JMI Reports Discusses the Importance of Security and Compliance Measures Surrounding Data in the Industry

Doug Allen - Columbus Tech Power Player Honoree

Doug Allen

VP of IT

JMI Reports



Steve Gruetter

Director of Market Strategy - Central Ohio



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The VP of IT for the JMI Reports, Doug Allen, discusses the security and compliance measures surrounding data in the industry.


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SG: We're here today with Doug Allen, the Vice President of Information Technology at JMI Reports, an organization based in northeast Ohio. My name is Steve Gruetter with Expedient and I am your guest moderator today. Doug, let's get started. Tell us, what is JMI Reports?


DA: Sure. JMI Reports is a, uh, an organization that, their job is to do property inspections for residential and commercial across the United States, I guess the continental United States. 48 states. Um, they do about 500,000 of those per year. And the beneficiary of those reports are insurance companies that are potentially going to be insuring those risks.


SG: So, is that claims, or something along those lines?


DA: No, that's actually the underwriter, on the underwriting cycle part of the insurance. So, prior to a carrier or, uh, or if the carrier accepts that risks, they know they want to know what's going on with that particular property. So, we have a variety of products, you know, detail level, that will provide the insurance company with insight as to what's going on at that property and things that they may want to have the owner mitigate before there's an actual claim.


SG: Makes plenty of sense.


DA: Yep.


SG: So your role, VP of IT, you're the technology leader for the organization, how have you seen the role change over your years in the industry as the technology leader?


DA: Sure, yeah. Well, you know, the organization was started in 1988, so, basically, it was paper based and um, but nowadays, um, the insurance companies really…there's a higher demand for the information. I mean, it used to be providing a PDF report with some pictures and some data was good enough. But uh, as organizations like the insurance organizations want to get more data, they, they're, actually interested in a lot more information so they can evaluate that risk prior to them accepting it.

So, um, just, the whole data gathering aspect has changed dramatically. Uh, of course with the, with the acquisition of data, there's also privacy and security, a lot more security and a lot more compliance issues. So, um, so we're obviously dealing with that. So we, so that we provide confidence to our insurance companies that we, we’re protecting the data that we're collecting on their behalf.


SG: So, you’re governed by the same compliance measures of the insurance companies are, then?


DA: Sure we are. We’re an extension of their, you know, their operation, essentially. So, um, as a, as any vendor, they're making sure that they're taking appropriate measures with the data and have gotten all of the controls and processes in place as well as business continuity. So, they never want us to become an obstacle for them doing business, so we have to have the right kind of business continuity, disaster recovery and obviously information security controls and policies in place that manage that, and that environment.


SG: And realistically, even though there's so many organizations that don't have those compliance measures, having a solid information security plan and process along with the disaster recovery business continuity plan, it's almost table stakes today.


DA: It is. Yeah, exactly. And so, um, you know, we're, uh, we're obviously looking at that closer so we can improve ourselves and, you know, keep us in a good position to win the business away from our competitors if they’re, you know, if they're struggling in those kinds of areas.


SG: I'm not obviously familiar with that aspect in the underwriting realm, but with 500,000 transactions, it sounds like you're a market leader in that space.


DA: I wouldn't say we’re the, the big dogs out there, but we're definitely, uh, second, probably the second tier in terms of volume. And like I said, it's a very, like you said, transaction-based and obviously there's a lot of timed service requirements that we get these inspections done within the 30-day time frame, so the insurance companies can act on, uh, those underwriting decisions.


SG: Are you taking on any of the new disruptive technologies as a part of this role? I'm thinking blockchain would probably play pretty strong in your industry.


DA: Yeah, that hasn't actually come into play as, as much yet. I've been kind of watching that, but uh, but I think, um, you know, for what we do, uh, things like satellite imagery, we've looked at the drones and providing an even, a better vantage point of a roof, you know, versus a picture of it from the street. But uh, so, there's some organizations that obviously are interested in maybe looking at drone technology to get better views of these roofs, because that's a significant part of the insurance risk. Yeah. So, satellite imagery is coming into play, even better ways to measure, uh,  measure buildings.


SG: You know, I could certainly see that in the tornado and hurricane zones.


DA: Exactly. Yeah. So, uh, so there's, there's a lot of things happening and, like I mentioned earlier, the data part of it is, you know, the, the accuracy of the data, the uh, to allow an insurance company to actually, you know, model some of this stuff so that they can see what it is, is it going to be in their sweet spot? And what they don't want to insure versus what they do want to ensure.


SG: So, let's talk about that a little bit. Uh, what technology, what new technology do you see yourself becoming more involved in as the data capability, the data capacities expand the way they have?


DA: Yeah, we definitely like to get into a little bit of business, a lot more business intelligence. So, and we do, you know, the fact that we've done, we do 500,000 a year means we've got a long history of, of uh, data in regards to property, so we feel like we can try to mine some of that information and provide some modeling capabilities for insurance companies in terms of, you know, which uh…like a good example would be, in a certain zip code, what kind of, you know, what are the general conditions of the properties there? Are they, you know, they may be 40, 50 years old and you know, that might lead to some leading indicators as to what, what the experience that an insurance company may need. So, so we really want to be able to try to leverage this information we gathered for 30-plus years to see if we can't turn it into an asset for the company to, to utilize.


SG: That seems to be low hanging fruit for you right there.


DA: Yeah, exactly. I mean, and you know, obviously we have to make sure we're in compliance with what our agreements are. I mean, we can't just use it, use it all, but we have, it can be very, uh, very cautious with that. But, but it is quite a, it is looked at as a potential revenue stream in the future, other than just collecting the information per location.


SG: Thank you for that. Thank you for that. You are exceptionally involved in the Central Ohio IT community. Why do you invest your time?


DA: I mean if, if you give back to the community and in IT, it’s just going to make the, the area stronger. I mean, we have a very vibrant community here from IT, um, a lot of opportunities. But, I think I heard we were just, Columbus was just voted the number one startup city that's just…


SG: I read that this week and I'm so proud. It's ridiculous.


DA: Yeah, it’s just great that we've got that kind of talent flowing into the community, and it's just going to make us all stronger to, to, to have access to that,  the ideas. I love going to some of these startup things. I'll never probably do a startup but, but I just love to hear how they, how their minds think, how an idea can be taken, one idea can, can start, but then with the right kind of perspective from a lot of different people, how that, that idea could morph into something really special.


SG: Well, just the energy in the room when we go to like, Ben’s startup event and stuff like that.


DA: It's just…it's just really, really cool. And so, for that to be here in Columbus, I think it's all, behooves all of the CIO leaders and technology leaders to invest in that and to hear those pitches. I think previously I was part of a, you know, we just vet startups and they would give their spiel. And just to sit in a room and actually listen to their ideas and to give them some guidance on how to, how you do that. You know, what, what didn’t I hear it the first two or three minutes of your presentation that I needed to hear, and make them better for the…so, I think just to just be able to participate in and be involved I think is just a nice responsibility I think I enjoy having and giving back to the community, the  IT community here.


SG: That makes plenty of sense. Do you ever walk into those events, and this is one of my thought processes is, is this a technology that our organization can use? Is there a way that we could bolt this on? I always, I always walk through the various presentations and say, “You know, what here is the takeaway? What here can, can we work with?”


DA: Yeah, yeah, absolutely. I mean, I think like, you know, sometimes I catch myself walking into that situation thinking, “Hm, this is, this is not even relevant to me.” But then you start to play it out and you start to think what’s actually happening to the, uh, the demographics of our, you know, our business. I mean, it's, it's going to be, um, something that, maybe a technology that was going to help us survive, you know? I think you have to pay attention to all these different things and then see how you could, how you can utilize it.

Um, you know, in your organization, and it may not, you know, it may be 10, 15 years down the road, but you have to kind of see what it, what that technology is and what it actually means to some of your, maybe not your current customers, but your future customers and/or your employees. You know, employees – that millennial age group just doesn't want to do work the way that perhaps their parents and the boomers did. So you got to, maybe something that helps you survive from a talent management standpoint, not just a business kind of thing.

So, um, so that's, that's why I think you’ve just got to keep your eyes and your ears open to all those different things that are going on and um, and you know, take it back to your organization and it may, it may not make sense, you know, the first five times you talk about it, but, but sooner or later it could have a vital role for your organization.


SG: I certainly agree. I certainly agree. Doug. Thank you for coming in today. We certainly do appreciate it. This is Steve Gruetter with Doug Allen. To learn more about the event Tech Power Players, please visit Goodbye, until next time.


DA: Thank you.


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