In today’s economy, the insurance CIO has a full plate, and communication is the key to getting business solutions created that marry the business with IT. Such is the opinion of Matt Josefowicz, insurance practice head at New York-based Novarica, who presented on this topic during a panel discussion yesterday called “The Well-Rounded CIO: Executive, Technology & Company Strategies” in Orlando at the IASA annual educational conference and business show.

Moderated by Liza Smith, VP, global head of insurance, at EMC Document Sciences, panelists from the trade press and insurance IT research communities discussed the impact of the CIO’s role on business success.

Panelist Kathy Burger, editorial director for Insurance & Technology, told the audience that although IT cannot be blamed for the economic crisis, it finds itself squarely in the middle, held accountable for solutions that will help the business survive.

Panelist Craig Weber, insurance practice lead at Celent, suggested that the innovation of tomorrow, such as cloud computing and social networking, will add further pressure to the CIO’s role. “If you are not doing some of these things today, you will be doing them in the next few years,” he said.

The idea that technology is considered core to the business adds more pressure on the CIO, said the panel. According to Josefowicz, “technology should not be considered core to the business, rather, information technology should be considered absolutely critical to the success of the business.”

One of the problems, Josefowicz noted, is that business is trained to under-promise and over-deliver, while technology is trained to be realistic about goals and objectives. “The business and IT side measure performance and success in their own unique ways,” Josefowicz told the audience. “They have different metrics, different mindsets, a different frame of reference and different goals.”

Josefowicz offered the following 10 steps towards better communication:

1.    Business/IT communication is IT’s responsibility—remember who the “customer” is
2.    Build internal “client management” culture
3.    Be predictable and proactive
4.    Keep it simple and use common or insurance-native metaphors
5.    Train IT staff to communicate
6.    Facilitate informal relationships
7.    Understand cultural differences
8.    Cross-pollinate staff whenever possible
9.    Make governance about priorities and collaboration, not “CYA”
10.    Make sure communication is a process, not an event

Weber told the audience that there are a host of factors that play into improving communication. From Weber’s perspective, it has never been more critical for IT to set reasonable expectations. “This is not a game-changing year,” he said. “At this time in our economy, it’s important for IT to champion sensible innovations.”

The panelists concurred that the “Can business and IT get along?” topic will be present for years to come. “We will always talk about business and technology alignment,” Burger said.

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