Jardine Lloyd Thompson Group is a leading British-based insurance and re-insurance business.

The judging panel overwhelmingly agreed that the journey CIO Ian Cohen has taken JLT on and inside a financial services company shows the role a CIO should be taking, that of challenging the company. All agreed that Cohen has done everything in the right order, he steadied the ship with the new HCL agreement and has the security of delivering robust and reliable technology services.

Cohen took a company to task for its own good to make the best use of the tools available on the market to be a better informed and more successful organisation demonstrate the true nature of the CIO role. Cohen has shown great business leadership by challenging the company to think of different ways of sharing information, he has utilised his great communications skills and given JLT an edge over its rivals in the market.

Mark Chillingworth said: "It's a very impressive story because JLT didn't have to change."

Mike Altendorf said: "He has taken them into a radical and not always easy transformation programme with collaboration, Salesforce.com and social networking."

Rorie Devine said: "I certainly look at him to be a role model."

Sometimes opportunity arises in the most unexpected places. I get that impression of the journey Ian Cohen has taken the conservative world of finance on in his role of Group CIO at Jardine Lloyd Thompson (JLT).
JLT is an international risk specialist and employee benefits organisation and one of the largest companies of its type in the world.

“It’s an interesting business, the largest risk and insurance company you’ve never heard of,” Cohen quips. A London Stock Exchange listed company with pensions and benefits sector businesses too it employs over 6000 people worldwide.

“We handle everything from the very high end – construction, marine, aerospace, oil and gas; right through to personal insurance. We are also a leader in employee benefits providing solutions for defined contributions and defined benefits pension schemes using our own software and a captive offshore BPO operation,” Cohen says.

Cohen joined JLT in July 2009 in a return to financial services after media CIO stints at the Financial Times and Daily Mail and General Trust. Back in 2010 having completed his first year with JLT Cohen outlined to CIO UK what he’d done and what the role involved and would involve.

In November 2010 he described the role as: "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.”

At the end of that first year with JLT Cohen had exited a difficult outsourcing deal that he inherited and was full of praise for a new deal and relationship with Indian IT and process outsourcing providers HCL. In the following two years, as we’ll see below, Cohen has delivered what a CIO really can offer an organisation, something so much more than signing an outsourcing deal or delivering robust IT, not that Cohen doesn’t understand or fail to deliver these.

Once the outsourcing deal had settled the organisation Cohen set about the interesting stuff.

“There was a technology challenge with the outsourcing deal and the technology competence we had, but once we started getting on an even keel, about 18 months in, we began the next conversation about being a small large company. That had nothing to do with technology and a lot to do with what JLT want to be,” he says.

“The last part is really interesting, being large and small,” Cohen says. This kicked off the One JLT programme that wasn’t you usual standardisation plan but instead; “brings the best of what we have in every client relationship out.”

It was at this juncture that Cohen began challenging the organisation.

“Part of the discussion moved away from IT then,” he says of the even keel, “We could take a breath asn ask what we are and what we want to be?

“If you are our size it’s about David versus Goliath and you win consistently if you are faster and more agile and it is the only way to win,” Cohen explains, looking out of his office towards the headquarters of market behemoths AIG.

JLT is no small company, but it is up against some large competition and needed, in Cohen’s vision, to use its lesser size to its advantage.

“Small companies are good at articulating what they are not, rather than what they are. We sat down with the board and it became clear that the strategy was not being communicated. And that strategy is that we are client first, we always drive rigour and that we are a knowledge based organisation.

“On the discussion of what we wanted to be, we wanted to be global, remain client first, collaborative, grow out specialism and offer the best for our clients. We also found we were already lots of those things and needed to start saying it.

“That was really interesting for me. I have always talked about the journey being about this and we had some challenging discussions with the chief executive and the board. They expect you as a CIO to come and talk about Big Data or cloud and all that, so it has been hugely refreshing.

“The people on our board are there because they are experts in their field and that is why they are there. You don’t have a Big Data conversation with your board, what you do is take it in a visual form. You need to get people to understand it and my way is to keep it simple,” Cohen says of the major role he took in convincing JLT to become a collaborative company that opened up its data across its international presence to discover opportunities it had in its markets.

“Connecting the knowledge in your organisation is the way to be smarter and you must always think about collaboration and connections,” he says.

“It should be easier for us as we are just 8000 people. If you are going to be client focused, the important question is: who are our clients? Do we know enough? Do we know more than our competitors? And do we connect that information with all our offices?

The above set of questions and targets demonstrate the real value a CIO brings to an organisation today, understanding that within technology and a technology strategy is the business strategy and the ability to answer those critical business questions about clients and reaching them.

“I love the idea of the CIO as a story teller,” Cohen says.  He doesn’t like to talk about models, which he describes as “consultant gobbledigook”.

“All of it is about behaviour and yes there is some technology involved. One of the watchwords was ‘we don’t need anything new’. This [insurance] is not a cutting edge business and most people in it have most of what they need.”

To enable JLT to be client focused, to know more about its clients and more than its rivals and to connect its information up and share that with every operation within JLT Cohen used the technology the company already had and in fact gave the company business leadership to allow collaboration to happen. JLT was already a Saleforce user and was experimenting with Qlickview analytics tools, a procurement Cohen finalised and he introduced Chatter, the enterprise social networking tool.

These three tools are arguably the poster children for the modern application suite and what Cohen has done is demonstrate that a well implemented strategy can indeed enable collaboration that increases the flow of information the business owns and may not even know it owns. Cohen freely admits the initial conversations were social, but it didn’t take long for genuine business discussions across the entire JLT globe to take off. He has recently noticed email usage drop significantly.

“Part of my job is to boil down things that are important and make them happen. So it’s not about technology, it’s about interpretation, but the technology piece is using Salesforce better.

“So if I capture all this customer data, there is already stuff in my systems about what the customer has done and I am talking to them about what they may do, so then I have a future tense and by talking to them I have the current tense,”

Cohen says of how his collaborative structure enables JLT to have a past, present and future needs understanding of its clients and sell accordingly.

“Brian Pitman said way back ‘know more about your customers and sell more to them’,” Cohen says of the Lloyds TSB CEO from 1984 to 1997.

Benefits have already been seen as JLT organisations in one market discuss a client on Yammer and discover that the client already has cover for a certain aspect of its business, sold by another JLT operation, but then learns of opportunities that have not been realised.

“The knowledge share about client meetings that goes on and out of that comes the nugget and a deal can be shared. We now watch global conversations that cannot be created in email.

“We have a framework, a toolset and a behaviour that says it is great to share. It is hard as we are a regulated organisation so have to be very careful.

“Chatter was an experiment in social engineering and had no KPIs.

“We wanted to be knowledge led and this is not the embodiment of everything we do, so we can bring out expertise into the relationship.”

Cohen’s media experience has also been beneficial as he has been able to show JLT that being a knowledge led organisation means you use that knowledge to deepen the relationship with the customer by sharing your knowledge with them.

“We bring our knowledge and content to them, which makes it a relationship rather than just a transaction,” he explains. JLT is an expert in specialist fields like aviation and has whitepapers that are valuable to clients, so JLT is offering the client a further asset.

“If content is king, then targeted content is gold dust, Of course a client expects a claim to be handled well, that is a given, but with the content you have a far deeper relationship with the client.”

Cohen has been through many transformations in an impressive career and clearly benefited from each phase.

“There are two classes of business; those that get social and those that don’t. If you can create that conversation that means people feel the conversation is multi-directional and everyone is speaking and listening then embrace it and it is beneficial.

“It’s about how the customer behaves, not how they should behave. This talk of lean forward, lean back, it is ignoring the social paradigm. Understanding how you can interact with people, that is part of the transactional behaviour.

“There are appropriate interactions and if you get them wrong you alienate your customer and then they go and talk about it, but get it right and people will follow you. For example I got a message from delivery service DPD about a delivery on the time of day for a delivery that would suit me that was so good that I tweeted it and they then knew enough about me to make the conversation relevant and I got a tweet about Chelsea. Knowing where to take the conversation to the next level is a challenge. But CRM now is conversation relationship management.”

Cohen, as is usual in a conversation, isn’t just thinking about the use of Chatter in his organisation, he’s considering the wider implications for the world we live in.

“The art of conversation will mean that every organisation will do well to think about how they hire people whose strength is conversational. The number one skill my relationship direction has is to engage create and manage meaningful relationships so that it’s like a dinner party moment where everything flows.”

IT leader: Ian Cohen, Group CIO.

In role since: Three years.

Reporting line: Group COO and Group Executive Board

How often does the CIO meet with the CEO: Most days.

Board level seat: Yes. I also jointly chair the Groups Programme Investment Board.

IT budget: The IT operational spend compared to company turnover as a percentage varies by global region and market maturity.

IT estate and or number of log on accounts under the control of the IT leader: 7500 worldwide users.

IT staff currently employed: Under 200.

Split between in-house/outsourced staff: Approximately 50 - 50 split.

IT management team and reporting structure: Strategy and Architecture, Business Relationship Management (by UK LoB x4), Regional Technical Services Directors (Australia, Asia, Canada & The Americas (inc LATAM)), Group Development Services, Group Service Delivery, Procurement.

Primary technology platforms at the organisation: We are a global portfolio business so have many core systems.

Primary technology suppliers: HCL (sourcing), C&W, Microsoft, EMC, Oracle.

Significant strategic technology deals struck in the last 12 months: Global Microsoft EA, Global SalesForce agreement.

Percentage of your applications/infrastructure run from the cloud: Hybrid cloud services are increasingly important.

Major technology or transformation project recently completed and how did it transform operations, customer experience or the organisation: Multimillion pound second generation outsourcing deal for infrastructure transition and transformation, which completely re-positioned JLT's core technology capabilities - people, processes and technology.

Global digital business transformation program in flight.

Did the above project reach its cost, timing and transformation objective: All major programs in JLT in that last three years have met their stated objectives.

Business transformation programme – beyond technology – that the CIO owns or is a major contributor to: Our global digital transformation program (Insight) is JLT's largest strategic initiative for many years and is entirely focused on business and cultural change with the technology elements there to simply enable and engage our colleagues, clients, partners and markets.

Strategic aim of the CIO and IT operation for the next financial year: Delivering the Insight programme.

Strategy in the use by employees of their own technology, use of mobiles and how social networking is impacting operations, customer experiences or the organisation: The impact of all these elements (and other related initiatives) are having a hugely positive impact locally and on a global scale.

Strategy for dealing with shadow IT and BYOD including influence and engagement with executives, to place the right controls around employee choice: Plans in place and activities already well under way.

Technologies being considered to enable transformation: Despite being primarily about cultural and behavioural change, a combination of emerging social enterprise and business analytics tools are being combined with more traditional IT products and services to enable the digital transformation programme.

Transformational inspiration sources: My network including our customers.