In conversations I have had with insurance IT leaders in recent years, I find the most engaged carriers are those in which IT has a seat at the management table. Carriers are increasingly relying on technology to advance in their current and future markets, so it’s critical to have guidance from those who understand and oversee technology resources.

Such is the case at Allstate Insurance, where IT leaders have a seat right next to the company’s CEO. In a recent interview posted at Forbes, Suren Gupta, executive vice president of technology and operations for Allstate, discussed the prominent role his department has in leading the carrier into the new digital realm. In his discussion with Forbes contributor Peter High, he states that Allstate is “in the midst of a huge transformation of the company, from a product standpoint – how we serve our customers— and how we bring those products and services to our agencies.”

The carrier is reinventing itself with the help of technology, which means IT executives are assuming leadership roles beyond the bits and bytes of the data center. For that reason, Gupta says it’s important to have IT leaders who understand the insurance business and can quickly step up into consultative roles. “We are very deliberate about, at least for some of the senior positions, making sure that the people that we bring in are first businessmen and women, rather than just technologists,” he is quoted as saying. “Once you have that kind of mindset, it is easier for the technologist that is a businessperson understand what the business issue is that we are trying to solve.”

Allstate’s digital initiatives are three-pronged. First, there are ongoing data center consolidation and simplification efforts underway. Second, the company is building new platforms that support big data and digital initiatives, such as telematics. Third, there’s an emphasis on facilitating innovation across the enterprise.

Encouraging innovation has become a big deal for Allstate, Gupta adds. The company has an internal group called its Innovation Council, which will review new ideas and fund these internal “startups.”

The startup culture – fueled by cloud, big data, and social technologies -- is disrupting many industries, and it appears insurers such as Allstate are embracing this next wave of business.

Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.

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This blog was exclusively written for Insurance Networking News. It may not be reposted or reused without permission from Insurance Networking News.

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