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Q&A With Bob Casale, Deputy CIO, MassMutual

MassMutual deputy CIO Bob Casale discusses his role, sourcing strategies and his top priorities in 2008.

I&T: Describe your goals and challenges as the deputy CIO at MassMutual.

Bob Casale: In a word: change. Managing large-scale change is my biggest priority. I am tasked with leading the IT organization through a significant transformation. This is both in terms of supporting the business-modernization efforts of our company as well as the changes required to position the IT capability of the company.

I&T: What goals did you set when you assumed the CIO role? What have you learned so far?

Casale: I stepped into the role of deputy CIO in early 2008. I had two major areas of focus as I began: project delivery and learning. Both of these require an increasingly greater understanding of where our businesses are heading and what IT needs to do to help get us there. We have already enjoyed some terrific delivery success in 2008. In terms of learning, I now have much better insight into the workings of the entire IT operation and, more important, clearer insight into where we need to begin to go as we strive to become even better.

I&T: How do you ensure the success of major technology initiatives and of broader projects?

Casale: With the amount of change -- both internal and external -- it's imperative that leadership actively steer the priorities of the organization. An important goal for us is to continually balance the needs of the entire company with the needs of a particular business line. This is done in full partnership with our business counterparts through a consolidated steering process.

I&T: What are your top priorities for 2008? And what are your longer-term goals?

Casale: Of course, delivery is always a priority. But that is not the only one. We will be working to define, communicate and implement changes that move the IT operation to its next level of excellence. IT, in 2008, is very different than the pure technology/transactional orientations of the past. We need first to be businesspeople who, in turn, bring technology to bear on solving business challenges.

I&T: What workforce challenges do you anticipate facing in the near future? How do you plan to cope with them?

Casale: We have the traditional challenges of changing skill sets and some lack-of-depth issues with subject matter expertise. We clearly see an industry shift toward greater business and process analysis, systems integration and service-oriented development, and an explosive growth in the data and information space. We have developed a multiyear planning model to use as we manage demand and skills transition. For the first time, we have good optics into ways to purposefully manage (e.g., training, recruiting, retooling) to where we are going versus managing solely to where we are today.

I&T: What management, communication and integration challenges do newer sourcing strategies present?

Casale: In terms of working with IT partners, I see challenges with some of the basics that you take for granted when working internally. Most notable are clarity of requirements and roles, along with strong management of relationships. Above all, timely, effective communication with vendors is critical.

For two specific reasons, today's relationships require much greater closeness: First, the clock speed of business is always increasing -- we need to respond faster than ever before. Second, we believe that our strategic partners must know who we are and what our priorities are, and bring to bear perspectives we may not have. Likewise, we want to know where our partners are headed and how we can influence their direction.

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