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A CIO With Passion

Nationwide's George McKinnon has created a workplace where staff can learn and grow.

McKinnon developed the sponsorship model because of industry-wide high failure rates of IT projects. ""It stems from the fact that something like 75 percent of all IT projects fail—and that is because of lack of sponsorship,"" he says. ""That is something that is across all industries.""

At Nationwide, the IT initiatives are planned so project groups take ""smaller bites,"" he says. ""Our metrics are very different,"" adds McKinnon. ""We actually have over 90 percent of our projects delivered in plus or minus 10 percent of the time and dollar estimate. We don't want anymajor failures. We are happier with many people hitting singles, rather than a few people hitting home runs.""

Many of the ""singles"" and ""doubles"" have manufactured more than a few runs for Nationwide. During the past 12 months, McKinnon's IT team has implemented new e-commerce, agency and billing platforms, and introduced Web GUIs for legacy system extensions.

The company's IT work has not gone unnoticed. Insurance & Technology's Elite 8 Consultants Advisory Board nominated McKinnon for ""having implemented innovative solutions that have propelled Nationwide Insurance Systems into a world-class-caliber IT organization.""

Part of the strategy behind the new platforms is to make Nationwide into an organization that provides ""customers with a choice,"" says McKinnon. ""We are not just offering products through the Internet. We are using the agents and the personal relationships they have, adding technology and Web capability, and then policyholders can do business with us in any way, any place they want to. The use of technology to service the customer—that speaks to customer retention.""

In fact, McKinnon says Nationwide is preparing its systems to better serve the customers, not just to combat new dot-com insurance companies. ""It would be very difficult for a dot-com to mimic the service our service center people and 16,000 agents give,"" he says. ""We are assisting them with technology."" Pure dot-coms ""won't fit in the marketplace because it comes down to advice and service. The service capability is already here, but only a few people will want to buy without consultation and advice.""

As a CIO, McKinnon sees the industry and his own position evolving over the next few years. ""CIOs are becoming business leaders for a particular aspect of the business,"" he says. ""You have seen CIOs become CEOs, as Glenn Renwick did at Progressive.""

And CIOs can no longer stump business leaders with tech jargon. ""Many of the top business executives are becoming tech savvy,"" notes McKinnon. ""You just can't walk into a meeting, start throwing out technical stuff and think nobody knows what you are talking about. Almost everyone in the room goes home and uses the Internet. They understand the technology and they are looking to bring it into insurance.""



IT BUDGET: $200 million for development.

IT STAFF: 1,200 internal and 300 contracted staff.

HOBBIES/INTERESTS: Water-skiing, cycling, home projects and his kids.

NON-TECHNICAL MAGAZINES: Water Ski Magazine, Outside

LAST BOOK READ: The Partner by John Grisham.

KEY QUOTE: ""To work on this level, you have to be passionate about your work.""

Greg MacSweeney is editorial director of InformationWeek Financial Services, whose brands include Wall Street & Technology, Bank Systems & Technology, Advanced Trading, and Insurance & Technology. View Full Bio

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