Rapid Company Growth Creates Data-Synchronization Challenge
ICICI Prudential Life Insurance Company is a joint venture between ICICI Bank—one of India's foremost financial services companies—and Prudential plc, a leading international financial services group headquartered in the United Kingdom. ICICI Prudential began operations in 2000, and the company's nationwide reach currently includes 1,960 branches as well as more than 237,000 advisors and six bank assurance partners. Total capital infusion for the bank is Rs. 47.80 billion with ICICI Bank holding a stake of 74% and Prudential plc holding 26%.
To support and service a rapidly-growing customer base, the company has quickly matured its IT systems during the past several years by deploying best-in-market solutions and technologies. A variety of automated information systems with multiple sources of data had also evolved. And as knowledge workers required more customer data to perform their jobs, this led to a higher degree of capability required from the business intelligence system. Report requests were overloading the transaction system and causing performance degradations while also requiring greater computing capacity. The siloed approach to business intelligence that was in place at the time also limited the company's ability to correlate across systems and led to constraints in data analytics.
"As a result, there were times when the same set of data was interpreted differently by different users. and this was a challenge." says Chaya Pisupati, Senior Vice President-Information Technology for ICICI Prudential. "We were also running the business intelligence load on our mainframe-based core application, which was not an ideal solution."
Storing Consistent Data While Meeting Unique Reporting Needs
To address the challenge, ICICI Prudential defined an information architecture framework. It then created a roadmap that included development of an active data warehouse that would act as a single database platform into which all data would flow and allow the company to create 'a single version of the truth' . To consolidate all reporting requirements through a single platform, the IT team needed a strong technology platform on which business units could run analytical reports.
"The platform not only needed to cater to the particular information needs of each business unit, but it also needed to generate report from the same single source of data while meeting performance objectives" says Dipak Nair, Vice President-Information Technology for ICICI Prudential.
The new information architecture suggested that ICICI Prudential should build functional data marts for targeted business units that would allow focused data analytics by the function. The company took this approach because different business units—such as sales, finance, business operations and customer service—had different needs for analytics, and empowering end users was one of the key objectives for the project. By design, the primary data for each data mart comes from the common data warehouse.
"We needed the flexibility to allow each operational area to generate unique reports for its particular information needs without impacting the workstreams," Dipak Nair says. "We took-on this challenge by segregating the two requirements: business applications for day-to-day customer transaction processing, and a data warehouse for reporting and analytics."
Sybase ASE and Sybase IQ Combine To Meet Dual Requirements
The complexity of integrating data across transaction applications before transferring the data into the warehouse required the architecture to include a strong transaction database that could facilitate faster transformations. The architecture also required an optimal report-database platform for end-user analytics and querying. "We also wanted to make sure end users were unaware of the complexity of the business and the underlying systems, and thus the design demanded a lot of data pre-processing with derivations and aggregations before being fed into the warehouse," Dipak Nair says.
ICICI Prudential found the integrated answer it needed for the database and data warehouse in Sybase ASE, a transaction database platform, and Sybase IQ, a data warehouse reporting platform. Data flows into Sybase ASE from source systems including a mainframe-based application. ASE transforms the data so it can be fed into the Sybase IQ warehouse, which processes the reports and analytics requests. With ASE handling real-time transaction processing and transformations, and with Sybase IQ providing report-generation capabilities, both functions run optimally.
"This new information architecture, along with a new strategy for how information flows (to whom and in what form), has allowed our users to generate reports in near real-time based on current data," Dipak Nair says. "."
ICICI Prudential built data marts on top of Sybase IQ with a combination of leading ETL(extract, transform and load),BI & analytics tools providers
"Sybase IQ does not mandate that we use a particular hardware platform like some other platforms require," Dipak Nair says. "This approach can be less expensive and allows customers to decide which hardware platform to use. And because Sybase technology requires less computing power than more complex databases, the hardware costs were reduced even further."
Lowering the overall cost of the project was a major key to allowing ICICI Prudential to proceed with the project as the payback period for the stated ROI was achievable faster.. The Sybase IQ architecture in particular was helpful because it allows for multiple readers and multiple writers, which further reduces hardware requirements and allows flexibility and ease in managing scalability.
Fast and Accurate Information Improves Customer Financial and Insurance Programs
The Sybase solution has been enthusiastically received by ICICI Prudential business users. Information made available from the warehouse through various mediums has enabled the sales staff to stay up-to-date with their business performance, customer service personnel can now provide accurate information quickly to customers while senior managers have a more accurate picture of how the business is performing in real-time through top-line reporting.
The solution also provides sales and distribution channel groups with key performance indicator reporting and enables process efficiencies that can be applied through system performance analytics as well as improved portfolio performance analysis and customer-retention analysis.
"To service our customers properly, we constantly need to analyze how well our insurance and investment programs perform," says Chaya Pisupati. "The sooner we compile accurate data, the sooner we can make changes to the direction of a particular program. The new 'single version of the truth' pertaining to each customer that we have achieved with the help of Sybase allows us to aggregate data so that we can see how the company as a whole is performing and make sure we do the necessary things to ensure efficiencies and accuracy in decisions."
For the Senior Management and Strategists the right amount of information backed by a strong analytics framework is of paramount importance. They need unprecedented decision support for addressing short and long term objectives for the business.
The Sybase solution has also lowered the total cost of ownership of the database transaction and reporting system by 50 percent, and major reports query times have been reduced from 16 hours to 8 hours i.e. almost half the time from what was required earlier. The Sybase technology has also reduced the required storage by allowing data compression rates of up to 45%.
But more importantly, with the help of Sybase technology, ICICI Prudential can now help customers more effectively and to a greater extent because employees have immediate access to accurate, up-to-date information. "As for the channel management and sales organization, providing the correct information at the right time so that we can help them make challenging decisions is paramount to performing sales jobs effectively. The new sales information systems series powered by the warehouse allows us to aggregate data so that we can see how the company as a whole is performing and make sure we do the necessary things to ensure efficiencies and accuracy in decisions," said Dipak Nair, Vice President IT, ICICI Prudential Life.