Julian Kirkman-Page extols the virtues of a database.
Spreadsheets are wonderful tools; beloved of actuaries, accountants and IT virtuosos, and with a little knowledge can grow into highly complex and powerful data management tools. Therein however, lays the problem. What happens when the creator/owner of the spreadsheet leaves the company and someone else needs information, wants to make changes to the spreadsheet or simply needs to understand what it does and how it works. Such a case recently happened to a risk manager friend of mine who inherited a premium allocation spreadsheet impossible to unravel and literally had to start again from scratch.
Spreadsheets also have the Darwinian habit of evolving, breeding and creating a nightmare of version control. This leads to headaches when it comes to data consolidation from numerous different spreadsheets and raises a whole security aspect.
A database on the other hand is a centrally held beast that brings data and information together from numerous sources into one always latest version environment. This eliminates duplication of data and allows essential information to hang off core data fundamental to the business.
A standard example is to build into the database the business and asset profile, link this to policy, loss and risk monitoring and assessment data and create a suite of reports that look across the whole. Such a database can also be made available on-line, especially if hosted, so that anyone involved in the insurance and risk management process can have access. This can include senior management, local management for renewal data gathering, insurers, brokers, TPA's, surveyors and even to the point where staff in situ can log incidents. The whole experience can even be personalised to reflect your business culture.
This central powerhouse of information is something a whole host of spreadsheets can never achieve.