Paul-Camille Bentz is not one of those CIOs who worry about being asked to sit at the organisation’s ‘top table’.

Paul-Camille Bentz, CIO of French insurance giant, AGF Group, explains how he is focusing on development

Paul-Camille Bentz is not one of those CIOs who worry about being asked to sit at the organisation’s ‘top table’. Previously CIO at French banking giant Paribas, he has just completed six years leading the technology operations at AGF Group, where at the end of 2005 he moved from post as CIO to become a strategic advisor to the board.

Although he is set to retire at the end of 2006, Bentz is hardly taking it easy. “My job is to cover what we call ‘Europe 2,’ which includes South America,” he told MIS UK.

“The mission is to work with the regional CIOs on ways to implement a series of global IT strategic initiatives.”

"We have many staff, many resources and a need to develop at high speed. We had a definite problem managing this process and I have to say after 30 years in IT, I have seen many good ideas come and go, none of which really worked"

Paul-Camille Bentz, CIO, AGF Group

His organisation is part of €98 billion European insurance colossus Allianz and was formed by the merger of three French insurance players. It is actually Allianz’s biggest arm outside Germany, operating in 17 countries – though not the UK – employing over 30,000 staff.

The IT operation itself is a sizeable concern, employing 1,400 staff and with an operating budget of over €300 million, with an application portfolio of some 200 products. Bentz says that is reducing in line with a realignment of priorities.

In fact, six strategic aims have been set at Allianz board level for all operating company technology units, of which a drive to a more professional software development approach is key.

“We have spent a lot of time and effort on infrastructure but the level of service delivery we are getting is behind what our peer organisations are achieving,” he says. “This is the time to focus on applications.”

But the application portfolio as noted is complex. This is not an issue that can be solved overnight, it seems.

Significant scope

“Like many financial services companies we run 30-year-old code next to the latest .Net stuff. We have many staff, many resources and a need to develop at high speed. We had a definite problem managing this process and I have to say after 30 years in IT, I have seen many good ideas come and go, none of which really worked.”

However, Bentz says that his organisation is getting some results from a technology called Cast, which provides a means to ‘score’ applications and AGF code on a quality basis.

“You can think of all this as a way to deal with the portfolio management issue, as it provides us with a set of scores that lets us decide where to focus our priorities. You can see that the scale of quality of applications is directly linked to the cost of running them and that with a given investment you can deliver a given benefit.”

He thinks he is getting there: his Java development team has scored an 11 per cent rise in productivity using this approach. But it is early days – and it is not a project he will probably see the end of while in post.

“This is just a starting point. What is really happening here is a shift to sustainability and best practise in all aspects of application development and governance.”