Think of information you type into a Word or Excel document. It's stuck there. This is why CSR's who are forced to use Word and Excel to produce commercial documents - submissions, proposals, certificates - are masters at the 'copy & paste' shuffle.
Data stored in Word, Excel and PDFs is static. Stuck. Trapped. It doesn't move.
Machinable data is information that can be exchanged, without human intervention, from one system to another. It's standardized. It's not trapped. It can travel within (internally) a brokerage workflow and between (externally) the different stakeholder systems.
In commercial-lines, machinable data is what enables brokers to enter data once into a system, and then produce various documents in the policy lifecycle WITHOUT having to copy & paste information. This is a form of data exchange within an ecosystem.
It's also what enables data to flow between different third parties, between systems. The Policy Works quote download with RSA and automatic premium finance quotes with FIRST Insurance Funding are good examples. This only happens with machinable data that can be understood by both sender and recipient.
The value of capturing machinable data is the leveraging effects that happen when different systems are connected (this is related to our best of breed approach). Data should only ever be entered once into any system. Connectivity is the vision, and machinable data is the enabler.
What is the biggest challenge?
There's a saying, "Are you picking up what I'm laying down?" In other words, "do you understand what I'm saying?" Two-way comprehension; this is the single biggest challenge with exchanging data - electronically - in commercial lines.
So when we think of machinable data from a commercial-lines perspective, the challenge starts to grow quite quickly. Why? Because there is so much data being collected. And often, one idea can be represented with different pieces or combinations of data. Electronically, how does an insurer system know what the broker system is laying down?
This is a problem of standardization. Language standardization, really. What's needed is a common language. Luckily in Canada we have CSIO. CSIO's XML data standard for commercial-lines provides the foundation for different systems to communicate. Automatically. Without human intervention.
Start thinking standardized data
Data is becoming more and more valuable; it's importance in a digital world can't be overstated. If you're assessing your digital strategy, including commercial lines, think about how you are capturing, storing and sharing commercial lines data.
There is no denying that technology is going to continue to play a role in the evolving brokerage. And that's basically what 'being digital' is about - using data and technology to improve the customer and broker experience.