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MassMutual’s Casale Transitions Into CIO Role

MassMutual's Bob Casale details his transition into the carrier's CIO role, coinciding with the retirement of his predecessor, Mike Foley.

Starting with the trumpet in elementary school and including the acoustic guitar he often picks up in his spare time today, MassMutual's Bob Casale says, he has always enjoyed playing music, including classical, jazz, blues and rock 'n' roll. "I just enjoy all music," he relates. "I've really been exposed to quite a bit."

Those same words might also ring true in Casale's professional life — over the past year, the 13-year veteran of MassMutual's enterprise technology organization was groomed to replace the now-retired Mike Foley as the carrier's chief information officer.

Casale formally stepped into the CIO role Dec. 1, 2008, with Foley officially retiring Jan. 1, 2009. The transition process, however, started far earlier. "We set -- going into January [2008] -- a formal plan to talk about the best way to transition the role, given the vast amount of change and activity going on in the organization," Casale says, referring to several other key executive appointments and promotions that occurred in the organization within the same time period.

In January 2008, Casale was promoted to deputy CIO, at which point he worked to develop an understanding of the CIO role at the Springfield, Mass.-based carrier. Foley, meanwhile, continued to handle the job's day-to-day operations, while both assumed leadership roles in the carrier's major technology modernization initiative.

By June, Casale had grown more comfortable in the role and was promoted to senior vice president. Around that time, the organization's dotted-line reporting structure transitioned from Foley to Casale, giving Casale enterprise accountabilities around architecture and information security. "The second phase was really building direct relationships with the business areas and the applications folks and beginning to take on more of that accountability," Casale explains.

On Dec. 1, when he formally stepped into the CIO role, Casale assumed responsibility for oversight of application areas and infrastructure components such as networks and operations. "It was very planned and purposely [designed] to be smooth and orderly so as Mike stepped out there would really be no bump in the road at all," Casale says of the gradual transition process.

MassMutual's modernization effort will be a key priority for Casale as CIO, as it was in his past roles. From 2006 to 2008, he says, the initiative focused on large, core projects, such as distribution and core product platforms as well as illustration, imaging and workflow capabilities. "Now that we have all those building blocks in place, as we move through this year and the rest of the formal modernization program, it's about building business capabilities on top of that," reports Casale, who identifies work on straight-through processing (STP) and Web-based capabilities and services as next steps.

On the retirement services side, according to Casale, he will be looking to scale up for a growing business, while STP of order entry and customer access will be priorities for the retirement income and annuities group. As far as enterprise IT functions are concerned, Casale says, core execution, operations and security will always be top of mind. In addition, though, there will be areas of focus around a secure global network that connects MassMutual with its subsidiaries and core agencies, and a further transition from batch to real-time processing.

Casale will also oversee a building out of the carrier's SOA capabilities. The organization spent the past two years working on foundational pieces of its SOA environment, building in monitoring, security and other core aspects, he says. "A services-oriented architecture, for all of its benefits, creates an environment that is a bit more complex than a traditional mainframe," Casale notes. "We've found tremendous success in our initial business rollouts because we put the time into not only the infrastructure, but the people and the practices to really understand how to be successful with SOA."

As the major modernization project chugs along, Casale indicates that the carrier will have to demonstrate constant vigilance in identifying new areas where emerging technologies could help the business. Already, the carrier is introducing a small mobile computing pilot for its agencies and exploring social networking and collaboration tools for internal use.

"Technology environments are changing so quickly that we need to be forward-thinking much more than we've been in the past," Casale explains. "As an industry, and certainly as a company, our view is that there is competitive advantage to be gained by understanding what is coming next."

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