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Q&A With Gary Plotkin, CIO, P&C Operations, The Hartford

Q&A With Gary Plotkin, CIO, P&C Operations, The Hartford

I&T: Describe your goals and overall challenges as The Hartford's CIO.

Plotkin: My challenges and tasks include transforming a large IT organization supporting a large number of business customers while not disrupting that support. They also include improving the relationship between IT and the business. This can only be achieved by improving delivery and consistency, and creating alignment with our business customers.

I&T: What did you set out to do when you joined The Hartford in 2004? What have you accomplished since then?

Gary Plotkin, The HartfordPlotkin: First, to create an enterprise architecture competency and develop a foundation for reusable components to support future delivery. This took my first two years and has been successful in that we can quantifiably see benefits from the solutions, particularly the second (and beyond) time they are leveraged.

Over the past six months, I have been focused on developing improved alignment with our business customers by focusing a CIO on each key business segment. We have seen major improvement in our relationship and alignment by being a part of the business customer's agenda. At the same time, we created a software factory model to improve our delivery competency and allow the CIOs to focus on the relationship with the business. This realignment of the organization is still under way and proving harder than I had originally anticipated.

For the past two years, we have had an aggressive agenda to rationalize and replace our complex, legacy environment. The model was based upon taking something away every time something new was added. This continues to be a struggle as IT has not done a good enough job articulating both the short-term approach and long-term benefits in a way that resonates with our business customers.

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

Plotkin: The core of this is focused [around] capable project managers [PMs]. We continue to invest heavily in PM development, primarily through PMI certification, mentoring and continuous improvement activities. We are now investing in CMMI to provide consistent processes and reproducibility. We expect to be at Level 2 by the end of the year and then move on to Level 3 certification.

In addition, a team of IT, business and finance resources has been working to improve our existing governance process. Our focus includes clear project roles and responsibility; simpler business cases and CBAs [cost-benefit analyses]; and improved involvement/accountability from our P&L owners, the senior business customers. Lastly, we continue to learn that success is very much based upon open, honest and active communication at all levels.

I&T: What are your top current and future initiatives?

Plotkin: I am looking to complete our new governance process in Q2. Our CMMI Level 2 certification at the end of this year will also be a major accomplishment. In addition, we have some large data center migration and business resiliency activities ongoing that should be complete by the end of 2009. Limiting business impact is critical during those activities.

Lastly, continuing to improve the integration of the CIOs with their business partners is my most critical initiative. I am already seeing benefits from the way we are initiating projects and making decisions. I expect the 2009 budget plan activity (starting in late Q3 2008) to be a bellwether event on our progress.

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