Piyush Singh, CIO of Great American Insurance Company, gave a presentation at Insurance & Technology's Executive Summit in Carefree, Ariz. Monday morning on the company's comprehensive transformation initiative. In a Q&A with editorial director Kathy Burger, Singh discussed working with the business side to build core systems that enabled the company's growth strategy. Following is a portion of that discussion.
Kathy Burger, I&T: When you embarked on this project, there were lots of limitations with regard to technology. What was going on in the business that made this a priority?
Piyush Singh, Great American: The business wanted flexibility, but they also talked about ambiguity? How is the market going to react to certain things? There was a need for internal efficiency.
KB: How did you make the case to the business that a total transformation was the right way to go?
PS: You have to get the business to think about its business assets in ways they haven't before.'We need to get away from trying to replace one system at a time because three years from now it becomes legacy and you never get the benefit of it. This was a much more holistic approach. It was more about value creation for our company.
KB: How flexible has the plan been along the way?
PS: There are challenges that cause you to change your plans. Sometimes they're biz units want to change their priorities because of what they face in the market. Sometimes things we select don't pan out and we have to go back and figure out how were going to deal with it. For example, we had no plans on mobile when we started, now we do. At first to launch everything up front. But later we decided to focus own the front-end user experience first.
KB: Did you take a different approach to working with vendors?
PS: We didn't want a traditional RFP where we said, "This is what we want, do you do it," we wanted to know what the best vendors are and how they do it. We treat them as partners. Take the phone system, for example — they're really part of our ecosystem and everyone is as important as the other. We do a partner summit and educate them on what we are and how they all play together.
KB: You said were able to do this without adding staff. But how did your existing staff change in terms of needed skills, for example?
PS: Our people truly had the desire to succeed and make things different. Before, their energies were never really challenged, and given the right opportunity, behavior modifications came from them. They said, "Here's how we can do our jobs better, and it will be good for the company overall."