With the business enjoying a new level of control over their own IT investments, the relationship between operations and IT improved. This change was not lost on the CEO. “This was an inflection point for the company,” says Hughes. “The better relationship allowed us to be more effective and productive.” BCBS of NC’s CEO saw the power of the new relationship, so when he decided to name a COO over operations and IT, Hughes was an easy choice.
Keep “cost of talent” front and center on your IT roadmap
Hughes has a rolling three year plan that addresses IT investments in a number of areas, but he is sure the keep talent at the top of the list. “As we look down the road of emerging technologies, we identify the skills that were once strategic but are now becoming commodities,” he says, “And we keep an eye on which skills are becoming differentiators.” Hughes’ rolling three year plan identifies sourcing strategies that will keep commodity costs down and free up resources for differentiating talent.
For example, Hughes had staffed the internal help desk with people who were being paid above market, which kept him from paying for talent in other areas. “We moved to alternative sourcing and freed up dollars for data analytics people who are expensive and tough-to-find,” he says.
Be keeping talent top of mind on his rolling three year plan, Hughes was able to show his CEO that he could look around the corner to see what’ was coming, and execute on new technology trends quickly. “This went over well with the CEO and the board,” he says. “They appreciate that I’m trying to anticipate the future and keep us proactive.”
Add to your skillset or move on
Hughes is a big fan of the “college major and minor” concept. “When I started out, my major was IT, so I needed a series of minors,” he says. “I took on additional roles in operations and different parts of the business that allowed me to leverage my technical aptitude and apply it in that new area.” In order to make the move from CIO to COO, Hughes believes that you need to have skillsets beyond IT. “If you are in a company that is providing you with opportunities to learn new skills like Lean and Six Sigma, you are on the right path,” he says. “But if your organization cannot provide you with the tools to broaden your horizons, be bold enough to find those experiences elsewhere.”
About Alan Hughes and BCBS of NC
Alan Hughes has more than 25 years of senior leadership experience in information technology, including serving at some of the nation's leading companies. He holds the role of Executive Vice President and Chief Operating Officer at Blue Cross and Blue Shield of North Carolina and is responsible for leading Customer Governance Operations, Information Services, Business Transformation and Business Process Excellence. Prior to that, he served as Senior Vice President and Chief Information Officer.
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