It's probably a bit of a stretch to declare that a CEO is only as good as his or her CIO, or that "Behind every good CEO is a great CIO." But the findings of Insurance & Technology's 2007 "Tech-Savvy CEOs" report show that the relationship between these senior executives has never been more productive or important than now. The profiles of these five insightful and successful chief executives illustrate just how integral IT has become to any insurance company's business strategies — especially when those strategies focus on new ways to drive growth, improve customer service and retention, and enable more effective and compliant distribution (and whose strategies don't focus on those goals?).
But while this essential partnership may be well-established at an increasing number of insurance companies, there still are many organizations in which the CEO/CIO relationship is delicate, at best — a situation that can lead to many lost business opportunities and that can have a detrimental impact on everything from budget management to morale to competitive positioning.
There's probably no single source of blame for an unsatisfactory CEO/CIO relationship. Management changes, personal chemistry, stock market and analyst pressures, M&As, and compensation discrepancies all can come into play. A big part of the challenge has to do with unrealistic expectations. A recent article by George F. Colony, chairman and CEO of Forrester Research, cites a Forrester global CEO study that found that 60 percent of CEOs surveyed said they are satisfied with the overall performance of IT/BT (business technology). This number is too low, Colony contends, and stems partly from a misplaced expectation that CIOs should lead — rather than partner with business executives to manage and support — innovation and process improvement. "The CIO must be in the business of educating and teaching the businesspeople so they can make the leap" and understand how to apply technology to reach business goals, Colony says. What the CIO can do, he adds, is "work to develop a TKCEO — a technology-knowledgeable CEO."
Are the five CEOs we feature in this issue the exceptions who prove the rule or models for the future? Read on — and listen to the accompanying executive podcasts, accessible at www.insurancetech.com/podcast — to determine whether or not this is a path your organization can, and should, follow.
Katherine Burger is Editorial Director of Bank Systems & Technology and Insurance & Technology, members of UBM TechWeb's InformationWeek Financial Services. She assumed leadership of Bank Systems & Technology in 2003 and of Insurance & Technology in 1991. In addition to ... View Full Bio