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How one CIO navigated the path from sales to IT leader

Brian Watson | July 29, 2016
Anthem CIO Tom Miller says authenticity and his non-IT background make him a more effective CIO.

They are also some of the most critical lessons Miller developed in his sales and management tenures. By his own account, Miller started his sales career as a rather timid person. “I didn’t want to talk to people,” he recalls. “I had to learn that through the sales function. If you’re going to sell, you need to talk to people—and talk quickly and confidently.”

Understanding customer concerns was also of utmost importance. So was understanding that just about every major initiative inside the company centered on its customers.

“(That background) prepared me to look at IT, lead IT and, more importantly, represent IT differently than other people who grew up in the IT function,” Miller says.

When he became CIO of Anthem in May 2014, he found an IT culture in the making. Anthem — long known as WellPoint, before changing the name in December 2014 — had made two major acquisitions prior to his arrival: WellPoint, which it bought for $20.88 billion in December 2004, and Amerigroup, which it purchased for $4.5 billion in December 2012, according to published reports. Both of those companies had distinct customer bases and cultures, and the IT organizations for each remained relatively intact.

Miller worked quickly create a truly enterprise IT function that united those cultures and re-architected the IT’s organization’s structure and roles. Instead of having divisional IT leaders for business lines like government or commercial insurance, he aligned his leadership team around specific functions key to Anthem’s overall strategy. For example, he created leadership roles around client engagement, project management, delivery, enterprise technology operations and security, among others.

Those changes, Miller says, helped set the course for a more high-performing IT organization. “Leadership, in a lot of ways, boils down to three things: Vision, alignment and motivation,” he says. “Making sure there was a clear vision of what we were going to do, aligning IT people to that vision, and motivating them to want to achieve what our goals were — that’s probably one of the biggest things we’ve done in the last two years.

“We’re a very motivated team right now, and more aligned than ever before,” he adds.

Today, Miller plots a course for his IT organization focused not on delivering specific technologies to enable the business, but the processes, applications, data and people strategies that will help Anthem meet its overall goals.

He takes a systematic approach, with three pillars, to marrying IT’s potential to those goals. The first is around running the IT function well, the fundamental components of a successful IT function, which includes clear plans around areas like talent, infrastructure, security, digital, mobile and application architecture.


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