Legacy systems transformation, SOA and outsourcing were just a few of the major IT challenges discussed in a session titled “Technology Evolution and Revolution: IT in Changing Times–A CIO Panel,” as part of the 2006 ACORD LOMA Systems Forum held here May 22-24.
Panel moderator Greg Maciag, president and CEO of Pearl River, N.Y.-based ACORD, asked session participants to address the primary challenges to CIOs in today’s insurance organizations.
According to panelist John Kellington, senior vice president and chief technology officer for Ohio Casualty Group, based in Fairfield, Ohio, legacy transformation is a process that will be aided by the recent advent (in insurance companies) of service-oriented architecture (SOA). (SOA, generally, is a web-enabled information processing strategy that allows re-use and sharing of different services and processes across platforms and information silos.)
“If you have the appropriate architecture, a lot of things get a lot easier,” said Kellington, “but it’s important to get our arms around what we mean by SOA.”
“Architecture enables business processes,” said panelist Barbara Koster, chief information officer for Newark, N.J.-based Prudential Financial. “This is the first time we can articulate well to our business partners what it is we do.”
Another panelist, William N. Pieroni, global chief information officer for Chicago-based Aon Corporation, pointed to the “ambiguity” around terms such as SOA and web services. “This is ultimately formalized common sense,” he said of SOA. “Let’s just embrace it.”
He added, however, that he did not favor a common definition of SOA, noting such a definition would be “ultimately meaningless.”
The panel also discussed how insurers can better manage their data. “The world now is micro-rating and predictive modeling,” said Kellington. “Getting there comes down to data. It takes a lot of communication; a common data dictionary helps.”
According to Koster, the ability to “make low-level data into information that the business can use to create products is critical.” Panelist Ann Purr, second vice president, Information Systems, for Atlanta-based LOMA, noted, however, that businesses may have difficulty deciding where to spend IT money. “The IT community becomes an advisor,” she said.