Management Strategies

12:13 PM
Frank Petersmark, X by 2
Frank Petersmark, X by 2

For Insurance CIOs, One is the Loneliest Number

Former Amerisure CIO recommends that IT leaders reach out to other members of the C-suite to expand support and understanding of the role.

The life of a CIO at an insurance company can be a lonely one. I know--I've been there.

In many companies the job is less understood than any other executive position. The results are more scrutinized than for any other executive position, and to top it all off, nothing is ever really 'done' in the same sense as it is 'done' for other executive positions. When a CIO and his or her team implement a new system of even the mildest complexity, it's not the end of the process. It's actually the beginning, given the productions problems, customizations, and upgrade that will inevitably come.

Frank Petersmark
Frank Petersmark, X by 2
So with all of that, is it too much to ask that the CIO have an executive buddy or two? Somebody who understands the trials and tribulations of being a CIO, the enormous pressure that comes with the position, and the difficulty in keeping one strategic foot in the business world and the other strategic foot in the technology world at all times? Apparently it is.

In far too many organizations – inside and outside of the insurance industry – the best and most accurate way to describe the nature of executive relationships with the CIO is as a one-way street at best, and at worst as a one-way dead-end street. In many organizations it is incumbent on the CIO to reach out and create those relationships, and that's fine in and of itself. But they often get very little or nothing in return, and that's not fine by any stretch.

There are some CIOs who have crossed the organizational chasm and landed in executive business positions. (Interestingly, you rarely hear of an executive business leader who crosses the chasm the other way and becomes a CIO.) The implication is that there are some organizations that have a broader and deeper understanding of what CIOs do and recognize that business and technology acumen should be key components of any executive position. Unfortunately, those companies are few and far between.

The reality, though, is that there are still too few organizations that work hard enough at the executive level to create the kind of environment necessary for their CIO to develop true peer relationships with their executive counterparts. This takes time, patience, persistence, and above all, a willingness on the part of both CIOs and their fellow executives to reach across the chasm and grab each other's hand.

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