Editors' Cuts

What’s at the Heart of Business and IT Alignment?

Pat Speer
Insurance Experts' Forum, July 30, 2012

How difficult is it for an insurance organization’s IT leadership to see the business side’s point of view?

Often, the CIO believes that the business side has an idea for which technology is worth developing—and, in some cases, is called upon to help foster those ideas. But does the business side really understand how its requirements will impact the IT department in the short- and long-term? Even with proper investment and agreed-upon terms for delivery, are expectations clearly stated on both sides? Is IT prepared to deliver the right technology (at the right price and on time) that empowers the business side’s idea? Finally, who owns the project?

Even in a perfect world, answers to these questions would be elusive. But this is insurance, folks, and our industry is far from living in a perfect world. And the reason it’s not perfect has a lot to do with the user, whose demands are often described as a moving target.

The technology itself has experienced advancements that make life challenging and frustrating for an IT organization stuck with a legacy system that restricts scalability, agility and more. Far from delivering “thin client” capabilities of the past, IT is now charged with creating enhancements to systems that enable the users to further configure applications to suit their unique feature/functionality needs. The problem is that, with or without a modern architecture, those needs keep changing as the organization ramps up to chase organic growth, reduce costs and improve the bottom line.

There might not be an answer to creating a perfect world of business and IT alignment, but there are a few things insurers can do to embrace the changes necessary to get there.

First, stop thinking about it exclusively as a technology or a business issue. Think of alignment as an organizational strategy that drives positive outcomes. Second, instead of lining up soldiers on each side of the battlefield, think of your strategy from a collective viewpoint. For example, if IT and business agree that the overarching goal is to increase revenue, where would you start? By attracting and retaining new customers? Offering new products? Creating a more responsive customer service organization? It’s clear that the business side may be in a position to lead this discussion, yet IT holds the keys to facilitating the results.

Starting with the end in mind, it’s up to leadership from both the IT and business areas to craft the strategy together, take ownership of it, and work together to get their teams to collaborate on execution. When that happens, it’s possible to change the culture of an insurance organization to one in which all stakeholders are aligned and even inspired by an overall sense of purpose.

Pat Speer is an editorial consultant for Insurance Networking News.

Readers are encouraged to respond to Pat by using the “Add Your Comments” box below. She also can be reached at patricia.speer@sourcemedia.com.

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

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