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04:45 PM
Lisa Valentine
Lisa Valentine
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Jim Hanson, EVP of Information Services, Mutual of Omaha Jim Hanson and Mutual of Omaha (.74 billion in 2005 revenue) have a long history together. Hanson joined the mutual company right out of college and has served in his current role as the carrier's EVP for information services for 10 years. During his tenure, Hanson has been able to update the organization's legacy systems with new technologies while making the resulting IT environment appear seamless to the company's internal and external

I&T: Does working with IBM mean you have standardized on Java?

Hanson: While Java is the architecture road we are heading down, we also know that we will have some .NET applications. We're doing a mix of build and buy, and if a package can get us 80 percent of where we need to be and runs on .NET, we'll buy it. We'll have a mixed architecture, but we are trying to control it as best we can.

I&T: What types of benefits will Web services provide?

Hanson: A lot of our legacy administration systems cannot provide the information we need to provide to agents, brokers and policyholders. Web services provides that access. Reusability is another benefit. For example, we used service-oriented architecture (SOA) to develop an application on the P&C side that we can use in other product lines. And as we continue to go down the path of SOA, we'll see more benefits.

I&T: How large is your IT staff?

Hanson: We have just over 700 individuals. This is a decrease from five years ago and speaks to improving our effectiveness and efficiency.

I&T: As CIO of a mutual company, are there unique technology issues you face compared to a shareholder-driven company?

Hanson: I don't think there are. IT executives at both stock and mutual companies are tasked with providing the most cost-effective and efficient product we can. Because the stock side is so driven by quarterly results, as a mutual company CIO, perhaps I can take a more long-term view rather than focusing on short-term results. But I'm still driven quarter by quarter as well.

I&T: Are there any hardware or software products deployed at Mutual of Omaha that you would consider "outstanding" technology?

Hanson: I won't name any specific hardware or software, but SOA's ability to get us faster delivery and less redundant code with reusable components has definite ROI benefits. Another technology that has served Mutual of Omaha well over the years is imaging and workflow. What we've found is that workflow for handling the images is just as important as the imaging itself. Most of our imaging takes place in the home office, but we are moving imaging out to the agents. Our goal is to be fully electronically enabled, but to do so we need to focus not so much on the image but on the data itself. We're doing a fair amount of work around optical character recognition (OCR) to capture imaged data.

I&T: Can you provide details about the recently launched Omaha Information Services Company?

Hanson: Mutual of Omaha has developed a fair amount of expertise and scale around a variety of IT services we use internally. We knew we had something of value, and I was asked by local firms if we would provide those services to other companies. We decided to take advantage of that market need and build out our scale for external opportunities.

The company will initially focus on IT security, and leverage the processes and skills we've developed that give Mutual of Omaha a competitive advantage. We'll build out other services based on market demand. We'll offer these services to industries outside insurance and haven't limited ourselves to just regional markets. But we will be cautious and measured in how we expand this.

I&T: What's the most challenging aspect of your job?

Hanson: The ongoing integration of technology with business strategy. We're working with a lot of both newer and older technologies, and while our technology environment that we work in will remain complex, I need to make it look easier than it is. The agents and policyholders don't care -- and shouldn't care -- about the technologies we are using. We need to provide a simple way for them to get to the information they need, regardless of the technologies we have in place. That's a challenge for us.

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