Ian Cohen’s arrival at risk and insurance specialists Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) in July 2009 gave him the opportunity to put his expertise as an operational change manager to use. One of his first priorities was to renegotiate the company's outsourcing agreements.

"There are lots of hands-on fire-fighting and organisational design opportunities. CIOs must work out what is core to the business, as that is the piece you must have your arms around. I like carrying some of the operational scars, it means that when you sit down with the outsourcing partner they can see you have done it all before and that changes the tone of the meetings. 

"My mission with JLT is to fix the infrastructure and to the point where it's almost silent and invisible to our customers, then use its capabilities to engage with them on the important issues like how we grow globally and enter new markets. That's the stuff I get quite excited about."

Signing a new outsourcing contract for major parts of the JLT infrastructure and processes was Cohen's initial challenge on arrival. He chose Indian IT services giant HCL Technologies.

"HCL blew us away technically, I was a bit of a sceptic, but they really get how to do remote infrastructure management," says Cohen. "To select the right outsourcing­ provider you have to understand the maturity of your business and match it to the outsourcing provider.

The deal with HCL is resource-based rather than the traditional leveraged service/tower models. This better suits JLT's needs. "It's a bit like having your own ­mini-IT department but with the resources­ of a huge multinational supplier to call on when you need it," says Cohen.

To make the move to a new provider Cohen and his team had to manage what he calls a "compressed exit process".

"We had no proper exit protocol in the original contract and it's hard to negotiate­ after you've made the decision to move, but that was the hand we had to play."

He describes the last 12 months as "a bit of a rollercoaster and not without its painful moments", but is full of praise for the way HCL has handled the transition activities. "We've hit every milestone to date and everything is now live with our new partner. Given we only signed the contract in January, the transition has been lightening quick. Now we're moving on to the transformation part of the programme which is where we expect to see the real benefits."

See also: JLT's Ian Cohen on rebuilding the IT setup of the insurance firm

See also: JLT's Ian Cohen on splicing IT strategy with business goals