Four steps to make an insurance CIO a change agent

The digital world is forcing carrier CIOs to take on role of digital transformation leader -- with that defined as transforming business processes, with the use of data and technology. It’s a role that, if done correctly, earns you the right to be at the executive table, as you are talking more about business value and business change than servers and infrastructure. But the role is not easy, and to be successful I believe there are a few key steps that need to be taken.

First, spend the time learning about the business, understand the processes and challenges. Listen first, before you direct or recommend change. It will be easier influencing the business leaders when you build their trust in understanding the problem. For example, there is a known opportunity to use a chat bot to automate some call center service transactions. Visit a call center, listen to calls. Understand the variability in the questions and the answers. This information will help in understanding the types of tools and data that can be leveraged.

Second, establish a clear vision and goal, and then communicate it clearly and frequently in all directions. Don’t stop communicating as you move forward. Use multiple formats to ensure people know what to do, and how to do it. Early in the program pull your team together, establish rules of engagement and set the vision. Recognize that your team needs to clearly understand the value of the team and ideally their individual roles in the transformation. As the project moves forward, the top needs to keep channels of communications open not just with status reports and scorecards. But do regular stand up meetings with the team. Be open and honest with them and solicit questions. And listen. You want to create a work environment where your front line provides you honest feedback on progress.

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Third, hire the right people. A transformation will not be successful if you don’t have the right skills on the team, and they are all moving in the same direction. So being a leader requires hard decisions on the people. Assess your current team and make the hard calls. Where there are gaps add members with required skills. Don’t settle, a transformation is not a sprint and you need to make the short-term investment in building a team that will drive through the changes that will be required.

Finally, execute in small waves and phases. Technology and data are changing fast. Implementing rapidly in small chunks allows you to get wins, and be ready to adapt to the certain changes that will come. I’m a big fan of Agile development, it allows you to create a vision but the structure of the project allows for the dynamics of inevitable change. It also gives your business partners views into what you are working on. And if done correctly, they are at the table with you and the digital transformation becomes a successful business project. Not an IT project.

You can be successful in driving a digital transformation, but it requires strong leaders willing to put the effort in and take the steps to drive the change. They are hard, but worth the effort personally and for the organization.

This blog entry has been reprinted with permission from Novarica.

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