management Server is cleansed, deduped customer data to help drive business processes. The ability to produce several daily reports is also very powerful for a financial services organization that requires careful reporting accuracy like Physicians Mutual. The product tracks data errors and inconsistencies and records all of its own history, as well. The identification of suspect duplicates and the results of a collapse are identified in reports that can be viewed without logging on to the system. This product is foundational to the company’s future plans, which include building a service center application to further support our customers, replacing our policy administration systems, and centralizing all data in one repository that can feed multiple applications. Our business partners have also been won over by the quality job this product has done in uniquely identifying parties according to their established business rules.

VENDOR SUPPORT: IBM provided a solid team who helped our technical staff with the initial installation and configuration. They also worked closely with our business team to determine what the best matching rules should be. They helped educate our business on what the product could do and helped us realize the best way to achieve our businesses’ goals. They even came up with more optimized ways of performing the match than what we could think of on our own. For example, we went into the implementation thinking we had 2,000 business rules to identify in order to collapse duplicates. IBM resources got the number down to 15 distinct rules – a different way of thinking which dramatically simplified the rule complexity we might have designed.

DOCUMENTATION: The documentation that comes with the product is thorough, and the IBM team who helped us with customizations did a good job of carefully documenting their work, as well. However, for those wanting to take advantage of IBM InfoSphere Information Server Quality Stage and other integration points, the documentation tends to be a bit weaker.

IBM InfoSphere Master Data Management Server

IBM Corporation

1 New Orchard Road

Armonk, NY 10504

(914) 499-1900

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