Awhile ago over at the Wall Street Journal they had a chance to sit down and have a talk with Catherine Brune who is the CIO over at the big insurance company Allstate. Catherine had some interesting things to say about how she is adapting Allstate’s IT operations and strategy to deal with the current recession.
First off, Catherine pointed out that she sees opportunity in the times that we are currently living in. Specifically, she noted that yes, everything will eventually recover, and firms need to make sure that they will be ready to seize the moment when this occurs. IT will play a major role in making sure that any firm is ready to do this.
Allstate is currently in the process of re-prioritizing all of its IT projects (no surprise there, eh?) The way that they are going about doing this is by taking a look at what the project would produce once it was completed. They then ask “is this something that customers are asking for?” If it isn’t, then that project get shelved.
It turns out that this is actually pretty hard to do because every project is related to other projects. That means that that shelving one project may result in a number of other projects also being shelved. The key to doing this right is to take the time up front and map out the dependencies between IT projects.
Allstate’s IT department realizes that they need to support the rest of the business. This means that they find themselves living in both the world of IT and the world of business. They do this by focusing on business processes and how IT can help. The key here, however, is to make sure that they don’t automate a bad business process.
Finally, Allstate has adopted the ITIL (Information Technology Infrastructure Library) set of best practices in order to run their shop. This basically means that there is a form for just about everything that you’d want to do. This has simplified the routine parts of running the IT department.
Is your IT department currently reprioritizing your current projects? Have you created a dependency map? How involved in automating business processes are you? Does your IT shop use the ITIL practices? Leave me a comment and let me know what you are thinking.