Amidst the current crisis, many insurers are turning to IT to help them change the way they operate so that they will be positioned for success in a more competitive and challenging market. Business/IT communication is IT's responsibility. Remember who the "customer" is. Although communication is a two-way street, IT must take the lead in promoting and fostering a culture of communication. While IT staff (and some executives) may resent having to shoulder this burden, it is important to remember that however strategic IT's role may be, it is still a supporting function within the organization. Many CIOs frequently have to remind their staffs that they are working for an insurance company, not a technology company. Or, as one CIO we know put it more succinctly: If business and IT fail to communicate properly, who will be fired - the business leader or the IT leader? Recognizing that the business side is essentially a customer of IT, it is important to foster an internal sales culture within IT. IT departments should apply the same kind of client management techniques that effective service providers do: frequent proactive updates and informal touchpoints, focus on business value to be achieved, in-depth needs analysis, documentation of conversations and change requests, and other practices common to consulting organizations. This is one area in which many CIOs who are former consultants excel-applying their client management skills to their relationships with senior business executives. Among this, Novarica's recent discussions with CIOs have highlighted steps that can help improve IT's abilities to communicate:

Insurer business executives are typically uncomfortable with IT. In most cases, senior executives at insurance companies have familiarity with sales, marketing, underwriting, claims, service and basic company operations. But IT is a black box to them, which creates uncertainty and fear in dealing with IT. After all, here is a critical piece of their information business that they don't really understand. IT can help increase the comfort level of business executives by offering predictable and proactive communications. Regular status reports of business capabilities delivered, project milestones achieved and other elements helps business feel in control. And proactive notifications that explain a problem and steps being taken to correct it can minimize the anxiety that occurs when business brings a problem to IT without having any idea of its magnitude or how it might be corrected.

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