Esri Business Solutions Facilitate Problem Solving

A common problem facing the insurance industry is migration away from current GIS software to the Esri® platform. This involves updating and revising GIS workflows, but many organizations are unsure how. I recently had the opportunity to work closely with a partner’s analyst to update their processes, tools, and workflows while collaborating on new ideas and solutions.

The Task at Hand

My first challenge was understanding exact project needs. I started by teaching basic workflows such as data editing, map creation and setup, and best practices for managing GIS data in ArcGIS. Even though our partner’s analysts were experts at the concepts behind these tools, each software package has its own interface. It can be a hassle figuring out where things are and differentiating terminology.

The next big issue was helping to streamline the analysts’ actual work with the new features. Clearly defining territories for ownership and management is one hurdle facing the insurance industry. Our partner's territories were defined by a combination of 2010 ZIP code and county boundaries, which meant dealing with mixed geometric boundaries (since a ZIP code can span multiple counties; and a county can have multiple ZIPcodes). Also, there was not an actual list of ZIP codes that comprised each territory, so we had to figure out a way to update the territory boundaries to  2015 ZIP codes. Since there were boundary changes, we made sure to maintain the specific ZIP code/county relationship and end with a result that could be easily updated.

Correct Process Confirmed

The analyst and I ensured that we were following all past methodologies and created a one-time process to convert 2010 ZIP codes to 2015 ZIP codes. We used various spatial analyst tools to match ZIP code boundaries and ignore alignment imperfections. We saved our process at various intervals so we also could produce a comprehensive list of which ZIP codes actually comprise each territory. This allows us to update ZIP code boundaries to subsequent years based on the name instead of the geometry, which is what our partner wanted.

Before we took the final step of merging  county data, we spent time aggregating various pieces of information from the Census Bureau's tract-level data up to the ZIP- and county-level. This enabled our final territory layer to include numbers such as household information for future use. Although not an update originally planned, everyone realized it was a great addition with minimal extra effort.

Collaboration Equals Success

The steps we took to finalize our territory boundaries and related tasks using the Esri platform did not involve custom development. All tools used were derived from the Basic ArcMap license. Our successful collaboration required clearly understanding our partner's requirements and providing the Esri tools to get the job done right and enhance their business process.