Perhaps it’s the nature of the beast, but it seems as though no matter how much a CIO accomplishes, there always are a million more things still to be done. To that end, Diamond Management & Technology Consultants Inc. released its third annual Digital IQ Study, which surveyed 724 senior business and IT executives, including 47 from the insurance industry, which examined the actions, role and expectations of CIOs as leaders.

Diamond's study revealed that there are significant opportunities for insurance CIOs to move from tactical responders into strategic leaders. There are, however, specific challenges CIOs must address to keep the "C" in their titles.

For example, Diamond offers that more than 60% of respondents reported that the CIO has an understanding of how advances in IT could significantly influence or change their company's core products and services. However, the study showed that only 33% believe that the CIO is recognized as a business leader and not just an IT leader.

"Customers are using information and technology differently every day, which continues to create opportunities for CIOs to help drive growth in the business instead of playing order-taker roles," says Jamie Yoder, managing director of Diamond's insurance practice.

Many insurance CIOs have stepped out from the back office and onto the front lines, Diamond says. Those officers are now focusing on customer service, strategic business growth and innovation.

Survey results also indicated that successful CIOs typically have executive teams that create environments where three critical dynamics foster better performance:

1. Alignment: The CEO understands the business value of IT

2. Mobilization: The organization has one roadmap for corporate strategy

3. Execution: The ability to effectively translate strategy into results is bolstered by sufficient resources and clear accountability

Not all insurance companies, however, are experiencing such success. Diamond also found that three-quarters of respondents lack confidence in their companies' IT capabilities, and more than 20% say that their CIO lacks a productive working relationship with business executives. Many business leaders feel that the IT department typically stands in the way of corporate innovation.

Diamond asserts that one way to overcome this challenge is to engage the CIO at the beginning of the planning process to identify necessary technical requirements early.

Additionally, nearly 50% of respondents reported that being an innovative thinker who can apply creative solutions to solve relevant industry and business issues is the most important characteristic of a CIO. Concurrently, rather than leading innovation, 70% of respondents believe that the CIO's primary role is to improve business processes and the IT organization. The result is that IT focuses on internal improvements rather than helping business executives to build a more competitive organization.

"Organizations clearly want IT to drive growth and innovation, but that isn't happening in some places in the insurance industry," said Chris Curran, CIO at Diamond. "IT executives need to change perceptions by shaping business strategy, allocating resources and executing plans. In the end, CIOs should be viewed as catalysts for innovation, not roadblocks."


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