CIOs Embrace the
Building credibility from the ground up through restructuring
and core systems initiatives helps creative cultures thrive.
As information businesses dependent on IT, most insurers have elevated the role of the CIO to that of a core strategic ex- ecutive. The CIO’s cross-functional perspective allows him or her to bring a uniquely valuable enterprise-level view to planning discussions with oth- er senior business executives. Most insurers also rely heavily on the CIO to maintain an external perspective as
well, and keep the other business leaders informed of potential changes in the broader IT landscape, from the consumerization of IT to the
growth of big data.
At a recent Novarica Insurance Technology Research Council
meeting, a group of more than 50 insurer CIOs discussed steps
they’re taking to improve delivery and help drive the innovation
and change that their peer execs increasingly expect from them.
While this is a welcome opportunity, it also increases responsibility and challenges. To be a trusted strategic voice among the leadership, CIOs need to first deliver on their base mission of developing
technology-enabled business capabilities.
CIOs at the meeting stressed the importance of reliably delivering to build credibility within the organization. While IT has a critical
role, I T execs cannot participate meaningfully in strategic discussions
if they’re not recognized as reliable parts of the organization.
The group also discussed the importance of bringing business
executives into the IT governance process and the need to educate
them on how to be effective project-owners within this process.
Some members are also focused on more general executive education in order to broaden other leaders’ understanding of the systemic complexities and risks that underlie their businesses.
At the same time, CIOs are also engaged in their own organizational re-engineering and efforts to make sure their groups are optimized to meet their new goals. For many, this includes some level of
outsourcing or blended sourcing. Notably, the drivers for creating
these blended organizations tend to be focused on flexibility and
the ability to create new capabilities rather than cost-reduction for
existing capabilities. An important part of these efforts is examining
what roles to retain as part of the core organization and what roles
can be more effectively provided by partners. Business analysts and
project managers generally tend to be regarded as core.
Another challenge CIOs are facing is how to adapt traditional
structures and project management practices to support agile de-
velopment methodologies. While agile does not obviate the need
to manage scope and budgets, project management methodolo-
gies may need to shift from focusing on predictable schedules of
tasks to focusing more on expectations management and team co-
ordination within the scope of a high-level plan. This can require
a major readjustment of both practices and expectations. But the
benefits of agile development, especially in terms of increased
business/IT alignment and understanding (not to mention project
quality), make this adjustment worthwhile.
Matthew Josefowicz is a partner and managing director of Novarica, a
research and advisory firm that works with insurer CIOs.