By R. Christopher Haines, Executive VP and Chief Operating Officer
Spending my entire career in IT, I might be a little biased. Nevertheless, I’m still surprised that the role and importance of IT in an organization is usually overlooked, especially in startups and new businesses. I just can’t understand it. I get the fact that accounting, marketing, and other operational areas are important. But good IT can make everything so much easier.
When I started my career in insurance, CIOs were rare and IT VPs rarely got a seat at the big table. I can remember being told more than once that IT just wasn’t that important. Or it wasn’t at the same level as some of the other parts of the organization. Whatever great ideas the business side would come up with were supposed to just magically happen, on time and under budget, once they were handed off to IT.
There is a world of difference between insurance companies run by people who understand the importance of IT and those that are not. Now that I’m on the vendor side, I’m constantly trying to educate talented insurance professional as to the need for solid IT. Most of the people I talk to are my friends first and potential customers second. So, I’m really trying to lead them down the correct path. Sometimes, I’m not even trying to make a sale. But I’m always swimming upstream in those conversations.
Now the insurance industry has an onslaught of startups. Most of these are run by quality insurance professionals with a great deal of experience. They work very hard and put in countless hours to get their new companies off the ground. But in almost every one of them, IT is a struggle.
They’re strong in underwriting, marketing, and claims. But they often lack a meaningful, productive understanding of IT, how it works, and how much it really costs. They lack the insight to know that things might be much easier with solid insurance technology in place from the get go.
Some of these companies come up with the money to buy a good system but seem to get hung up on investing in the appropriate people to support it, whether it’s internal staff or an IT services company. Either way, somehow this part of the operation seems to get overlooked. But if you’re going to say IT is an important part of your business, you’d better understand how it works and have some idea of how much it costs.
If it’s the last thing you think of, or if you plan to fund it with the money that’s left over after everything else is taken care of, your company might be in for a short ride.