Insurance companies are under intense pressure these days. They're expected to deliver better care at lower costs. They're required to meet the mandates of the new federal healthcare law. And they're expected to continue supporting corporate initiatives. As vice president and CIO in the commercial business unit of health benefits provider WellPoint, Darren Ghanayem says he's keenly aware that technology is key to his company's ability to meet all those demands. "Everything we do from a business perspective has IT down at the core," says Ghanayem, who oversees an IT organization with 2,235 employees and an annual budget of $600 million. Here, he shares his views on what it takes to deliver IT in today's environment.
Family: Wife and a 9-year-old daughter
Downtime activities: Riding motorcycles, hiking, being outdoors
What's on your iPod? "I trade a new playlist on a monthly basis. I have about 16,000 songs. I name my playlists by the month and year. But my favorite artist is Peter Gabriel."
What's on your reading list? "The First 90 Days [by Michael Watkins] is my bible at the moment, but what I enjoy are John Grisham books."
Is there something most people don't know about you? "I enjoy watercolor art. I do have an artistic streak. I paint pictures of flowers."
How does technology fit into the changing healthcare landscape? We don't manage or make a tangible asset. We manage information, so we are core to the fabric of everything this company wants to do, whether it's to get into a new market or become compliant with a regulation. There is virtually nothing that our business does that doesn't involve IT.
What's your IT strategy for WellPoint? We've got five sections of our IT strategy. No. 1 is to grow and support our business initiatives, whether they be maximizing our member health or modifying our provider reimbursement. No. 2: to stay compliant with our regulations, whether it's state, federal or local. No. 3 is to innovate with new solutions, new ways to allow [our members] to access healthcare or deliver new technologies to empower consumers to make better choices. No. 4 is to consolidate and simplify our environment. We have grown through acquisition over the years, and as we acquire, our infrastructure becomes more complex. And No. 5 is to stabilize and improve our operational environment to support our business in a global marketplace, in operations that could run a 24-hour shop across the globe.
How do you achieve these five strategic points? Our annual budget cycle is not an event, it's a process. We go through months of activities that involve prioritizing. That goes from marketing dynamics — where are we competitive, where are we winning, where are we lagging behind — and we [look at] where we want to go, what we want to become, and so we invest in ourselves.
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