How many times has someone come up with an idea that sounded really great at first blush, but seemed to fizzle out once put into motion? Or, how often do seemingly innocuous efforts result in big paybacks? When hundreds of thousands of dollars may be on the line, as is the case with IT, there needs to be a way to make sure good ideas continue to be good ideas as they consume more resources and staff time.
That’s why IT governance needs to be more than simply about approving or putting the kibosh on expenditures for technology projects. It needs to be a continuous process for examining and re-evaluating projects as they move through the pipeline. Further and deeper examination may find that a project isn’t worth the effort, or that it may turn out to be a blockbuster revenue generator.
In preparing my recent article on IT governance for INN, I had the opportunity to chat with Mark Hayes, manager of P&C technology investment management at The Hartford, about the ways his company governs its IT processes. Within Hayes’ P&C division, there are tons of initiatives going on, covering systems from mainframes to Web-based systems, with a variety of heritages, and serving a variety of purposes. In other words, a lot of software, a lot of code and a lot of networks.
That’s why The Hartford has an extremely airtight IT governance process. All IT investments are considered in the context of three major criteria: whether they meet financial, operational and technical thresholds, Hayes says.
For example, Hayes walked through how one project to improve the customer experience was vetted. “It’s going to be a key driver of the overall constituent experience design,” he said. “As that emerged through governance, the project made sense for our financial, technical and operational thresholds. It also had the added dimension of really being game-changing in the context of our constituent experience. It delivered better information, quicker access, and enabled us to service our constituents in a way that makes them feel good about their business with us.”
Thus, the project was initially approved for funding. But that wasn’t the end of it, Hayes explains. “The team that went away with that initial set of funding, and continued to review the three aspects,” he said. “The financials of it—were we going to get a lift that we thought we were going to get? The technical design—was it technically scoped in a way that we thought was consistent with our enterprise architecture? And then operationally—were we going to be comfortable with the implementation path?”
As a result of this ongoing review process, the project team was able to not only improve the end-user experience, but also reduce the initial proposed costs.
“Our governance process itself is really intended to help fine-tune thinking throughout the financial, operational and technical aspects as projects move through delivery lifecycles,” Hayes explained. “Our process contemplates, anticipates and requires that there is ongoing very targeted specific review of key assessments of that project. We also support continued testing of whether or not the commitments that were identified as part of the project approval process continue to manifest themselves as the projects move through their delivery phases.”
Even after implementation, Hayes’ department continues to assess the value of IT programs and systems. The governance process should never stop.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology. He can be reached at email@example.com.
The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.
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