From CIO to CIIIO-Being Chief Information Officer is No Longer Enough

Ron Guerrier, CIO, Farmers Insurance Group
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Ron Guerrier, CIO, Farmers Insurance Group

While IT professionals have always worked in a fast-paced and high-pressured environment, changes in the insurance industry require faster, better integrated responses by Chief Information Officers and their teams.

In order to help meet bottom-line objectives and not just individual business unit goals, it’s no longer enough for CIOs to merely keep systems from crashing. Making sure that key systems addressing customer experience, data delivery, mobile, emerging technologies, and cyber security now need to be top-of-mind at all times. Adding value across the organization is critical. In order to lead effectively, today’s leaders must go beyond being mere CIOs, they must become CIIIOs-Chief Information, Integration, and Inspiration Officers.

The Chief Information Officer

IT leaders who have been in the profession for a while, would likely, recall the days when the IT department’s sole responsibility was to make sure the mainframes didn’t crash. Legacy systems and batch processing could often be unstable, requiring constant monitoring. While this was by no means an easy task to achieve, it was fairly straight forward. Earlier, the C-suite title of CIO was emblematic of the importance of the position and the seriousness the organization placed on fulfilling this critical task. The job, often, entailed losing sleep during overnight server or software transitions or getting an earful from fellow C-suite peers when systems did go offline unexpectedly.

An added responsibility of yesteryear’s CIO was the periodic presentation to the CEO and the Board of Directors outlining the need for additional funding. This was imperative to expand the capacity needed to support growing organizational requirements and to increase security around the valuable data.

  Today’s successful CIO needs to do more than a support officer, making sure the proverbial lights stay on 

While these tasks continue to be part of a CIOs responsibility, the job description and responsibility has expanded, arguably, for the betterment of everyone, most especially the organization.

The Chief Integration Officer

Today’s successful CIO needs to do more than a support officer, making sure the proverbial lights stay on. Delivering data from Point A to B, quickly, efficiently and securely, in a manner that makes sense to both technophobes and technophiles is no longer just a pie in the sky dream, it’s a business imperative.  Market share, and resulting revenue, is won or lost by how well the IT team is able to effectively deliver data to different business units. Each unit has unique needs and  often uses different platforms and typically, demand distinctive ways in how they want the end user to view, or experience, the data.

In many cases, this means sales and distribution teams want to be confident that pricing information is up-to-the-minute accurate and that customer data is secure.  The web UX team, additionally, wants to be sure there is ample bandwidth for the new video or motion graphics they are ready to unveil to improve customer experience metrics. All this, keeping in mind that  customers need their online and mobile payments to be credited correctly.

This means CIOs must not just be aware of, but be intimately familiar with, the needs of their business partners. For an insurer IT leader, it’s not enough to understand that agents want to sell more or that claims teams need to be able to access customer information and claims processing systems 24/7.Today’s table stakes include helping the different business unit leaders understand how emerging technologies can be implemented to help them meet their bottom line goals. It’s also about leveraging the IT team’s strength at understanding systems and effective change management. This provides assistance to individual business units, not only, to increase the number of transactions they engage in, but to also understand how system changes can improve engagement and experience metrics, for both internal and external customers.

By being an effective integration agent, today’s CIOs can become more than leaders of support teams, they can become business partners with their peers in the truest sense. They are not just suppliers of technology, they’re business leaders who provide innovation insights and successfully demonstrate how technological innovation delivers on behalf of the entire enterprise.

Successful integration does not mean merely supplying technology for, or imposing technology on, business units, it means being a partner from the very beginning–from strategy ideation to plan development to eventual implementation. When this happens, it’s a win for the enterprise and a win for customers.

While successful integration is clearly an important goal, it cannot happen without the involvement of the entire IT team. In order for the team to feel empowered for this new mission, they must become inspired and engaged.

The Chief Inspiration Officer

For too long, the unfortunate stereotype of many IT teams has been that they are mere order takers who are told what system to implement. Otherwise, they are viewed as technical mechanics that keep systems running and provide technical support when people forget their passwords. Like so much else in today’s world, this outdated, and incorrect, description of the value of IT professionals can prevent teams from delivering all they are capable of providing the enterprise.

By inspiring and empowering their teams, successful CIOs can embolden their leaders to break out of their pre-conceived notions of what an IT professional is; so that they, too, become business partners with the enterprise colleagues. When this happens, they actively engage in discussions with peers that move beyond through-put, up times/down times, download speeds and service levels. Their talents and experience can be leveraged to provide insight and guidance on how to improve customer experience.  They can counsel on which technologies will be most successful at achieving revenue targets. Also, they can confidently advise others on which emerging technologies consumers are likely to embrace and how the enterprise can capitalize on them.

Increased service levels, more engaged leaders, and enhanced bottom lines results can be achieved by inspiring IT teams to leverage their technological and business acumen. In addition to motivating individual achievement, there are organizational wins to be realized.

Moving from CIO to CIIIO is not always easy and will not happen overnight. Nonetheless, the gains to the enterprise and to IT teams by succeeding in this endeavor are truly worth the effort and much needed to help assure the continued success of the industry.

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