Best practices for IT asset management includes knowing what you have and where you have it, says Kelly Cannon, vice president for operations solutions at Nationwide Mutual Insurance Co. It also involves aligning IT decisions with a company's business strategy."We've gone from siloed decision-making within individual business units to what I think is a great partnership between business and systems," Cannon says.

Previously, IT decisions at Nationwide Insurance were made independently by each business unit. "When you're trying to get the most out of your IT investments, that's a difficult strategy to be successful with," Cannon says. "There are always interrelationships between different organizations and you need to take those into account when developing systems strategies."

To that end, the company two years ago established a process it calls "the sponsorship model," which enables the $27.9 billion, Columbus, Ohio-based insurer to tie its IT systems to its business strategies under the leadership of the top executives in the company. Business owns the `what' of business strategy and IT owns `how' technology decisions will be facilitated and implemented, Cannon explains.

Each member of the president's senior staff is ultimately responsible for technology systems within that executive's business area-operations, distribution and service. "He controls the decisions and the spending, which gives him the power to enforce his decisions," Cannon says. Operational responsibility for IT decisions rest with a business sponsor and an IT officer from Cannon's staff who are paired for implementation.

The sponsorship model "isn't rocket science," Cannon says. "It's real simple to understand, but it is exceptionally difficult to execute."

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