Consultants' Corner

CIOs: Beware—Attack of the Bosch Dishwasher!

Rod Travers
Insurance Experts' Forum, February 3, 2011

OK, I used that headline to get your attention. Now read on—I’ll make it worth your while. Whirlpool, the largest appliance manufacturer in the world, has been a household name for generations. Any guesses who the second- and third-largest manufacturers are? Bosch is No. 2, and Electrolux is No. 3. Many people are surprised to hear those names. Nevertheless, Bosch has in fact been sneaking up in market share for years.

All kinds of things are sneaking up on CIOs, and many don’t realize it. For example, think about the everyday terms we once used in IT: software development life cycle, mainframe, MIPS, terminal, COBOL, chargeback, table-driven, batch, dialup, and even client/server. That’s just a random sampling of terms that are nearly obsolete or have become very specialized. Yet some CIOs and IT shops still operate as if those terms are in vogue.

Now here’s a random sampling of the terms CIOs should have in their lexicon today: business strategy, operations improvement, transformation, process automation, analytics, outsourcing, integration, consolidation, agile development, CMMI, cloud computing, mergers, mobile, differentiation, risk-sharing, cost savings.

Today’s CIO is less a technologist, and much more a business person who creates advantages and differentiators using technology. Some ideas for thriving in this role:

• Team with your business-side counterparts to understand their objectives and challenges; jointly map out solutions that can be accomplished in 90 days or less

• Initiate new business projects that materially improve business performance, even if technology is secondary to achieving the improvement—for example, increasing speed to market or reducing costs

• Ignore hype and buzzwords; do what matters for your company

• Seek outside perspectives from peers, advisors, solution providers and job applicants

• Compare your operations and management practices to those of successful competitors

If these ideas and the aforementioned terms are foreign to your IT function, believe me, your competitors (and potential acquirers) are sneaking up on you. And some of them are companies you may never have heard of.

Rod Travers is EVP at The Robert E. Nolan Co., a management consulting firm specializing in the insurance industry.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Rod using the “Add Your Comments” box below.

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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