Often standardization of common services or platforms does not yield improvements in functionality or capabilities in the short term. Divisional CIOs need to balance the corporate oversight desire for centralization of services and standardization with their business unit needs to improve agility and capabilities. Failing to do both can cost them their jobs. So how do successful CIOs navigate these often conflicting priorities?

  • Build business cases aligned with business unit strategies – Providing a cost benefit to justify an initiative is important. However, creating linkage to key business strategies takes it one step further. This helps functional leaders advocate the initiative within their own corporate governance structure.
  • Chose battles wisely – All CIOS need to be strategic in their sourcing strategies. This same thought applies to the service offerings available from corporate organizations. If corporate can provide competitive service at competitive prices, why not migrate to these service models? It is important to understand what items are non-negotiable. One of the worst ways to start a new relationship is to raise issues already resolved by prior management that have previously been a sore point.
  • Articulate needs in terms of service – By stating requirements in terms of service levels, the dialogue moves from a turf issue to a discussion of capabilities and needs. This goes a long way towards insuring that the needs of a business unit are understood and met.
  • Measure services provided – Centralized service groups need objective feedback on their performance. Divisional CIOS have a fiduciary responsibility to hold service provides accountable. Anecdotal evidence is not adequate. Put the proper measure in place.
  • Understand cost allocations – Expect and demand transparency. If a CIO doesn’t know how and what a business unit is being charged, a realistic understanding of the perceived value of IT is not possible. No one likes surprises.
  • Over-communicate – Working from a plan is better than reacting to needs as they arise. The best way to engage Corporate to meet needs is by reviewing the application portfolio plan with Corporate CIOs, indicating where gaps in services exist and where the most compelling needs are from a business unit perspective. Making sure that a business unit understands the plan, the service levels, the capabilities that are currently provided and how needs are addressed is also critical. Divisional presidents can partner to drive approval of divisional initiatives.

When in doubt, don’t do what people want you to do; do what you think is right for your business unit. Divisional CIOS must provide leadership and leverage their intimate knowledge of their business units needs with their knowledge of technologies and vendor capabilities.
This blog entry has been republished with permission from Novarica.

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The opinions posted in this blog do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News or SourceMedia.

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