Big Data Course Plymouth Uni
No small talk for big data: Software Solved spend time with Amazon scientist at Plymouth University
No small talk for big data: Software Solved spend time with Amazon scientist at Plymouth University 629 437 Aneeq Rehman

If you want to learn about how machine learning is being applied in the business world, e-commerce giant Amazon is a good place to start.

Software Solved’s Aneeq ur Rehman spent a week with big data experts including Amazon’s Dr Zhenwen Dai at a course at Plymouth University.

Supported by the Environmental Futures of Big Data Impact Lab, the course was led by Dr Antonia Rago alongside key academic figures from the Mathematical Sciences department including Dr Mu Nui, Dr Matthew Craven, Dr Malgorzata Wojtys and Dr Craig McNeile.

That’s a lot of Doctors – all experts in their respective fields!

Dr Zhenwen Dai, a Machine Learning Scientist at Amazon, whose, research interests include the development of scalable probabilistic models and inference methods for autonomous learning from real world data was one of the keynote speakers who shared his expertise with Aneeq and others on the course on probabilistic approaches to deal with huge volumes of data.

Aneeq, who is at Software Solved as part of our own machine learning research project, running in partnership with Plymouth University and funded by Innovate UK, said: “The course was about enhancing people’s understanding of big data and how to use and derive value from large volumes of data to make smarter decisions. Large volumes of data in machine learning often require flexible models that can imitate the way the human brain processes data and assimilates multiple sources. That was a key aspect of what we learnt.”

Topics covered included Gaussian process, machine learning and neural networks.

  • Dr Mu Niu – overview of Gaussian Process, different models and how they function in theory and practise
  • Dr Matthew Craven and Dr Malgorzata Wojtys – detailed explanation into various machine learning parametric methods
  • Dr Craig McNeile – summary of deep learning and neural networks and running hands-on workshops and exercises to learn more about topological data analysis and high-performance computer facilities.

Aneeq, already a Masters Graduate in Data Science himself, added: “It was a good knowledge sharing platform with a blend of workshops, practical exercises and lectures. We reviewed many interesting topics such as topological data analysis, neural network design and artificial neural networks. In addition to this, we also got insights into some of the cutting-edge research and practices in the world of big data and AI.

There were also intriguing discussions over the use of neural networks and gaussian processes and good comparisons over their use and limitations. Some of it was a good refresher session for me, some of it really new and interesting.

It’s all highly relevant to the research work I’m doing at Software Solved into the application of machine learning and advanced data analytics for risk modelling and mitigation for the insurance sector.

It was great to meet with other students and learn from the academics and other organisations. It’s technical but truly fascinating and a fundamental part of how organisations will operate, interpret and derive value from the data in the 21st century- the advantages of which are manifold.”

Author: Aneeq Ur Rehman is Software Solved’s Knowledge Transfer Partnership Associate from Plymouth University

Software Solved are specialists in giving organisation’s a competitive edge through software and data. Contact 01392 453344 to find out more.

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Case Studies 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

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Machine Learning
Machine Learning 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

Two-Year Project in Machine Learning With University of Plymouth

Funded by Innovate UK, part of UK Research and Innovation, we will work with the university on a major two-year research programme into machine learning and advanced data analytics for the corporate insurance sector.

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Tackling Key Challenges in Client Requirements in the Insurance Sector

Using our expertise in development, machine learning and artificial intelligence, in partnership with The University of Plymouth, we will research and develop ways to use machine learning and AI to gain more accurate assessment of future risk.

This will also allow the leveraging of existing data architectures to model the relationships and interactions to mitigate risk, and to derive true value from the large volumes of datasets collated by business clients.

Machine Learning Project
Machine Learning Project

Machine Learning: The Future for the Insurance Industry

“This is a fantastic opportunity to explore how machine learning can be applied to predict future risks at a level of precision that was unthinkable just a few years ago. It feeds into everything from being able to take the right actions early to reduce risks and create more accurate costings, both in terms of insurance policies and reducing future claims, to more accurate assessment of emerging risks, be that in households or across business.”

Jon Stace, Principal Technical Consultant, Software Solved

Innovate UK Machine Learning Project Team

The Software Solved/Plymouth University Team

If you would like more information on Software Solved and machine learning or if you would be keen to participate in the project, please call: 01392 453333 or email

Insurance Survey: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights
Insurance Survey: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights 1024 683 Simon Hollingworth

The team here at Software Solved love problem solving. We’re pleased to share some of our useful resources and insights with you. These have been selected based on the areas we’ve helped our clients with. We hope you find them useful and if there’s anything we can do to help you, we’d love to talk to you.

We love solving technical problems. We’re pleased to share some of our useful resources and insights from our work developing bespoke software for clients.
Insurance: Unlocking the Power of Data to Produce Actionable Insights
Data has been called the new oil, the lifeblood and a valuable currency. So, insurers are fortunate in that most have vast amounts of this most precious commodity. But, are they maximising its potential or is it too often an untapped resource?

There’s no doubt some insurers are starting to leverage the value in their data, even if an elite group is starting to pull away from the rest of the pack. However, as the rise of InsurTech shows, size is no barrier since smaller providers can prove highly effective through using with the right technology and, not least, having a forward-thinking mind-set when it comes to sharing data.

Whether or not insurance is playing a big enough role in the data revolution is a moot point. The technology now exists to connect legacy systems, while machine learning and analytics allow for transformational work to take place, with the goal for many insurers being to turn their data into actionable insights. The question is, will this remain a goal or become a reality?

Software Solved, who work with a range of large and small insurers to deliver Risk & Claims Management Systems as well as data rich Customer Portals, are seeking to better understand this crucial area and so we conducted a research project, in conjunction with Insurance Post. This involved speaking to around 60 providers, covering commercial and personal lines, and with those providing opinions including directors and professionals from various disciplines including underwriting, claims, risk management and IT.

Download this report from an in-depth analysis of the research findings.

System Audits in the Insurance Industry
System Audits in the Insurance Industry 1024 658 Simon Hollingworth

The insurance industry is frequently accused of being slow to adapt. We often hear about the burden of legacy systems and how they cause problems for the industry.

It’s no surprise when you consider the scope, disruption and cost of updating a legacy system. Yet, with so much money left on the table and businesses at risk from more agile competitors, insurance firms must face up to modernisation.

So, when is the right time to maintain, modernise or completely replace a legacy system? This is a difficult question to answer, but regular system audits can help solve this problem.

Adapting legacy systems

As the insurance industry grew and developed, systems had to adapt to meet the demand. This meant patches and updates beyond a system’s original scope, which complicated them.

Many of the legacy systems used in the insurance industry will be decades old. Countless updates will have transformed them, adapting to each new regulation or requirement.

Modernising or replacing a system can be a big risk for an organisation. Nobody wants to disrupt business critical systems. What if the new system doesn’t work as intended? Or your clients and customers don’t like the changes?

If a system stopped working one day, the decision to invest in something new would be much simpler. But it won’t. It will keep plugging along. A new process here; a rushed update there.

That’s the problem. Legacy systems still ‘work’. But how well?

When should you update a legacy system?

A system audit looks at how your organisation uses all your systems. It gives you precise usage data and identifies priorities for modernisation or replacement.

This is often invaluable when trying to build a business case for investing in new software. Without this information, it’s almost impossible to assess the true value of an update.

In short, system audits help answer the question of whether you should maintain, modernise or replace a legacy system.

New technologies in the insurance industry

So, why has the insurance industry been slow to update ageing legacy systems? According to a survey by Willis Towers Watson, 42% of senior level executives believe that complex regulations slow digital adoption and innovation.

It would be easy to dismiss new technology as another regulatory hurdle to overcome. In reality, the insurance industry stands to gain more from developments such as the Internet of Things or data visualisation than most. More data points and machine learning assist with risk profiling, as well as the accurate and timely provision of data.

Of course, firms shouldn’t adopt these technologies in isolation. You should consider them in relation to the impact they will have on the performance and security of existing systems.

Again, a regular system audit helps ease the adoption of new technologies. It considers your entire system network, identifying appropriate solutions for the wider business.

Systems audits and business agility

We know that global insurance firms are being disrupted by more nimble competitors. Today, more than ever, business agility is imperative to remaining competitive. Firms must adapt to new models and ways of operating quicker than ever before.

For example, the market is currently experiencing a trend towards self-service and customer experience. Whilst this is most prominent in consumer insurance, we know from our own experience that corporate and commercial insurance isn’t that far behind.

How do you know when to adopt these new practices and technologies? A system audit builds a picture of how your business uses its systems so that you can prioritise accordingly. In other words, it helps a business stay agile.

By understanding your current systems, it is easier to assess the value of new technology. You become better informed and can be quicker to adapt when it is necessary.

Instead of reacting to changes, firms who use system audits can proactively plan for them. It creates a forward thinking culture, rather than one that is always fighting fires with patches and updates.

Which, if we’re being honest, is something that the insurance industry needs to be better prepared for.

If your business needs support with an external system audit.

Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry
Why Customer Portals are Key for the Insurance Industry 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

Today’s customer has certain expectations about how they will interact with businesses and organisations. Naturally, this extends to the insurance industry – covering both commercial and domestic markets. This consumer expects to be able to get the information they need, whenever and wherever they want – and in a way that makes sense to them. This isn’t something particularly ground breaking, the importance of customer/user experience is well known – we’ve even blogged about it before – Could a poor user experience be damaging your business?

It may surprise you to learn then that certain industries, insurance amongst them, have been slow on the uptake with things like customer portals. The insurance industry is also one that could gain far more than others from implementing customer portals. Giving customers instant and easy access to contracts, schedules, T’s&C’s, and other useful information, such as their risk profile, makes their life easier, and also saves the insurers valuable time and money as well. In an industry where new business is hard to come by, and customer loyalty is a top priority, the importance of this is easy to see.

Carefree Customer Communication

Communication is key to any business, and it’s the least customers will expect. Plus points for the customer portal here then. With information centrally stored and easy to access, 24 hours a day, there can be no more confusion about who is sending what to whom, and if something has got lost in the post or a Junk mailbox.

It also means it is far easier for insurers to update documents and information, without having to resend everything to customers. Update the centrally stored file, and voila. The whole process just became simpler and far more efficient – not to mention the time and money savings to be had as well.

Tailor Made Customer Experience

We talked briefly about the importance of customer experience, and linked to our blog as well. Customer portals are an extremely simple way to improve this. Let me explain, the customer portal is an environment over which the insurer has complete control. I.e. they can decide how it looks and what messages are displayed to what customers. This will ring especially true for those of you in marketing – getting the right message to the right people is the biggest battle.

It also means insurers can adapt the portal to the feedback that they get from customers. Do they want more information on latest offerings? Or would they like more visibility on their risk profiles and how they can be improved? All of it is possible within a customer portal.

Happy Customers = Loyal Customers

Customers value businesses that give them the opportunity to interact the way they would like to. This means giving them easy access to any information they may need or may be relevant to them. If they have to fight against a poorly designed website, or have to phone a helpline to receive a simple document, the experience quickly becomes frustrating. Frustrated customers are far less likely to renew.

Many of these points are quite simple, and may seem obvious, but they are far too often overlooked. In an increasingly crowded industry, where customer loyalty is becoming more and more important, insurers cannot overlook the value to be gained from something as simple as a well-designed customer portal.

If you’d like to know more about our work in the Insurance industry – click here.

Alternatively, if you’d like a free consultation about implementing a customer portal for your business, talk to us today.

Why Insurers Need to Reconsider the Insider Threat
Why Insurers Need to Reconsider the Insider Threat 150 150 Simon Hollingworth

When companies think of the insider threat, their thoughts will usually go to people inside the firewall who are the cause of data breaches or security lapses. This can be either intentional or accidental, and both should be of equal concern and can be equally damaging.

Most companies, especially those concerned with the insider threat will have measures in place to try to mitigate and minimise these risks. Ensuring employee’s update passwords, store USB drives securely and have a good understanding of system security.

The insider threat from legacy technology is however, too often overlooked.

The risk of legacy systems

With companies, especially insurers, spending so much on their technology it is perhaps understandable that they are reluctant to maintain this investment through updates and replacements year on year. When you know replacing a system is going to be extremely costly it becomes a much less attractive proposition. This is a dangerous trap though.

With each year that the system ages, it is another year out-of-date with current security threats, both internal and external. As systems and technologies evolve, so do the threats to those systems and many of the systems that companies rely on are simply not up to the task.

The growing skills gap

As systems age and get more out of date every year, so do the skills available within the company. Increasingly, companies are finding that those who implemented the systems, and maintained them are approaching retiring age or have left the company already. This leaves a worrying skills gap – companies are relying on aged systems that no one has the skills to upgrade or maintain.

It is a tough sell to convince new employee’s to learn and take on out-of-date code and technology as well, meaning the solutions are rather limited.

The risks here a real. You can spend millions of pounds securing your network but if it relies on an out-of-date system that is not being properly updated and maintained because no one knows how, access points will undoubtedly appear.

How to minimise the risk of legacy systems

A data security audit

This will give you an idea of where your data is stored, and how securely, and whether any legacy systems are affecting this. This is particularly crucial in the run up to GDPR going live next year.

Health check or IT audit

If you want to fully understand the vulnerabilities of your systems, then a health check is a relatively low cost way of doing so. This will also provide you with appropriate next steps to remedy any glaring issues.

Business Process Mapping (BPM)

This will help to identify any weaknesses or inefficiencies in your wider processes. Eliminating these helps to reduce the risk of legacy systems by keeping things as simple as possible, where there is less chance for things to go wrong.

If legacy systems continue to remain in place, with no checking and little to no maintenance, they present as much of an insider threat as rogue or careless employees do. The insurance industry, as do others, need to take note and start to properly assess the extent of the problems they face.

For more information on managing your legacy systems, ring for a free consultation on 020 7127 4558.

Alternatively, talk to us today, we’d love to hear from you.

Drivers for change in the insurance sector
Drivers for change in the insurance sector 150 150 Simon Gibbs

In a recent blog, ‘Insurance sector need to embrace technology’, we looked at why insurance firms needed to embrace digital solutions, and steps they could take to achieve positive change. In this blog, we are going to look at the benefits that can be gained by updating outdated and inefficient manual systems.

Benefits of technology and digital transformation for insurance companies

Here is an insight into just three of the benefits that can be achieved from updating outdated systems:

A more enjoyable customer experience

There’s no doubt that customer experience is now a key part of business strategy across a range of sectors, and the insurance industry cannot risk being left behind.

Across almost every aspect of their lives, customers are used to, and in fact expect to, interact easily with technology, and for it to be on hand across all their devices, at all times of the day. Customers don’t want to have to work harder than necessary to find information, so any updates to your systems or customer portals need to be made with the end user firmly in mind.

Equally, staff and investors are starting to demand innovation from the insurance sector. Investors for example might be looking for innovation to help bring down the cost of premiums or reducing pay-outs. Discover how we developed software for QBE, enabling them to significantly reduce their loss ratio.

Better regulation through data transparency

One of the main barriers to the adoption of innovative digital solutions is the complex regulatory requirements that bind insurance firms. In reality, these new technologies actually help with the regulatory landscape and improve efficiency.

Developments in data visualisation and analytics, helps insurance firms leverage customer and risk profiling data more efficiently. These visual reports not only generate better insight leading to more informed business decisions, but also ensure the accurate and timely provision of data that doesn’t rely on manual imputing.

Read how we helped RSA do just that to win Insurance Software of the Year.

Staying ahead of the competition

A recent KPMG survey showed that 48{7465c2450dcd042996416963879c72771606ba211532680daeb6e67dd6282842} of global insurance companies are experiencing disruption from new, agile competitors.

However, it is not just start-ups that need to be watched, increased competition from existing competitors will create significant challenges in the future if organisations don’t move to embrace digital solutions.

Those that look to immediately embrace the latest technology, or look to use what they have more effectively will give themselves a significant advantage; it is the traditional competitor who grasps the technology first that will be in the driving seat.

When approached correctly, these drivers for change can lead to an improved customer experience, create more efficient working practices as well as give your organisation a competitive edge, all of which will increase productivity and cut costs.

Are you ready to capitalise on technology for future business growth? We have a deep understanding of technology and the challenges facing insurers so why not talk to us today?

Why Business Analysts are crucial for Digital Transformation
Why Business Analysts are crucial for Digital Transformation 150 150 Graham Douglas

These days it isn’t enough to simply be more efficient than your competitors; the most successful companies are those which embrace digital transformation and provide radical new services.

But it can be difficult to know how to go about making the change, and even where to start. That’s where the specialist skills of a Business Analyst (BA) can really help.

Business analysts can play a key role in helping companies to take the necessary steps to identify those innovations and transform their services to become digital organisations.

What is Digital Transformation?

Digital transformation is much more than simply improving your business through the use of technology.

Transformation means the creation of completely new innovations that were not previously possible. We are not talking about a one or two step improvement in the efficiency of traditional practices, but a profound change to the kind of work being done and services provided. A perfect example is how Amazon has changed the retail industry, or the impact Uber is having on taxi services.

What makes digital transformation different is not just the emphasis on customer experience, but that the example of companies like Google and Amazon has raised customer expectations so high that speed, simplicity, convenience, and personalisation are the new norms for all organisations think about a charity taking contactless donations or customers managing insurance claims from mobile apps.

How Business Analysts can help with your digital transformation

Business analysts are specialists in change and the process of change. This means they have a toolkit of knowledge and techniques which are specifically relevant for transformational thinking.

A good BA offers many advantages. Here are some of them:

  • Critical analysis. The ability to think in the abstract without being constrained by existing systems or the current ways of doing things.
  • Planning and facilitation of ideas and requirements workshops.
  • Has an external view of the organisation and its practices; they are able to bring a fresh pair of eyes.
  • Takes nothing for granted and asks the obvious questions that otherwise may be taken for granted.
  • Has a breadth of experience from working across different industry sectors; can introduce ideas from other industries and suggest what they have seen work in other companies.
  • Provides the bridge between the business and developers by translating complicated user requirements into technical specifications.
  • Politically neutral without baggage or vested interests, which removes any barriers which may exist to stakeholders and participants voicing their ideas and contributions.
  • Gravitas; working with an independent BA can add to the status and credibility of a project.

Customer expectations are higher than ever, which means the pressure is on for companies to have a better understanding of their customers’ needs and to translate those needs into innovative technology solutions. A business analyst can play a key role to help companies reach that goal.

To start your digital transformation with one of our Business Analysts get in touch today.

Do you need a data whisperer (data analyst)?
Do you need a data whisperer (data analyst)? 150 150 Kindy Mann

In recent blogs we have provided some practical steps to help you both identify your data and undertake an audit.

But once you’ve finished your data audit and have a clearer understanding of where your data sources are saved, in what format, who they are used by and for what you then have the next challenge of taking this information and creating a plan to help you start realising and releasing the potential it holds.

If this leaves you dreading getting stuck in it becoming a task that is continually moved to the bottom of the to do list maybe it’s time to find a data whisperer (data analyst)?

What can an experienced data analyst bring to the party?

As with any task it can be really handy to have someone on hand with speciliast skills and experience to either undertake the task or, provide advice on how best to approach it.

This is where a data analyst or ‘data whisperer’ can add real value and provide intepretations of your data that will allow you to make more informed business decisions.

3 ways a data analyst can help your business

  • Extract and combine – a data analyst has the experience, skills and ability to take data of all varieties such as sales figures, time management stats, invoicing and combine them to create one central set of data to work from.
  • Manipulate and identify – once the data is combined and they have an understanding of what you would like to achieve they will work to manipulate the data source(s) to identify key pieces of information that will allow you to make better and more informed deciisons.
  • Data visualisation – once the value has been identified it’s important for data to be presented in a visual way. It’s well known that visuals are far easier to process than vast amounts of numbers, they also help make it easier to identify patterns. A data analyst will help prepare a series of dashboards that will see your data visualised and allow you to continue viewing and making data driven decisions.

If you’re unsure if a data analyst is right for you, why not discover how it resulted in QBE being able to access accurate insurance trends.

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