2 page Case Study - Posted 9/4/2013
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Simply Business

Online Insurance Broker Deploys BI Platform for Business Expansion into New Markets

Online business insurance broker Simply Business wanted a high-performance business intelligence (BI) system to expand into new markets and respond rapidly to customer insight data. The United Kingdom (UK) firm implemented Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise to provide specific analytics applications for its product specialists. This is helping Simply Business develop its business and produce new products quickly and easily for customers.

Business Needs

Simply Business is the UK’s largest online business insurance broker. It operates in a highly competitive market, but its internal underwriting capability and strong partner relationships mean it can cover more than 1,000 trade types. Launched in 2005, Simply Business has recently adopted a “build, measure, learn” business model to help it develop its e-commerce products.

Steven Peters, Head of Business Intelligence, Simply Business, says: “We wanted to respond more rapidly to customer insight by analysing key metrics and interactions from our website. Our aim is to keep finding new markets and customers, and developing our product range. Until two years ago, we lacked any focused business intelligence strategy and used Oracle Transactions and Microsoft Excel for pre-aggregated reports. We needed a strategy that aligned our business intelligence capability with our business ambitions.”

Simply Business required an approach to BI that mirrored the agile processes adopted by its product and software teams. Peters says: “We had a number of requirements to ensure agile business development. We needed to deliver analysis, reports, and statistics quickly and frequently to our developers. We had to cope with a constant cycle of change in our products and business channels due to our iterative approach. We also wanted a solution that would make it easy to integrate structured and semi-structured data for our business users.”

Finally, Simply Business needed to balance its product marketing specialists’ need for rich information and self-service BI with the IT department’s requirement to manage safety and confidentiality. It wanted to deliver credible, consistent data to the right users across the organisation with a complete solution. Another objective was to use self-service capabilities to run data-driven public relations campaigns more effectively.


Simply Business built an end-to-end BI solution, including a data warehouse for data capture and management. Working with Adatis Consulting, a Microsoft Gold BI Partner, Simply Business deployed Microsoft SQL Server 2012 for its business users to unlock new insights through rapid data discovery and prototyping. The platform also provided tools for IT to create analytics solutions.

Jeremy Kashel, Principal Consultant, Adatis Consulting, says: “Simply Business is using Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Analysis Services tabular models to provide users with interactive reporting. It has built an innovative extract, transform, load (ETL) layer using flexible new features in Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Integration Services together with a tabular model to import variably structured data from its website. Part of the ETL was metadata-driven, allowing rapid responses to website changes. SQL Server 2012 supports structured data on scalable relational database and data warehouse offerings, as well as having processes for managing unstructured data.”

The solution also uses Microsoft SQL Server 2012 PowerPivot for Excel, which provides fast manipulation of large data sets amounting to millions of rows, as well as streamlined integration of data. It gives business users the ability to share analysis effortlessly with colleagues through Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010.

Kashel undertook a three-month assignment from June 2012 to help Simply Business move from pilot stage to production. He says: “My task was to show Simply Business employees best practice for ETL in SQL Server 2012. Once this was completed, the tabular models were connected to the data to provide users with rapid query response times. It was easy for them to share insights using familiar tools in SharePoint Server 2010 and Microsoft Excel 2010.”


In just three months, Simply Business built an end-to end BI capability, making use of SQL Server 2012 functionality. It brings in billions of rows of historical customer and quote data from its existing database to allow its business people to conduct their own detailed analysis fast. Microsoft BI has helped to reduce development life cycles significantly and increase speed to market. With daily access to data from the new platform—combined with historical data—product and technical developers can use customer feedback to improve products.

SQL Server 2012 delivers next-generation performance in BI. Peters says: “The innovative use of the tabular model allowed us to address the significant challenge insurance companies face in building complex data warehouses. This required a rethink of traditional BI methodologies to support this way of working.”

Self-service BI helps to extend markets and improve products. Through managed self-service BI, SQL Server 2012 is providing developers and business users at Simply Business with customer and product insight. Peters says: “Our e-commerce platform is helping us expand into new markets rapidly, remain competitive, and attract customers. We can get on with producing better products rather than spending time extracting data, as we did with our previous system.”

Developer team increases productivity. SQL Server 2012 bridges the gap between user-created BI applications and IT-managed corporate solutions through the ability to import PowerPivot models into SQL Server 2012 Integration Services. Peters says: “With the additional benefit of ease of administration through Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010, productivity in our developer team has increased significantly since September 2012.”

SQL Server 2012 provides credible, consistent data across the organisation. Peters says: “With SQL Server 2012, Simply Business now has a complete BI platform—from reporting and analysis to dashboards and scorecards—that helps provide a consistent view across diverse data sources.”

This case study is for informational purposes only. MICROSOFT MAKES NO WARRANTIES, EXPRESS OR IMPLIED, IN THIS SUMMARY.
Solution Overview

Organization Size: 190 employees

Organization Profile

With offices in London and Northampton, Simply Business insures more than 225,000 property owners, shops, and small and medium-sized businesses throughout the United Kingdom.

Software and Services
  • Microsoft SQL Server 2012 Enterprise
  • Microsoft SharePoint Server 2010
  • Microsoft Excel 2010

Vertical Industries

United Kingdom