Kimberly Holmes, XL Catlin's SVP of strategic analytics, turns to an old joke to describe her pragmatic approach to big data: When you're chased by a bear, you don't have to outrun the bear—you just have to outrun your friends. That, Holmes says, is XL Catlin's approach to the ever-escalating technology possibilities of analytics: staying just ahead of the competition.

That pragmatism leads her to stress the “strategic” in her title above the “analytics.” She looks to solve problems in a way that will be useful to the organization. “You always have to start with that endgame in mind,” she says. “When we're choosing projects, we're already thinking about willingness of the businesses to change and adopt what we're doing.”

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