Keeping Business Strategy in Sync With That of IT is Vital

Gary P. Scholten, CIO & SVP, Principal Financial Group
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Gary P. Scholten, CIO & SVP, Principal Financial Group

Challenges in technology to meet enterprise needs in 2013 and expectations

The Principal has a strategy that positions us for great success, but a critical success factor is that IT enables the business agility necessary to take advantage of the opportunities that we will have. We have done much internally to enable agility– e.g. leveraging services oriented architecture, an internal cloud and agile development methods.
 
My wish list for technology vendors is to truly service enable their solutions in order to provide the agility and interoperability that we need from solutions that we buy.

The areas in business environment where solutions do not yet exist or not up to the mark, and which if existed, would've made job easier
 
I imagine that all financial services CIO sometimes lose sleep over increasing information security risks. While there has been welcome improvement in threat information sharing between governmental agencies, providers and financial services companies, there are solutions that could improve our risk management position. The top of my list would be real-time whitelisting fed by the best intelligence from all sources.
 
Thoughts on how IT strategic planning supports organization-wide efforts to improve quality, cut costs and improve efficiency in the financial sector
 
At The Principal, our goal is to have our business and IT strategies as aligned as possible. That means IT enablement is ready ahead of business strategy need. It also means that technology potential influences business strategy. There will typically be more demand for IT services than revenue can support, so an aligned business/IT strategy is critical to ensure that our IT investments are made where they can have the most impact on business strategy.
 
My roles and responsibilities as a CIO
 
A trend that has existed for some time is for CIOs to focus more on business leadership. That means taking on additional responsibilities such as leading corporate strategy, and supplier management. It has also meant joining the Boards of subsidiary companies and being much more active in government relations activities– especially related to cyber-security and IT workforce issues.
 
Manner in which data is used to head off problems and complications before they happen
 
As an Investment Management leader, it is critical that The Principal effectively leverages data to manage risks and to be able to communicate our risk management positioning to regulators, rating agencies and customers. More recently we are focusing increasingly on leveraging data to engage more deeply with customers and advisors. As more baby boomers move in to their retirement years, the financial services companies that engage more effectively with this large group of customers will have a competitive advantage.
 
Technology trends impacting enterprise business environment
 
Much has been written about the consumerization of technology over the recent past, and I think that it will continue to impact our enterprise. To me, this means more than just mobility, apps and access– employees leveraging all of the technology that they use in their personal lives in their work lives, in a seamless fashion.
 
Lessons learned and your advice for fellow CIOs
 
To be the business leader that successful CIOs need to be, we need to gain a deep understanding of our businesses and the industries in which we participate. But equally important is to stay current on technology and technology trends so that we can effectively lead our IT teams.

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