Say What You Mean

If we were given the choice of eliminating one word from the language, it might be proprietary. Aside from the fact that it could mean as many things as there are people who want to consider whatever it is they want to consider proprietary, the term is particularly problematic when it’s applied to data.

In the insurance industry, to cite just one example, system replacements are nightmares in part because of the data they contain. First that data has to be converted; that is, the data from System A has to be changed into a format that plays nice with System B. Then the data has to be normalized; that is, it has to be organized into columns (attributes) and tables (relations) to reduce redundancy and improve integrity. After that, it has to be standardized; that is, similar data in dissimilar formats has to be changed to a common format that enhances the comparison process. So, North might change to a value of N or n, without overwriting the original format: North.

Are We Nuts?

Albert Einstein once said, “In theory, theory and practice are the same. In practice, they’re different.” Given that, it might be safest to consider the possibility of one common data language for all insurance systems, companies, and transactions to be more theory than practice … at least for now. And it would almost certainly require the elimination of proprietary as it pertains to insurance data. (Proprietary should not be confused with private. Proprietary is a bugaboo and a detriment. Privacy is a necessity and an asset.)

Speaking of theory, what if someone developed an English-like, WYSIWYG language for creating and deploying business rules in your software? What if that language minimized data-entry and service-staff requirements? And what if that language enabled your data to say what it means and mean what it says?

The very suggestion might be nuts. But it can’t be any nuttier than the proprietary means by which the insurance industry has historically treated, converted, normalized, and standardized data.

One last question: What if that language were more practice than theory right now?

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