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07/23/2014

Your first steps towards a Digital Strategy in Insurance: To CIO or to CDO?

It wasn't that long ago that the role of the CIO (Chief Information Officer) was under fire to the point of potential extinction. Experience however has shown that not only does the CIO still have a role to play, but their impacts could be greater than ever.

 

Far from suffering at the hands of their once more powerful colleagues, some CIOs are witnessing something of a revival, with a Public Relations machine transforming them into Chief Digital Officers (CDOs). Their roles have without doubt evolved, with CIOs now undertaking the role of Head of Business Transformation, Head of Business Process Change, Head of Service Delivery and even Head of Supply Chain.

The picture however is not always so clear cut. Whilst PR might be keen to label everyone with this new title, the truth is that only some of the existing CIOs have the attributes to take the role forward - Just because you are the CIO does not mean you are the CDO by default. The new business landscape has at its core an emphasis on innovation and digital strategies, that draws less heavily on deep IT knowledge from the 80's and 90's, and recent cost containment exercises brought about during the last decade, but the confidence and drive to lead the entire business strategy from the front. Technical knowhow can only get you so far; a true CDO requires the ability to combine this with the new market focus, brought about by advancements in Digital, whilst being able to understand what is means for the customer and at the business level what it means for the balance sheet.

A successful CDO will be required to:

Sell the business case

  • Stakeholders will look more than ever to this role to provide strategic direction, and in doing so, it is essential that the CDO can sell this to the business and investors
  • CDOs need to be strong communicators and comfortable spending time in the limelight and championing change initiatives
  • One key aspect of this will be the ability to "speak multiple business languages". CDOs should be well travelled and have earned their spurs working within technical and non-technical roles across a broad range of business processes

Embrace Cultural Change

  • Step out of the blinkered programme delivery mind-set and begin to build change around the employees, adapting their roles and processes to mirror that of the new technology and ways of work
  • This will be essential for a CDO to achieve one of their main goals; that of removing silos. They will have to understand, lead and connect several teams in order to deliver a cohesive digital strategy

Focus on the customer

  • The focus in no longer delivering internally, but on innovation, marketing, product development, sales and pricing that directly affect the customer and meets their needs
  • The traditional CIO role still needs to be undertaken but should be done so in the background and not by the CDO

Be the next CEO

  • Historically it was always possible to make the transition from CIO to CEO, but it was perceived to be a difficult one
  • The CDO role profile however should look like a CEO in waiting, with an emphasis on strategy, innovation and leading from the front
  • There is a growing trend for newly promoted CEOs to have worked as a CDO; further emphasising the pull internally and/or from investors that their skills are highly valued in the market

The role of the CDO is still quite poorly understood but it should be seen as a transitional one. CDOs are often appointed to provide a much needed urgency to a firms digital strategy, and as the business develops, so will the role of the CDO. With an ever increasing number of firms across financial services proudly advertising their new job posting like a badge of honour, it will be interesting to see how this new C-suite member copes with the pressure.

 
 
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