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How to remain relevant in a changing IT world

Brian P. Watson | Feb. 28, 2017
Humana CIO Brian LeClaire learned a lesson in relevance early in his career — and he’s used it to drive the health insurance giant’s innovation roadmap.

From there, LeClaire connected his academic pedigrees and began teaching at the Wisconsin School of Business at the University of Wisconsin. One of his areas of focus was a conceptual model for decision-support systems, based on object-oriented technology. Before long, a student asked LeClaire to consult his company on an object-oriented implementation, and LeClaire joined the legion of academics who took on consulting work as a side gig.

But it would become much more. His consulting work gave him “a fire in the belly” to get into the business world. LeClaire soon made the less-usual leap from academics to industry, joining Prudential as an IT manager. It was in that role that he discovered the importance of relevance — in this case, for his career.

At the time, the company had a management hierarchy largely grown internally, so as an outsider, LeClaire had to quickly learn the landscape and demonstrate his value. “For me, it was really about how you remain relevant and keep your skillsets marketable both internally and externally, because at the end of the day, all management abhors a vacuum and has challenges that need to be solved,” he IT project success rates finally improving. “If you are someone who can do that, you are going to grow your career.”

Clearly, LeClaire did. He eventually worked directly for the CIO of Prudential Bank, who left the company for Alltel and recruited LeClaire to join him. At Alltel, he initially led the architecture side of the organization but later was promoted to oversee all product and development for the software side.

Yet another former colleague from Prudential called, inviting LeClaire to join him at Humana in 1999. Since then, LeClaire has held three different C-level titles at the health insurer: CTO, chief service officer, and his current title, CIO, which he has held since January 2014.

LeClaire says his current role came about as the then-new CEO, Bruce Broussard “wanted to make sure we brought technology up and out broadly across the company.” LeClaire shifted from reporting to the COO to Broussard.

And the shift came with a mandate.    

Driving strategic goals

As LeClaire noted, consumer technology use has had a dramatic impact on the way healthcare executives have strategized their interactions with customers, partners and providers. He noted that his discussions with his board of directors, first and foremost, have to do with aligning with the company’s overall strategy—in IT terms, that means reaching customers in ways they want to be reached. In line with that, cybersecurity is key concern, which forces LeClaire and his teams to consider how they protect those customer interactions.

Like Humana, companies at all ends of the healthcare ecosystem have turned their attention to new technologies that customers demand. Anthem, for one, has made it a big strategic focus. Cigna is experimenting with new apps, virtual reality and other technologies. Centene in early 2015 bought LiveHealthier, a health management software maker. In the broader healthcare ecosystem, pharmaceutical companies like Pfizer and Johnson & Johnson, and Merck have embarked on ambitious, technology-driven initiatives to appeal to existing and potential customers.


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