Risk Administration Services Qlik Sense

Post: Risk Administration Services Achieves Faster Data Delivery and Freedom to Innovate

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A Vision of Growth

Risk Administration Services is a rapidly growing workers’ compensation insurance company serving the upper midwest, great plains, and western regions of the U.S.

With the implementation of Qlik Sense at RAS, departments throughout the company such as sales, marketing, finance, loss control, claims, legal, and E-learning are undergoing a cultural shift with data. They are getting information much faster and fully utilizing it to analyze and create strategies.

When Risk Administration Services (RAS) and their Chief Information Technology Officer Chirag Shukla began their business intelligence journey, they knew they needed a tool that would align with their long term vision of growth. Up until this point, Excel spreadsheets and reports from an existing BI tool had been widely used throughout the company, but not without limitations. It became difficult to sift through multi-page reports for information that would best be utilized and explained through visualizations.

“Version control gives us that confidence knowing any changes are tracked and we can easily revert back. That leads to innovation. That leads to making courageous decisions.” — Chirag Shukla, CTO at RAS

Qlik Sense Transformed RAS

Thus, they began shopping around and comparing market-leading BI tools before deciding upon Qlik Sense. “We found that Qlik was one of the fastest visualization tools, not only to develop but also to analyze,” said Chirag Shukla. After implementing Qlik Sense in less than two hours, they found that by replacing BI reports with dashboards, data consumption and literacy took a complete 180. Their user community went from leveraging data as little as once per week to once an hour.

But What About Change Management

Although Qlik Sense dashboards revolutionized the way RAS consumed data, there were still some problems with change management. Initially, they tried to manually document changes which quickly became too complicated to manage. They were finding it increasingly difficult to see what formulas (e.g. sum average, minimum/maximum, etc.) had changed between publications and knew they needed an immediate solution. Their first instinct was to use an API to manage load scripts but since they had become a dashboard-centric company thanks to Qlik, they were still in the dark about how the visualizations themselves had changed. Not to mention, the continuous refresh of data led to lots of questions about it within their finance department, causing Chirag and the BI development team to traverse through a user’s work in order to identify when, where, and how things had changed.

This less than intuitive process of investigation ultimately brought them to the question, “Why are we doing this ourselves? There should be software that should be able to do this and there should be people in the marketplace,” asked Chirag. It was at this point they began to search for a software solution that would offer them the version control capabilities they so desperately needed. Welcome, Soterre.

A Solution Is Discovered

Ryan Buschert, one of the senior developers at Risk Administration Services was attending Qlik’s annual conference when he discovered the software answer they’d been looking for. A bulleted point about a product being able to deploy a piece of an application instead of the whole thing caught his eye because up until that moment he was used to “all or none” deployment. Upon further investigation he quickly realized that this same software included what RAS needed; a version control feature for Qlik Sense. That booth was Motio and the product was Soterre.

Bring On The Version Control

Installing Soterre was quick and painless, plus, it worked synergistically with the Qlik Sense platform they had come to know and love. It became increasingly apparent that the addition of Soterre would provide numerous benefits, some obvious, and some completely unexpected. First, it dramatically sped up their ability to analyze, making version control effortless. “It’s nice to have it there as a safeguard so if we need to roll something back quickly we can, all without having to go through version-controlled scripts to figure out what changed and when. Now we can just point, click, and find the answer. The amount of time we’re saving percentage-wise is a huge number,” stated Ryan.

With Soterre in place, their finance department no longer had to worry about data quality, which led to far fewer discrepancies and questions. It even changed how Ryan approached development itself. “If I was making a major change before we had Soterre, I would make a copy before the change in case I needed to go back, but now I don’t have to do that anymore,” said Ryan.

A Competitive Edge With Audit Quality

Risk Administration Services is continuously growing and subsequently, is always searching for ways to improve and add more maturity to its organizational compliance. As an insurance company, both internal and external audits are extremely important. Soterre gives RAS a competitive edge in this domain with controls over the development life cycle. They can quickly pull up Qlik to show how they internally analyze information along with Soterre that records any sort of change, who changed it, and when, and so on.

“Compliance-wise, Soterre is going to give us a competitive edge.”

An Unexpected Benefit – Innovation

Aside from the version control capabilities Risk Administration Services so desperately desired, it gave them other unexpected benefits as well. Ask anyone from a development background and they’ll tell you how important something like version control truly is. It’s important in the fact that it makes the life of a developer easier, but equally important is the confidence it gives the person using it. For Chirag and the team, it gave them the confidence to make bold decisions knowing that everything was being tracked, and should they need to revert back it was nothing more than a simple click.

This newfound confidence led to more courageous decision making, which in turn led to a surge in innovation because the fear of making mistakes had virtually been eliminated. This sudden increase in confidence-driven innovation perfectly supports the future goals of RAS as they continue to expand.

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Qlik Sense dashboards have accelerated the delivery of information at RAS enabling them to triple its data consumption.

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As the BI space evolves, organizations must take into account the bottom line of amassing analytics assets.
The more assets you have, the greater the cost to your business. There are the hard costs of keeping redundant assets, i.e., cloud or server capacity. Accumulating multiple versions of the same visualization not only takes up space, but BI vendors are moving to capacity pricing. Companies now pay more if you have more dashboards, apps, and reports. Earlier, we spoke about dependencies. Keeping redundant assets increases the number of dependencies and therefore the complexity. This comes with a price tag.
The implications of asset failures differ, and the business’s repercussions can be minimal or drastic.
Different industries have distinct regulatory requirements to meet. The impact may be minimal if a report for an end-of-year close has a mislabeled column that the sales or marketing department uses, On the other hand, if a healthcare or financial report does not meet the needs of a HIPPA or SOX compliance report, the company and its C-level suite may face severe penalties and reputational damage. Another example is a report that is shared externally. During an update of the report specs, the low-level security was incorrectly applied, which caused people to have access to personal information.
The complexity of assets influences their likelihood of encountering issues.
The last thing a business wants is for a report or app to fail at a crucial moment. If you know the report is complex and has a lot of dependencies, then the probability of failure caused by IT changes is high. That means a change request should be taken into account. Dependency graphs become important. If it is a straightforward sales report that tells notes by salesperson by account, any changes made do not have the same impact on the report, even if it fails. BI operations should treat these reports differently during change.
Not all reports and dashboards fail the same; some reports may lag, definitions might change, or data accuracy and relevance could wane. Understanding these variations aids in better risk anticipation.

Marketing uses several reports for its campaigns – standard analytic assets often delivered through marketing tools. Finance has very complex reports converted from Excel to BI tools while incorporating different consolidation rules. The marketing reports have a different failure mode than the financial reports. They, therefore, need to be managed differently.

It’s time for the company’s monthly business review. The marketing department proceeds to report on leads acquired per salesperson. Unfortunately, half the team has left the organization, and the data fails to load accurately. While this is an inconvenience for the marketing group, it isn’t detrimental to the business. However, a failure in financial reporting for a human resource consulting firm with 1000s contractors that contains critical and complex calculations about sickness, fees, hours, etc, has major implications and needs to be managed differently.

Acknowledging that assets transition through distinct phases allows for effective management decisions at each stage. As new visualizations are released, the information leads to broad use and adoption.
Think back to the start of the pandemic. COVID dashboards were quickly put together and released to the business, showing pertinent information: how the virus spreads, demographics affected the business and risks, etc. At the time, it was relevant and served its purpose. As we moved past the pandemic, COVID-specific information became obsolete, and reporting is integrated into regular HR reporting.
Reports and dashboards are crafted to deliver valuable insights for stakeholders. Over time, though, the worth of assets changes.
When a company opens its first store in a certain area, there are many elements it needs to understand – other stores in the area, traffic patterns, pricing of products, what products to sell, etc. Once the store is operational for some time, specifics are not as important, and it can adopt the standard reporting. The tailor-made analytic assets become irrelevant and no longer add value to the store manager.