Daniel Necastro, an SVP and divisional CIO at Allstate, during the IASA Educational Conference and Business Show earlier this month, provided some useful tips to insurance IT executives looking to move their organizations from a role of maintainer to a role of strategic enabler.

Necastro was a member of a chief information/technology officer roundtable at the event, which was held just outside of Washington, D.C.

Allstate, said Necastro, is driven by a “technology-driven business strategy,” an ongoing effort the carrier uses to build strategic platforms for its business units.

The goal of the approach, begun in 2011, is to consistently provide great value for Allstate’s customers.

Necastro said the keys to innovation are educating the business on technology and its benefits, budgeting for both strategic moves and for innovation, and building IT/business collaboration.

“You need to have a partnership that’s very strong,” he said.

Two ways Allstate does this is through Innovation Blitzes and App Attacks, both of which bring together people from a wide range of departments.

App Attacks, according to Necastro, are short challenges where teams compete to solve real business problems using off-the-shelf technology in novel ways. The results are put before senior managers.

Innovation Blitzes are crowd-sourcing initiatives in which employees use their knowledge and ideas to target critical business problems. The ideas are reviewed by relevant community managers, experts and peers and subsequently refined. Mature ideas become proof of concepts, then added to demand management pipelines or project portfolios.

Necastro said Allstate doesn’t care where innovative ideas come from.

Employees from across the business are able to look at what the company needs, where it’s going, and how it can get there.

‘We want the technology to drive the business goals,” he said.

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