Nationwide's Tammy Craig gets results from distributed team

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The insurance industry is consolidating at a rapid rate, and Nationwide Insurance is a particularly aggressive buyer — its affiliated companies number in the dozens. As the company has added new divisions and employees and office locations, Tammy Craig, SVP and CIO of commercial lines and agency for the multiline carrier, has taken on the difficult tasks of managing teams spread across several states and time zones, and across lines of business. Craig’s multifaceted duties include managing IT for standard commercial, agriculture, farm, excess and surplus lines, as well as the entire agency channel, both personal and commercial. Despite geographical challenges, Craig’s team delivers projects on schedule and on budget.

“We’ve gotten to a place where location and organizational boundaries don’t really matter,” Craig says. Her major accomplishments illustrate how she is positioning her company for a more digital future by updating and consolidating a slew of legacy systems, some right down to the local distributor level. A project she led called the Develop Distribution Program has saved the company $600 million over four years by aligning the agency channel on a single set of technology and processes.

“We have a major program [that aligned] all the compensation structure and field sales structure to unify independent and captive sales channels,” she explains. “As agencies get bigger, there’s a lot more digital interaction — they have their own tech footprint.”

Craig is also leading a multiyear, $400 million project to modernize the commercial core for Nationwide, using Guidewire software.

“Historically, Nationwide’s P&C company has been very much personal lines-focused — talent and budget have always followed the personal lines path,” she says. “With our new focus on commercial and through our commercial lines transformation project, we are now replacing all of the legacy commercial applications we have with modern component-based tech and moving all business off the legacy platforms and onto the new.”

In order to keep momentum up on these projects and achieve her remarkable time and budget metrics, Craig is a proponent of Agile development techniques. She says that she’s able to stick to those principles thanks to digital innovations in workforce management that are employed across her highly distributed project.

“We’ve spent quality time on the team building — we have visual management boards, our development metrics are electronically available so the full team can see them, and we have a lot of video equipment,” she explains. “It’s been a lot of fun. A distributed team helps you pull in a wider range of talent than a single location would.”

Developmental focus

Craig has used her position to mentor and support other women in Nationwide’s technology department. She assists with the production of a Women in IT forum for the company, that includes “mentorship and learning circles, how to give and receive feedback, and sponsorship activities, anchored in the lifecycle management of women in IT,” she explains.

“I say that everyone has challenges, but there are certain challenges that are more common for any female in tech,” she says. “A majority of the home life tends to stay with women, which means they restrict their career path; there are also some work cultural elements that tend to be more male-biased.”

Having the right role models is key, Craig explains. She says that Susan Gueli, Nationwide’s infrastructure CIO, and herself aim to provide an example for other young women.

“Women come into tech but they don’t always stay in tech,” she says. “There’s more we can do to encourage women to remain.”

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