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The Interview: The World Needs More Data? No, Just Some Sumo Logic

Insurance Edge has heard of fuzzy logic, and the Logical Song of course. But what is Sumo Logic and how can it help insurers? We zoomed Colin Fernandes at Sumo Logic to find out more.

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IE; Tell us more about what Sumo Logic does Colin.

CF; Sumo Logic is a cloud-native and software-as-a-service (SaaS) continuous intelligence platform. In practice, that means it helps you collect and centralise data from different places, search and investigate that data, and use it to predict and optimise things in context. This is all about looking at real-time data in the new world, how people consume it, what they want to know and how they are willing to share insights to drive better customer experiences. For insurance companies, this kind of approach is all about making lives easier while protecting both staff and customers.

I’m an IT veteran, starting out in the banking industry many years ago, mainly because my mum wanted me to have a good steady job, she was a banker like my father. I moved into IT about 33 years ago, going through quite a few disruptions in finance and insurance over that time. I joined Sumo Logic because they wanted to disrupt the marketplace with a modern, innovative SaaS platform that could harness good intelligence very quickly.

IE; There’s a great deal of money still going into the insurance sector, Bought By Many was a very large funding announcement recently for example. People will still need cover, despite Corona and the possibility of a recession, won’t they?

CF; Yes, they will. Companies are approaching the coronavirus in different ways. Some are still in a responding mode, but most are now in recovery mode, figuring out how to cope with change and the new way of doing business, i.e. how do I manage costs and optimal capacity at scale? Where is the demand coming from?

The cloud-forward companies that have already made the leap into cloud are really the best-positioned to look ahead and ask themselves, ‘What innovation can we leverage for positive change?’ or ‘How can we adapt, and what products and services can we develop to better help our customers?’

The companies that looked at machine learning and at digital early and have already invested are those that have been the least impacted by coronavirus. They were already interacting with customers with a digital-first mindset, so the loss of those more traditional channels did not hurt them so much. For other companies that had not looked at digital, this has been a massive spur for them. They have had to cram a whole lot of digital implementation that would previously have taken months into the span of a few weeks.

However, this work has been necessary for them to survive and come out the other end of the current crisis. They have learned from their peers and from other customer experiences.

IE; It’s an understatement that there’s lots of data out there that companies generate and that consumers create too. How does Sumo help insurers make sense of all the data that they could gather?

CF; The important thing to look at here, is how you collect, correlate, enrich, centralise and use data in your cloud application stack delivery. Look at your phone, you probably have apps for all sorts of things, and each one of those applications and objects will create and update data every time you use it. At companies, you have a growing volume, velocity and variety of data on your customers, from your content delivery networks, storage, applications, websites, real time video, chat emails, et cetera. You will also have information from your internal systems on how well your IT is performing and complying with any service level objectives and agreements.

All that data is valuable, all data becomes really useful to show what is changing over time. You can see where problems come up in your applications and fix them faster, or you can look at how your decisions affected your website traffic. For example, you can see that a change in your website or your mobile application affected customer conversions – that direct link between IT, applications and customer behaviour is something that you can use to your advantage.

For ten years, Sumo Logic has looked at how companies have grown the amount of data they have and can look at, and how they can take advantage of the transformational trends taking place within that growth, and embrace new innovations. Different types of activities affect the insurance market now, compared to say ten years ago and that in turn has an impact on how companies consume and manage their data. Both Gartner and 451 Research recognize this approach, a new category “Continuous Intelligence”, a continuous cycle of collecting machine data, using machine learning to support your decision making and ensure everything you do is more intelligence-led.

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As an example, we’re just starting to build on our Customer Success program, which lets you monitor all kinds of types of data relating to a customer delivery plan and journey in real time, at scale. Say a customer is frustrated and they head away from your website, it gives you the chance to make contact and offer guidance and support immediately. Consolidating and managing data can reduce large error logs into something more manageable, with quick on-boarding and ready-to-go apps alongside modern dashboards that are easy to search and investigate. The focus should be making things actionable, whether you’re running a cloud-native system, cloud-first, a hybrid one, whatever. All data is valuable.

But there’s more to it than just spotting a trend or a performance problem within the data flow, you also need a system that maintains compliance, at all times, in different highly regulated markets and new threat and attack surfaces on the rise. Today we see that many technologies are infrastructure-led, but we are very much on the entire application stack and integrating operational and business data. You have to consider things like compliance as well of course, because all those transactions are happening in real-time, at scale.

IE; OK, so the real-time data becomes the compliance process itself? It’s interesting that a company like Zego, who offer PAYG insurance for delivery riders, are able to issue a valid electronic cover note in multiple countries, and be compliant within every transaction. I always wondered how that was possible!

CF; That’s what we do – and Zego is the perfect example of that process in action. That data is either structured, or unstructured, and when you get that data, it’s all about the search history, the search query yes? You’ll see peaks and changes in how your customer is responding – all kinds of stuff, and you need to make sense of that flow, as it happens.

There are these new micro-insurers out there that have used cloud services like AWS to build their IT, and they always need more data insights to democratise their delivery. That’s an integral part of their business offer, right? It’s become easier and cheaper to build that kind of approach and culture in the cloud, and then build a business on top of that infrastructure.

IE; Data security has to be an issue when people are logging in on their phones to obtain instant, on-demand insurance and protection?

CF; Of course. Security is a big part of what we are doing at Sumo. We pride ourselves on our Security First principles and our organizational values.

The interesting thing about the insurance world post-coronavirus is that there’s more partnership, more sharing of data between companies. The days of every company being an island of IT that doesn’t connect to the rest of the world are behind us. Instead, you have to collaborate with your partners and your customers, sometimes in silos to share that intelligence and keep your business continuity and operations secure.

IE; That raises the question of how companies in a joint venture can make sure that their partners haven’t got the keys to the whole shop of course?

CF; We are seeing some insurers who don’t have a Cloud-first mentality struggling to let data free from that old school silo approach. But the exciting thing is that we are building something new, based on a shared model that is policy driven, that will work in this brave new world. Cloud services are just as secure – if not more so – than what you can build yourself, if you understand the importance of centralising operations and security services and learn from other industry and community innovations, the insights and best practices that are being deployed now.

Why is this? Because companies can build their own IT stacks and applications, or they can bring in third parties that have done that already at a fraction of the cost. Owning and managing these sets of data might not be core to the business, so getting them as a fully trusted, managed, unified service at scale in real-time, can make a lot of sense. It’s about seeing where doing it yourself might offer a competitive advantage, or where it makes more sense to buy that in.

If you have the right software systems, partner companies and culture – big and small – can benchmark their own performance; detect cyber threats, solve security issues and so on, as they develop new products. You can use that information and compare your approach against your peers. This kind of global benchmarking can be used to show that your team is doing a good job in managing development and security of data, or where there is room for improvement.

New apps need to work within an agile, efficient economics framework, and we see people segmenting development of new products in that way already, because the cost in time, data handling, storage, networks, CDN’s et cetera. all matters in that race to market. You have to be truly flexible with every insurance product now, and make sure that real-time, complete unification of data is underpinning everything that you do.

I remember saying the word `agile’ about five years ago and thinking how new it sounded, but now it’s a given. It’s just the way we do things.

IE; Is Corona going to hit some insurance companies harder than others?

CF: Yes, it will. But then Corona will affect many companies in the wider economy in exactly the same way. Everyone is different in that the immediate shock hits them, and how they respond, recover and adapt to a new normal and market in terms of self-service, demand,trust, new flexible pricing models and real-time distribution.

But you know the companies like airlines and others who are suffering today haven’t stopped analysing their data, or responding to what that data is telling them regarding their customers. No one is informing people what to do when it comes to realigning insurance for the new Covid-19 landscape. Instead, everyone welcomes innovation, trying new things, testing, and extracting the insights that have true meaning and deliver business value, depending on where they are in their digital journey towards being completely data-driven tech companies.

Interesting times ahead for all of us.

IE; Colin thank you, it has been an education!

About alastair walker (3747 Articles)
20 years experience as a journalist and magazine editor. I'm your contact for press releases, events, news and commercial opportunities at Insurance-Edge.Net

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