Making IT highly-responsive to the business

Making IT highly-responsive to the business

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October 12, 2015
Digital Acumen gears

The world I work in today includes a highly-competitive marketplace for our lines of business, with market and business needs that change constantly. All of this puts incredible pressure on IT to respond. How do we do that quickly and effectively?

First, we are trying to focus on the technologies that are core to the business. For our company, that means policy administration, billing, and claims, all of which shape the experience for the four audiences we serve: internal business customers, policyholders, agents, and consumers. Consumers don’t necessarily have our product yet, but they’re out browsing, and they might be future policyholders.

Another way of looking at this challenge is to say that in order to be highly responsive to the demands of our four audiences we need to minimize the impact of anything outside them. That’s why we’ve moved our HR, payroll, and financial systems to the cloud. This doesn’t mean the work goes from five resources down to zero, but it does have an impact on the number of resources we need.

Second, we continue to look at the things that we can move outside of our core responsibilities. Today we have a data center, but do we need it? Should our data center be hosted somewhere else? Should our data center be in the cloud? Those are things we’re constantly revisiting.

Third, we are looking at our people. You have to have people trained, ready, and recruited who can operate in a faster-paced environment. There are high performers that have been here and are tenured and can adapt. And anyone we hire going forward must understand the consumerization of IT and how business has become all about the customer’s ease of doing business.

I’m pushing a continuous improvement mindset with my team. We have the entire IT organization 100 percent Six Sigma Yellow Belt certified. I’m also taking my entire management and individual contributor leadership team off site for a full-day strategy session. Here’s why.

The challenge of succeeding in IT today is that you need enough vision and forward thinking to recognize that even though your system may not be broken in terms of meeting today’s needs, it may well be broken in two or three years.  That’s why I want my entire organization to be empowered and come up with ideas on what we need to do to be ahead of the business.

If a business partner in one of my lines of business, Personal Lines or Commercial Lines, shows up on Jan. 1, 2017 and says, “The entire world is doing this and all of our competitors are doing this, why don’t we have this technology?” and that’s the first time I’ve thought about it, then guess what? IT is broken. So I can’t sit here and think that I’m in a good spot, no matter how good things look today.

As we go into long-term planning , I expect people from the business side or my technology team to bring us new ideas we haven’t thought of. Once we agree on an idea, we need to find out how we get there. What are the skills? What are the people? What are the steps? What are the barriers?  And what are the specific actions and deliverables that have work efforts attached to them?

Last but not least, how do we pay for all this future-focused work? Every line of business has a roadmap with priorities – today’s as well as priorities over the next two to five years. Laying these roadmaps out together helps identify any overlaps and dependencies. I might realize, “Wow, I need to hire some more web developers.  I need some more folks in this space, otherwise we can’t do everything.” And as healthy attrition happens, maybe I hire a generalist to replace a specialized BA, or maybe I take that opening and I repurpose it for a web developer. There’s no question: being a CIO today means juggling what’s working now with what probably will be inadequate before you know it.

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Paul Brady's responsibilities at Arbella span infrastructure, application development and IT core services. Paul previously spent 10+ years at Liberty Mutual where he was the Senior Director of IT. He has particular expertise in the design and delivery of cost-effective, high-performing information technology organizations accountable for providing applications and infrastructure to support business strategies.

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Paul’s responsibilities at Arbella span infrastructure, application development and IT core services. Paul previously spent 10+ years at Liberty Mutual where he was the Senior Director of IT. He has particular expertise in the design and delivery of cost-effective, high-performing information technology organizations accountable for providing applications and infrastructure to support business strategies.

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