Sanjeev Singh is AVP of Strategy and Solution Delivery at Fidelity & Guaranty Life , a publicly traded insurance company with 700,000 policyholders. He was kind enough to speak with us about the challenges IT executives in his position face today.
Pyramid: Sanjeev, start off by telling us a little about your current role.
Singh: My current role has to do with strategy and solutions delivery. So I work a lot with the Chief Operating Officer and other folks to see how we can align IT with the company’s overall business strategy.
Pyramid: What are the biggest challenges someone in your position faces?
Singh: We always have new issues to deal with, but one challenge we have right now has to do with evolving cloud technology. Do you buy it or build it? Is it secure and compliant? Cost-wise it makes sense. But, if you think about it from a security perspective, you have to be very careful about protecting your data – especially in an industry like insurance. Is the model mature enough?
Pyramid: Security is huge. What other factors impact decisions to move to the cloud?
Singh: If 70% of your system is in the cloud, and you’re moving newer technologies to the cloud, you run the risk of internal challenges. You may be left with older systems to work on. As solutions are offered in the cloud you have to balance internal resources and make sure you retain your knowledge base.
Pyramid: Do you have any rules of thumb for making the build or buy decision?
Singh: If you really think something is a commodity item, then it’s all about economics in that case, and you can let it go. But if you see software as a differentiator, you need to keep it with you.
Pyramid: For example?
Singh: In areas like customer relationship management, you have to have a very innovative team that can create differentiation. In our insurance business, we work with independent agents who have multiple choices. Ease of use is huge. If they’re easily able to go from the website to the agent portal, and those two play well together, that’s a big deal.
Pyramid: Any other factors in the build or buy decision?
Singh: You also need to consider the size of your IT department. What kind of resources do you have? It gets pretty challenging in a small department to keep up with cutting-edge technologies, so in that case it might benefit you to buy.
If you do decide to outsource, finding the right partner can be a challenge – especially if you’re a smaller company. Many of the bigger outsourcing firms don’t want to work with you unless you have a million-dollar commitment. We chose Pyramid because they’re really agile.
Next, we’ll look at Sanjeev’s advice on when to offshore and how best to manage an offshore team.
Before becoming AVP of Strategy and Solution Delivery at Fidelity & Guaranty Life, Singh was a Management Consultant at PricewaterhouseCoopers and CIO at Atlantic American Insurance Companies for 11 years. He earned an MBA from Emory University and a BS in Computer Engineering from India’s Pune University.