10 years, 1 month ago

2011 CIO Agenda – A. M. Best’s BestDay Podcast

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2011 CIO Agenda Podcast Transcript

Listen to the podcast or read the summary below. The interview was conducted by Best Review Editor Lynna Goch.

LYNNA: Chris is here today to talk about the results of a survey conducted with 724 senior business and IT executives from large companies that he wrote about in his article Cloudy Future (requires free subscription) that appears in January’s issue of Best’s Review. So Chris, in your article you write about CIOs believing they can improve consistency, reduce or eliminate lower priority initiatives and raise productivity while reducing costs through simplification. Is that a tall order? Or are the goals attainable?

CHRIS: You know, I think one of the phrases that is so over-used is “do more with less,” and I think that’s not something that’s terribly realistic. What I think a better way to state it is “to do the best with less.”

What I mean by that is by using some kind of prioritization mechanism whether it’s just a simple list of business objectives that have been agreed upon by the organization or something more sophisticated like capabilities that have been driven out by an IT strategy or an Enterprise Architecture plan. Use those priorities and those guidelines to figure out your CIO agenda. Figure out if you are spending on the right things and what you are not doing that you should be doing. So, I think that doing a good job of prioritizing based on a set of goals that have been agreed upon by the business is the best thing you can do here. There’s so many organizations that don’t have a visible prioritization scheme that I think that could be a big step for some organizations.

Habits of an Effective CIO

LYNNA: What are three examples of the business habits of an effective CIO?

CHRIS: Ok, so the three things that I would highlight would be strong working relationships with customer and strategy leaders in the organization, proactive market awareness, and the third would be balancing upward communication while leading the information technology organization.

I think that the CIO has an opportunity to actually be the Customer Information Officer as opposed to just the Chief Information Officer. That having a real working relationship with the executives in the organization who have responsibility for customers–whether that’s an agent customer or an end policy-holder customer and a strategy leaders.  Staff meetings are not enough. You have to have a real working relationship where you can understand the needs of the customers and of the organization in serving them. I think that successful CIOs have that customer linkage.

The second area is proactively becoming aware and managing awareness in the marketplace. I think there’s three areas:

  1. networking and building relationships with peers within the industry and across industries,
  2. building relationships with your vendors beyond just a transactional nature–actually, understanding what they’re working on and what they see coming down in future, and
  3. relationships around innovation.

I was at a conference a couple months ago and asked the audience how many people were reading professional journals and magazines like MIT’s Technology Review or Wired Magazine. And, there were virtually no hands raised. I think there’s such an opportunity to as an individual leader, to become a lot smarter about the innovations that are going on in the marketplace.

The third area is balancing upward communication while leading the information technology organization. I think so much focus is on getting a seat at the table, that not everyone is also focused on leading the IT organization itself – that it gets delegated too much. I think that third area is a very important one and a habit that I don’t see happen enough.

Dynamic Times for Insurance CIOs

LYNNA: Those are good observations. You also report that these are dynamic times for insurance industry CIOs. How so?

CHRIS: I’ll highlight two things. In working with insurance organizations over the last 15 or 20 years there always seems to be interest in improving technology platforms and transforming organizations using technology. What I think is new right now is emergence in software as a service and cloud offerings for policy admin and claims, and CRM and in other areas. So, there are new options out there that we can consider to get us where we want to get faster with lower risk. There are still people transforming and re-platforming their core systems but now we have some new options that are emerging from some new players. So, I think it’s an interesting time from a core-platform-change perspective.

More broadly I think that there is also a lot of interest in the information explosion that’s happening out there. There are four and a half billion mobile phones in the world and I just recently read stat that there are 50 million U.S. smart phones and those phones tend to have GPS and other location information in them. So, there’s all kinds of new data that we have to sift through. I think it’s a really exciting challenge for CIOs to figure out which of those new data types and old data types are important and how to use them. We have so much data in the organization that sometimes it’s daunting to sift through it all and I think one of the challenges, exciting challenges and a great time to be a CIO right now because this is a big puzzle for them to solve .

Creative Commons License photo credit: Giovanna Faustini

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