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Long-term CIO Strategy

Frank Petersmark | March 22, 2011
CIOs must be more like the ant, rather than the grasshopper

Enterprise risk management

Considering the proper architectural approach up front for substantial IT investments is in effect an exercise in enterprise risk management. An extra dollar spent insuring that a new platform integrates well into the current and to-be architectural states, or identifying that it does not and being prepared for that, will be repaid many times over as the project rogresses. That said, the reality at many insurance carriers is that an over arching architectural strategy and approach is something that evolves as a result of decisions made on products and platforms, rather than on business and technology strategic and operational needs. That more often than not happens as a result of competitive and market pressures, technological obsolescence, and point-in-time tactical decisions that address a specific pain point or need. That does not mean, though, that all is lost and the CIO finds him or herself essentially along for the ride. There are ways to get a handle on one's architectural direction, while at the same time building C-suite credibility and trust.

Answer These Questions First

As with most things the first step is to take stock of the current architecture and application and platform portfolio. Is it linked to the organization's strategic direction? Is it consistent with the business technology aspirations of the organization? Will it be a flexible and scalable architecture for the future aspirations of the organization? Does it even meet the current needs of the organization? Based upon the answers to these questions the next step is to make the necessary course corrections. More often than not those course corrections begin with an assessment of what currently exists from an architecture and applications portfolio perspective, what projects and initiatives are in flight, and a reassessment (if such as assessment was done initially) of the value and benefits any and all in flight initiatives will deliver to the organization.

These activities can lead to some very difficult and politically sensitive questions being asked either of or by the CIO, and of or by executive business sponsors. While difficult, done constructively such an exercise can provide a great foundation for the CIO from both a business value and executive trust and credibility perspective. These exercises can also lead to a recalibration of the relationship and the expectations between CIOs and their business peers.

Like Aesop's ant, the future-focused CIO can use this approach to establish the business-technology value proposition for the organization for years to come, while at the same time insuring that the IT investments at the organization will pay dividends for years to come.

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Formerly CIO of the Amerisure Mutual Insurance Company, Frank Petersmark -petersmark@xby2.com- is CIO Advocate with X by 2 (www.xby2.com), a US technology consultancy (Farmington Hills, Michigan) that specializes in enterprise and application architecture for insurance companies.

 

 

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