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CASE STUDY - Nationwide Insurance Transforms the Business with Innovative and Award-Winning Finance Data Management Initiative


Commentary by Lance Dacre, Director, Data Governance, Nationwide Insurance
The Challenge

Nationwide Insurance is one of the world’s largest diversified insurance and financial services organizations. With hundreds of legacy applications scattered across dozens of lines of business, functional units, subsidiary companies, and geographies, Nationwide faced issues common to many other large enterprises—inconsistent data, poor visibility, and subpar data governance and reporting capabilities.

From the CFO’s office to departmental analysts, Nationwide personnel struggled with contradictory data across multiple transactional systems for planning, budgeting, forecasting, risk management, and global consolidations that compromised their ability to make fact-based decisions. The company faced multiple “versions of the truth” as a result of system proliferation, including:

  • 12 reporting systems
  • 14 general ledgers
  • 17 data repositories
  • 20 charts of accounts
  • 300,000 Excel spreadsheets

For a large, data-driven company, Nationwide’s problems were not particularly unique. What was unique was Nationwide’s far-reaching vision in addressing the challenge. It incorporated advanced capabilities to manage and analyze metadata—the proverbial “data about data”—as a key foundational element in a revamped finance data management platform that it called FOCUS.

By building FOCUS atop a metadata-driven data integration architecture, Nationwide foresaw opportunities for a single, enterprisewide system that consolidated metadata from multiple systems to give both business and IT personnel a powerful and incisive toolset to better understand and manage complex business dynamics. By using metadata, Nationwide recognized that it could:

  • Build confidence in the data that drives the business by tracking data lineage, managing data governance, and ensuring data validation
  • Improve business users’ understanding of interrelated data across systems
  • Improve data visibility, quality, and financial reporting
  • Simplify change management and impact analysis for IT
  • Slash the time and expense of manual data review and reconciliation
The Solution

Nationwide chose Informatica PowerCenter Advanced Edition (AE) because of past success with the data integration platform in several smaller deployments, its broad scalability, and its proven ease of use. Nationwide found PowerCenter AE’s robust metadata management and analysis capabilities an essential ingredient for cross-enterprise data visibility.

PowerCenter provides the data integration backbone to source from 200 legacy applications—a diverse collection of homegrown systems, packaged software, and mainframe flat files—to an NCR Teradata–based financial data warehouse with some 450 gigabytes of data. More than 2,000 analysts across multiple business units use Hyperion business intelligence tools and an Essbase OLAP engine for reporting and analysis against the warehouse, a data mart, and eight multidimensional OLAP cubes.

Metadata Management Benefits for Business and IT

A key feature of PowerCenter AE called Metadata Manager helps to ensure data consistency across the FOCUS ecosystem by giving business and IT users new capabilities to understand and adapt to data changes across systems. By ensuring the quality of business, technical, and operational metadata, Nationwide shares a common vocabulary so that data is created and understood based on standardized definitions.

Definition of Data Governance

The processes, policies, standards, organization, and technologies required to manage and ensure the availability, accessibility, quality, consistency, auditability, and security of data in a company or institution.

Connectivity to metadata sources was established through prebuilt PowerCenter connectors, as well as custom metadata configurators. Built-in capabilities for authentication and authorization govern which users have access to what data, based on roles and responsibilities. Data lineage provides the ability to track who changed what data, where, and when, to help satisfy auditing requirements.

PowerCenter extracts from the metadata sources—amounting to about three million rows of data—every four hours to update a dashboard used by about 60 Nationwide business users to track field definitions and metrics in the information delivery layer. These self-service capabilities enable business users to substantially reduce the time required to validate, analyze, and report on financial processes. They also reduce the time IT spends handling business user inquiries.

Separate weekly extracts consolidate FOCUS technical metadata into a single, searchable repository. With PowerCenter AE, about 40 Nationwide IT professionals have realized breakthrough capabilities for impact analysis and change management. With Metadata Manager, PowerCenter AE provides clear visibility into data relationships and the ripple effects of change, and helps identify redundancies and streamline data flows and models.

Importantly, PowerCenter AE provides visibility and reporting into Nationwide’s Kalido master data management system. It propagates master data across the ERP financial systems, data warehouse, and data mart, and provides a comparison of Kalido-generated master data dimensions and hierarchies across the target systems.

The first two FOCUS iterations went live in February 2006 to cover planning, budgeting, allocations, forecasting, risk management, regulatory reporting, and other functions across five subsidiary companies. Concurrent with the FOCUS rollout, Nationwide built out a financial data governance organization that included business and IT stakeholders, and implemented processes that defined ownership and responsibility for data and metadata across the company. The organization relies on PowerCenter AE to help establish, monitor, and enforce data governance policies.

Nationwide has achieved a single, authoritative source of enterprise finance data, resulting in more accurate and reliable forecasting, streamlined operations, and a greater ability for the finance department to serve as a true business partner and strategic advisor to groups across the company.
Lance Dacre, Nationwide Insurance

The Results

Transform the Business with Timely, Reliable, and Accurate Information
With PowerCenter AE, Nationwide has improved its ability to track, analyze, and manage business dynamics across its highly complex data architecture. Metadata Manager provides access to a comprehensive metadata repository that enables highly granular analysis of lineage and change impact. That visibility is indispensable in satisfying auditability requirements, complying with Sarbanes-Oxley, and instilling confidence in the integrity of Nationwide’s financial information, while reducing by days the time required for manual review and rework.

Reduce Costs by Automating Manual IT and Business Processes
PowerCenter AE has eliminated costly and time-consuming chores for both business users and IT professionals. Prebuilt connectivity and ease of use has substantially reduced the time IT administrators spend maintaining disparate systems, reconciling discrepancies, and custom-coding new interfaces. In the business, Nationwide has cut the number of days required to close its books in half—from 15 days to 7.

“Future-Proof” Extensibility for Business Growth and Adaptation
Built on open standards and a flexible architecture, PowerCenter positions Nationwide to rapidly extend its FOCUS financial platform to meet such challenges as mergers and acquisitions and tightened integration with related customer and product data management systems. For instance, Nationwide is in the process of retiring a set of legacy UNIX scripts used for back-end ETL control processes and migrating those to PowerCenter AE.

Gain Insight and Competitive Advantage by Consolidating General Ledgers and Procurement
On the finance side, the PowerCenter-based FOCUS platform has enabled the consolidation of 14 general ledgers into a single PeopleSoft general ledger used by more than 150 people. PowerCenter’s flexibility has enabled Nationwide to add new interfaces that increase the number of sources and load frequency. On the spend side, FOCUS has enabled the consolidation of multiple procurement systems. Now, a single view of suppliers and a transparent purchasing process have positioned Nationwide to negotiate better deals with vendors.

TDWI 2006 Best Practices Award
For its innovative FOCUS finance data management initiative, Nationwide won a TDWI 2006 Best Practices Award in the master data management category. “FOCUS has had a profound business impact across all aspects of Nationwide’s operations, literally reinventing the way finance services are performed and delivered to the enterprise,” said Lance Dacre, director of data governance for Nationwide. “Nationwide has achieved a single, authoritative source of enterprise finance data, resulting in more accurate and reliable forecasting, streamlined operations, and a greater ability for the finance department to serve as a true business partner and strategic advisor to groups across the company.”


This article originally appeared in the issue of .

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