Carson Wilshire

Branch Insurance's Journey Towards Automated Documentation

Streamlining Data Insights at Branch Insurance: How CastorDoc Streamlined our Documentation Process

Branch Insurance's Journey Towards Automated Documentation

This customer story is contributed by Carson Wilshire, Senior Analytics Manager at Branch Insurance. Branch Insurance is on a mission to restore the insurance industry to its original intent - a force for communal good.. Specializing in Personal Lines from home to auto insurance, Branch Insurance is dedicated to simplifying and personalizing the insurance experience with their quote to bind and bundle capabilities. Their approach is driven by a complimentary tech stack and a focus on customer needs. Branch Insurance aims to simplify insurance for members and get back to getting each other’s back.


In my two years at Branch Insurance, I've seen our team undergo significant changes and evolutions. We're closer than ever to achieving a mature, centralized data office. Our data value chain is covered by three key offerings: data engineering, analytics engineering, and insight analytics. In data engineering, we focus on heavy-lifting platform work. Analytics engineering is all about data transformations and integrating business logic, while insight analytics is dedicated to creating meaningful business insights and strategic decision support.

Our overarching mission is to foster self-service data insights to bolster our business decision-making processes. We're focused on finding the right balance between intuitive judgment and data-driven decisions. The end goal is to empower our capable business team to make well-informed, strategic decisions grounded in data.

The primary reason we chose CastorDoc was to enable self-service for our team and business users, aiding them in understanding and effectively using data. We aim for our business users to confidently use CastorDoc for self-service, fully grasping data flows and documentation.

Challenge: Data Discovery at Branch Insurance

“Before CastorDoc, impact analysis would involve a manual and error-prone process of tracing code and dependencies” - Carson Wilshire, Senior Analytics Manager, Branch Insurance

At Branch Insurance, our long-term vision has always been to facilitate self-service data access, but we've also encountered challenges on this journey. One significant hurdle has been understanding the downstream effects of changes in our data value chain. For instance, altering an upstream view or table required a clear understanding of its downstream consequences. Before CastorDoc, we did not have this type of visibility and understanding.

Another major challenge involved impact analysis within our infrastructure. We needed a comprehensive grasp of how changes made upstream affected our reporting systems downstream. Integrating CastorDoc with Qlik has been a game-changer, providing us visibility into these impacts right down to the reporting level. Before CastorDoc, this would involve a manual and error-prone process of tracing code and dependencies. The automation brought by CastorDoc has not only saved us considerable time but also significantly reduced the likelihood of errors.

While it's hard to put a precise number on it, the introduction of CastorDoc into our processes has undoubtedly saved us hours on each task or issue. Moving away from manual processes to automation has enhanced our operational efficiency.

Solution: Choosing the Right Data Catalog Tool

“The CastorDoc team readily agreed to develop an integration with Qlik, the visualization tool we were using and impressively delivered the integration in under a month.” Carson Wilshire, Senior Analytics Manager, Branch Insurance

Initially, we contemplated building our own catalog manually, using a tool like Excel. However, we aimed to adopt a leaner and more modern approach. CastorDoc integrated with our data warehouse and extended seamlessly to our reporting systems. Its compatibility with dbt was an added advantage that we’re currently developing.

The flexibility offered by CastorDoc was another crucial factor. Unlike other vendors who were rigid in their product offerings, CastorDoc demonstrated a willingness to customize and tailor their solution to fit our specific needs. 

What truly set CastorDoc apart was their high level of service and a partnership-oriented approach. During the implementation phase, their team took on the majority of the technical work, allowing us to set up and operationalize the system within a week. The solution engineers from CastorDoc provided comprehensive documentation and were consistently available on Slack for support and assistance, ensuring a smooth integration process.

Currently, the use of CastorDoc is primarily within our data office, but its adoption is expanding to other departments, notably finance and accounting. We are proactively working to broaden its application across the organization. Through numerous training sessions and demos, the response, especially from business users, has been overwhelmingly positive. A key feature we've implemented is linking our dashboards directly back to CastorDoc's documentation. This functionality has been exceptionally well-received, as it provides users with immediate access to relevant documentation and data lineage, thereby enhancing transparency and accessibility of data.

Impact: streamlined documentation & efficiency gains

“The introduction of Castor AI has revolutionized our documentation process” - Carson Wilshire, Senior Analytics Manager, Branch Insurance

CastorDoc proves its value every day for us. For our documentation project, integrating CastorDoc into our data warehouse and reporting systems proved crucial. CastorDoc saved us hundreds of hours, freeing our team to concentrate on other critical tasks rather than developing in-house solutions.

The introduction of Castor AI has revolutionized our documentation process. Before integrating AI, castorDoc’s propagation feature was already a significant time-saver, allowing us to document upstream elements and automatically apply those changes downstream. Now, with AI, the need for manual tracking and input has been drastically reduced. We can efficiently propagate documentation and harness the AI's capabilities for an even more streamlined and effective documentation process.

The shift to automated documentation has significantly freed up our resources, allowing us to focus on additional projects. Our current strategy involves documenting directly in dbt, which then seamlessly synchronizes with CastorDoc and our BigQuery warehouse. This approach ensures that our documentation remains consistent across all platforms, a key step towards enabling self-service and providing deeper insights and access to business users. Furthermore, the comment feature in Castor has proven valuable, allowing us to prioritize tasks effectively based on feedback from business users. As we continue to enhance this process, we aim to streamline documentation even further and improve overall user confidence and engagement.

Next Steps

Looking forward, we are focused on further leveraging CastorDoc within Branch Insurance. Our immediate objective is to deepen CastorDoc's integration with other business units, particularly those like marketing and sales, which are yet to fully utilize its capabilities. This expansion is expected to enhance the data literacy of these teams and provide them with valuable insights to inform their strategies.

A key driver of emerging technology, such as AI, requires investment in data quality and documentation. We understand the value here and the potential these investments have on opening doors down the road.

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