When Zurich and DXC signed global outsourcing agreements in 2009 to support the insurer’s data centers and IT infrastructure across nine countries, the move was seen as one of the insurance industry’s largest IT infrastructure transformations.

But it’s not about the size and scale. It’s about results. Zurich’s story, presented as a case study hosted by Harvard Business Review, describes how this cloud arrangement evolved over time.

The following are lessons learned from the case study applicable to other carriers looking to take their operations to the cloud:

Establish an intimate relationship with the cloud provider. CIOs with successful cloud efforts I have spoken with over the years have a common approach: they make sure they build personal relationships with their cloud provider, just as Zurich did with DXC. “The relationship is managed by a joint Zurich-DXC steering committee, which provides strategic oversight of all aspects of Zurich’s IT transformation,” the case study says.

The most workable solution is usually somewhere in the middle, between public and private clouds. Zurich has a sizeable IT function and infrastructure, with “a variety of workloads on traditional mainframe and x86 environments, in addition to a variety of specialized Software as a Service applications in public clouds.” While many of Zurich’s workloads have been moved to a private cloud, there is still considerable value embedded into the mainframe.

Keep it open. It’s important that workloads, applications and data are able to be moved to other clouds – or even back on-premises – as situations demand. “We’re very cautious about things that are heavily black-boxed or proprietarily integrated,” says a Zurich IT executive.

Provide choice. Cloud computing introduces flexibility and agility, but narrowing an implementation to one cloud or one set of services will defeat its purpose. Zurich designed its cloud implementation to enable “self-service provisioning of workloads, which let IT teams choose from a storefront of services to rapidly kick off projects and accelerate development cycles."

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