REVIEWER: Richard E. Feigel, Ph.D., vice president of engineering for The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Co.
BACKGROUND: Founded in 1866, The Hartford Steam Boiler Inspection & Insurance Co. (HSB) is one of the oldest and largest specialty property insurers in the U.S. with a substantial presence internationally. HSB focuses on providing equipment breakdown and related business interruption insurance products to a wide range of industrial and commercial customers. Over decades, HSB has outperformed industry standards for combined loss and expense ratios by employing engineering-based risk management strategies.
PLATFORMS: HSB runs Cygron DataScope on Windows-based PCs with operating systems ranging from Windows 95 to Windows 2000. Access to server-based databases is crucial and has been trouble free.
PROBLEM SOLVED: HSB employs a range of risk and data analysis methods to manage underwriting and loss prevention strategies for ourselves and other companies that we reinsure. We use a suite of statistical and analytical tools such as Statistica, Crystal Ball and @Risk, as well as internally developed risk simulation models. While all of these tools fill specific needs, we have searched for affordable, relatively easy-to-use data mining capability. DataScope fills this need in two important respects. It provides a robust set of tools that permit us to quickly explore data relationships, and the program's excellent graphics and straightforward interface permit us to perform real-time "what if" analysis with clients.
PRODUCT FUNCTIONALITY: Beyond the basic graphic interface and set extraction capability, this version of DataScope includes a powerful set of expression-building functions. A number of cluster analyzing methods are incorporated which are permitting us to develop mining approaches combining numerical data and scored expert elicitation. The ability to search for, analyze and correlate disparate data sets and expert opinion is a powerful tool, especially when analyzing new business opportunities where historical data is very sparse.
STRENGTHS: For a well-featured program, DataScope has an intuitive interface and a very nice choice of data display graphics. The graphics support and strengthen the product's core purpose data exploration. We are especially impressed by the 3-D graphics and the flexible windowing capabilities. The data management tools are well implemented through drop-down boxes that permit quick, easy development of data sets. Finally, with a number of windows open showing different data relations, clicking on a data point in one window updates all other windows to show the relations based on that data point.
WEAKNESSES: When comparing the two principal functions of the program, data mining/visualization and decision support, the latter is less robust, although still quite useful. A number of non-standard uses of terms are slight irritants (e.g., "risk" is used to denominate missing data elements an odd definition, at least to experienced risk analysts). Similarly, "decision tree" is used to define a tree-like decision tool which, while useful, is unrelated to classic decision trees.
SELECTION CRITERIA: We have used DataScope since it was released in the U.S. The developer and publisher have made significant upgrades in function and usability over the past several years. As a result, we see little reason to "window shop" because DataScope meets our needs for robust, flexible, well- presented PC-based data mining. What peeking we have done at other products indicates that most are too academic for day-to-day critical business use.
DELIVERABLES: DataScope provides very useful data import and export capabilities. An add-on product, DataMap, provides very powerful systems management data importing capability. Data visualization incorporates a very nicely done selection of 2-D and 3-D graphics. We find the 3-D graphics especially useful in depicting complex data relations. The expression builder capability permits us to produce data and visual reports with almost infinite selection flexibility.
VENDOR SUPPORT: The software is easily installed and seems very stable. We have had no library file conflicts or other system glitches. Cygron replies quickly to commercial inquiries such as update information. We are extremely pleased with their service and attitude to date.
DOCUMENTATION: The program includes an online (.pdf) manual as well as an excellent hard copy manual. DataScope's documentation is extensive and very usable. The software also comes with several nontrivial demo files and an automated tutorial which steps through the program's basic features.
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