Share on LinkedIn
Share

The art of balancing digital and traditional IT

Kenny MacIver — January 2016
Aviva group CIO Monique Shivanandan argues that technology leaders need to help their organizations embrace the digital revolution while still delivering rock-solid run-the-business services.

The greatest modern challenge of CIOs is to drive digital innovation while also ensuring the operational IT that underpins their organizations runs smoothly 24x7.  For Monique Shivanandan, group CIO of insurance giant Aviva, those twin pressures have had a transformational influence on the IT leadership position.


As she outlines in our exclusive video interview, “balancing this role is what makes it so exciting to be in technology today. You have the responsibility of keeping this engine running, making sure you have good practices, making sure your security is robust, and making sure your different customer channels are running every day. It’s just all got to be there.”

But that’s now only one side of a much-expanded remit. “The other side is taking responsibility for changing the way the business is going, changing the products that the business offers, changing the culture of your organization, changing the way it interacts with customers and the brand that we want to present to them,” she says.

In the case of 320-year-old Aviva, with its 34 million insurance, pension and savings customers spread across 16 countries, that means supporting a multi-year effort designed to transform it from a classic insurance provider to “an edgy tech company,” ready to support the new world of risk that is evolving from the digital disruption in areas such as automotive, travel and building monitoring.

Servicing both operational needs and that digital journey is what makes the job so compelling, says Shivanandan. “Every day there’s a different challenge.  One day you’re running a disaster recovery drill, making sure you’re resilient. Or you’ve had a big software release on some exciting new capabilities and you need to make sure that it all worked as planned. The next you’re thinking about what the business’s digital offering is going to be for the home of the future or how we are going to make sure that when people have a health examination they can talk to their doctor over a video screen and the experience for both is highly positive.”

Maintaining IT equilibrium
Maintaining a balance between the two sides, though, is critical, she argues, and that comes down to one factor — people. If CIOs are to ensure operational responsibilities don’t overwhelm their time or they don’t get seduced by what might be seen as the more energizing digital side of the role, they need to be surrounded by highly skilled and motivated people — and to spread their focus equally. That’s important, says Shivanandan, “because they all have to succeed together” to create the desired outcome.

“The digital product isn’t actually going to be all that effective if the back-end systems are falling over, and the back-end systems won’t have a place to offer their great capabilities if the front-ends aren’t there,” she says. “So it’s a very interesting balance.”

It’s not just interesting, it is transforming the IT leadership role and making it one of the most dynamic and fulfilling in business, she argues. “This is the best time to be in technology. There’s no other business that you would want to be in.”

That’s because  digitalization is putting  IT at the center of every business — and in some cases making it the business itself. “Whether they realize it or not yet, every business is a technology company,” says Shivanandan.

• Photography: Greg Funnell

First published
January 2016
Share on LinkedIn
Share
Monique Shivanandan profile picture
About: Monique Shivanandan
Having led IT strategy at Capital One and BT Retail as those giants of banking and telecoms successfully navigated technology revolutions, Aviva group CIO Monique Shivanandan is preparing the insurance multinational for the digital transformation of its sector.

Your choice regarding cookies on this site

Our website uses cookies for analytical purposes and to give you the best possible experience.

Click on Accept to agree or Preferences to view and choose your cookie settings.

This site uses cookies to store information on your computer.

Some cookies are necessary in order to deliver the best user experience while others provide analytics or allow retargeting in order to display advertisements that are relevant to you.

For a full list of our cookies and how we use them, please visit our Cookie Policy


Essential Cookies

These cookies enable the website to function to the best of its ability and provide the best user experience for you. They can still be disabled via your browser settings.


Analytical Cookies

We use analytical cookies such as those used by Google Analytics to give us information about the way our users interact with i-cio.com - this helps us to make improvements to the site to enhance your experience.

For a full list of analytical cookies and how we use them, visit our Cookie Policy


Social Media Cookies

We use cookies that track visits from social media platforms such as Facebook and LinkedIn - these cookies allow us to re-target users with relevant advertisements from i-cio.com.

For a full list of social media cookies and how we use them, visit our Cookie Policy