Do Insurers Need a Chief Digital Officer?
Insurance Experts' Forum, August 8, 2013
It's a trend that grows more apparent month by month. A lot of technology spending is occurring outside the IT department – on cloud services, on digital and social media marketing, on mobile devices and services, on PC or tablet front-end applications. Some pundits predict that average corporate tech spending outside the IT department will exceed that of IT departments, if it hasn't already.
Many insurers are increasingly evolving into digital businesses, deriving competitive advantage through data collection and analysis, forging powerful electronic links with customers, agents and brokers, and enabling straight-through processing for real-time application approval and claims processing. Many of these opportunities are outside the traditional realm of the CIO, who is focused on maintaining and upgrading back-end systems, enterprise applications and data repositories.
Still, there is push back against the notion that a new, tech-savvy position needs to be created to oversee these new technology drivers. In a recent post in The Wall Street Journal, Art Langer says the movement toward creating CDO positions is misguided. “Technology will continue to evolve,” he writes, “but every specific function does not need another executive.” Organizations should continue to look to one senior executive — the CIO — to manage all the complex issues concerning technology."
This view was echoed by Casey Coleman, CIO of the U.S. General Services Administration, in a recent Huffington Post article by Vala Afshar. Coleman feels that the CDO position is “just one more position without a clear cut lane to run in,” and that if the CIO does his or her job correctly, by working closely with the business and staying current on technology trends, the position is unnecessary.
Perhaps a good analogy was the recent surge in companies seeking to create the position of “chief customer officer.” With apologies to any CCOs who may be reading this, it doesn’t make sense to create a separate position for something that everyone should be doing anyway. A CCO-type outlook should be written into every insurer's job description, from the claims adjustor to the application developer to the CEO.
The job of CDO should now be part of everyone's job description as well — to explore how technology can best be developed and deployed to better serve the people making those monthly premium payments.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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