One of the first priorities for Ian Cohen when he arrived at risk and insurance specialists Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT) in July 2009 was to bring the company's outsourcing arrangements more in line with the business direction.
As every CIO knows, outsourcing is more than signing a deal; it requires the full engagement of the CIO and the team at the outsourcing provider.
Cohen has signed an agreement with IT services Giant HCL Technologies.
"We have to make sure HCL [staff] feel like JLT employees and in return we get the benefits of using the HCL organisation as well as having dedicated team of resources, our own team. That means we can make them familiar with our applications and how we want to run them," says Cohen, who has been in India a number of times in the last 12 months working with the helpdesk and HCL executive management to ensure they understand the industry as well as the JLT culture.
"We are investing a lot of time. If you do that right you get the payback in spades but this is not just about moving from point A to point B," he says. "We will be doing lots of transformation so that we will be able to do more interesting stuff that will change the way we do business once we've bedded in the move.
"Managing an outsourcer is about matching your best abilities and endeavours with theirs. You have to understand how revenue and margin flows in your contract and have the open dialogue about what they need to achieve as part of meeting your objectives. You must know the contract detail and you must run your business around that contract," he says in a remarkable admission that working with an outsourcer is letting a piece of your business go and trusting them with it.
"When the IT just works you can then have interesting conversations about what you could do with your capabilities – yes, even cloud computing," Cohen says.
"One of our fastest growth markets is Latin America. To move into new markets the old IT model was to take your existing systems, make them smaller and ship them off into the distance hoping they'll be used properly. Why not instead think top-down rather than bottom-up? Our business is relationship-driven so why not connect our sales people in the new market with each other and with the intelligence of the organisation," Cohen says cloud technology can enable this, but as a seasoned campaigner in the CIO trenches, he is sceptical of much of the cloud confusion circulated by the vendor community.
"I was quoted as describing the term 'cloud computing' as marketing hype and I stand by that comment. Can't we stop talking about what it is and get on and use it for what it can deliver. If I hear one more vendor talk about paradigm shift..." He stops himself before his passions explode.
Despite this, Cohen believes JLT is well placed to make the most of cloud technologies, especially as it grows.
"People want to work for JLT because we are a bit quirky and not the same as the other big brokers," he says.
"So we need to use that interest across the business to develop. This place could be tremendously different and it could leapfrog the opposition by virtue of what technology can do."