Insurance executives have always known that technology is fundamental to the business, but there is a growing recognition that now technology is the business, opines Richard Wiedenbeck, VP of IT for Ameritas Life Insurance.

“And because it is the business, you really need your technology organization to be a partner, not just an order-taker,” Wiedenbeck says. “You need them to not only think reactively, but also responsively, and move toward proactive thinking.”

In his presentation “IT’s Rosetta Stone: A Business Capabilities Model Approach,” which he delivered at the CIO Summit in Atlanta on Thursday, Wiedenbeck coached attendees on how to more effectively engage their business partners, and how to do so on business peoples’ terms.

At the heart of his message is that IT departments need to evolve from being order-takers.

“That helps drive where you are going from a technical perspective and where you can take the technologies and drive value into the business. That, in turn, helps IT build infrastructure and architectures.”

The partnership between IT and the business works best, he says, when both sides play to their strengths.

“The business people need to know the business really well; your technology people need to know technology and what it can do for the business, and if you get those working together, that’s really powerful in the marketplace. If you are only relying on one side or the other, you are handicapping yourself.”

Contemporary CIOs not only need to understand technology, he says, they need to be able to drive value out of it, as well as out of the IT organization itself.

Using a business intelligence project as an illustrative example, he stressed the importance of creating a proper foundation.

“There are information needs and there are analytical capabilities,” he says. “You want to get those two split. What’s the information [business users] need? What analytical capabilities do you need to get that, and how fast?”

Once those parameters are established, then IT can most effectively concentrate on data delivery mechanisms, quality and the ability to get data to where it can be staged and made available for use in that context.

Once this sort of governance is wrapped around the project, it can then be built and delivered most effectively.

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