Electronic Chat: Lance Fisk
Robert Regis Hyle | April 24, 2014
The Electronic Chat is a regular feature of ITA Pro magazine and ITApro.org. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader looking for thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
This month’s electronic Chat is with Lance Fisk, Chief Operating Officer-Technology, with the Willis Group Holdings, a global risk advisor, insurance, and reinsurance broker. With roots dating to 1828, Willis operates today on every continent with more than 17,000 employees in over 400 offices.
Fisk has 22 years of progressive global management experience in: technology operations and finance, manufacturing operations, financial systems administration, financial services including public accounting (he is an active CPA), strategic onshore and offshore partnerships and sourcing. program leadership, and workforce management and development.
What is the biggest leadership challenge you face in IT and how are you dealing with it?
Fisk: The biggest challenge we face today is transitioning our technology organization from one focused on the direct provision of legacy technology services to one focused on service management, innovation, and becoming a true value-add business partner.
This requires not only changes in culture and mindset but also a reconfiguration and up-skilling of our current workforce. In the last couple of years our company has had a couple of high profile wins in the innovation space and we want to ensure that we maintain a constant focus in this area.
We recently conducted a global technology skills Inventory focused on emerging and differentiating technologies. As a result of that survey we are currently working on several initiatives that will provide our workforce the skills and tools to meet a changing business demand. We are building a technology knowledge center that will provide communities for collaboration and learning. We are also creating a new advanced solutions service function focused solely on emerging technologies.
Which technologies do you feel are underutilized in the industry today?
Fisk: One area that we are focusing on is mobility. Given our industry is highly dependent on human interaction, connection, and collaboration, the ability to produce on-demand analytics and “what if” scenarios is critical. We have historically restricted non-approved devices and applications but need to reevaluate that position. We can no longer absolutely restrict tools that have the potential to add value to our business partners. We are working in areas such as device management to allow our business partners to work on the go with the tools they need and still protect critical company data.
What steps is Willis taking to attract and prepare young IT workers for a career in insurance IT?
Fisk: We have revived our graduate internship program to attract and retain young IT talent. In today’s technology environment, a lot of the ideas that are making an impact are coming from the younger generation that has yet to even enter the workforce. By combining these inquisitive minds with seasoned mentors we believe we can harness the power that these young minds can bring to an organization.
Are you satisfied with the connection between the business side and IT? If not, what steps are being taken to improve this?
Fisk: We have historically done a good job of maintaining critical business systems and developing and supporting the apps that run our business. That part of the connection with the business has been consistently good. However, we are mostly viewed as a technology organization that “keeps the engine running” more so than one that innovates and brings new ideas to the table. That is the perception that we are working to change.
At the end of the day, what is your greatest worry?
Fisk: My greatest concern is that as a technology organization we won’t be flexible and agile enough to meet the changing business demands of the future. I do take comfort in the fact that we realize there is a challenge and it is a primary focus for us. We are taking aggressive actions to drive value through technology solutions.
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The Email Chat is a regular feature of the ITA Pro magazine and website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT leader in search of thought-provoking responses on important issues facing the insurance industry.
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