A few months back, we posed the question of whether the best IT staffs consisted of insurance professionals who were retrained as tech professionals, or IT professionals who were trained in insurance.

This question could be extended to an insurer’s IT leadership as well. Some of the world’s best-run corporations, in fact, require rising executives to spend time rotating around various parts of the business to get a full view of the way things run.

Presumably, it would be helpful to have a CIO, CTO or VP of IT who has come up through the tech ranks and understands what solutions, platforms and tools would be the best fit for the opportunities and problems at hand. Someone who knows the guts of policy management systems or ratings engines would understand the potential limitations of such systems and, therefore, would be in the best position to make wise recommendations to management on future technology purchases and directions.

But there also is a strong case to be made for insurance managers and professionals who thoroughly understand the nature of the business to lead IT. Recently, CIO’s Sharon Florentine explored some changes being seen in the IT leadership ranks, which increasingly may be staffed by executives from other parts of the organization.

While I personally do not know any CIOs who came up from other parts of the business, I do know someone who attained a doctorate in physics and another who graduated from law school. And both of these people went on to pursue careers in IT. Florentine presents some good arguments in favor of well-rounded IT executives. Business acumen is essential, and no longer can anyone afford to have IT departments throwing solutions over the wall and leaving the business to struggle to figure it all out. Software development needs to be a collaborative, business-driven activity from day one.

Francis Li, VP of IT at technology solutions and services provider Softchoice, is a prime example cited by Florentine. He has worked both in tech departments and marketing through his career, a combination of experience he reports serves him well in his current IT leadership role.

As he put it in the article: "The multiple perspectives I have on different areas of the business has helped us be much more innovative and 'self-aware. Because I've been in so many varied roles, I also have the 'street cred' when I'm having conversations with marketing and sales. Because I speak from first-hand experience, I can empathize with the challenges they have. I can help them understand how to either better leverage the technology we do have, or to redesign or re-architect the tech, or make smarter purchasing decisions for the business.”

The same powerful arguments can be made for bringing IT leaders up through the business ranks. It would be great to hear readers’ experiences as to how working in multiple parts of the business may be helping them lead their IT departments. 


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

Readers are encouraged to respond to Joe using the “Add Your Comments” box below. He can also be reached at joe@mckendrickresearch.com.

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

The opinions of bloggers on www.insurancenetworking.com do not necessarily reflect those of Insurance Networking News.

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