The 2015 CIO of the Year’ (at the CIO100 Awards & Symposium in Kenya), Mr Jack Maina, is the Group CIO and Jawabu Programme Director at Britam. He is a skilled and professional personality. In an interview with Davis Weddi, he gave CIO East Africa some insights on how Britam does it. Excerpts follow…
1. What does your job entail at Britam?
My main role is to lead business technology transformation in Britam. This involves conceptualising, putting it all together in line with business and seeing it through to implementation stage. There is the transformation and innovation side, and then there is the operation side. I’m in charge of both.
2. Briefly, please tell us how you made it to the top?
It’s about teamwork, ability to understand the business, interpret the strategy and to relate that directly to the technology and what technology enablement is required to be able to meet and fulfill the business strategy as well as influence what the strategy is supposed to be. It is about the customers as one of the key stakeholders. For us to fulfill other imperatives, then we need to be able to satisfy that customer and be an organisation that is able to fulfill that customer expectation which is changing, which calls for a different thinking in terms of the different processes running and then finally technology put in place. So, it has been the ability to understand that and putting together an able team that will deliver through the change. The management of the various stakeholders in the transformation journey has been key as well – you need to be able to have the majority of your stakeholders onboard on an ongoing basis.
3. Your award has a lot to do with success, who are the key people with whom you delivered?
The first one is the board with the leadership of the Board Chair. The board has been very key to the transformation agenda. They gave us resources, guidance and stewardship right from the onset of the strategy formulation to its approval, to selection of the various systems and partners to work with and through the current implementation. The Group Managing Director Dr. Benson Wairegi, the programme sponsor, is very instrumental, he is the key steward, a supporter and believer. In fact I would say it is his brainchild. Because the moment Britam went IPO, he was very convinced Britam needed technology enablement to meet its strategic objectives. Over the last three years, he led and gave executive support. We have various business teams including my fellow executives, on the executive council, these are the various C-Suite staff instrumental in supporting the business, embracing change and driving it from their various business and functional units, they have been very key. We have the business teams comprising of various staff nominated to the project. Then we have the IT team who I lead, they are the technical resources both for technologies and business analysis. Finally we have the various partners that we have worked with to deliver business transformation.
4. How important is the role of IT in the industry that your company addresses?
IT is very critical, very instrumental in the financial services industry. Britam is a leader in the diversified services industry. We are in insurance, property and banking. IT is key to meeting our business strategic imperatives. Jawabu is about digital transformation. In a digital environment, you rely very heavily on technology, or on the business technology enablement. It is key to linking with the customer. Being a customer-centric organisation, it requires us to have very elaborate and automated processes which serve the customer seamlessly.
5. How do you ensure that any investments on IT provide returns for Britam?
From the onset, we had a business case which defined business capabilities to be delivered by the project. We ably linked the business strategy, the different deliverables required, to the investment and then set out to ensure various business capabilities that are supposed to be delivered are delivered. When we have the capability, the benefit will follow and then the return on investment will be met. Purposely, in a structured way within the programme we have a Benefits Realisation Stream which is a control measure along the programme’s implementation to ensure we stay true to what was promised and guarantee that we realise the benefits we set out to achieve.
6. How did you ensure your department enabled business performance, growth and innovation?
We are structured in such a way that we have a team dedicated to innovation and another team dedicated to business as usual operations. While one side is focusing on daily business operations support, we also have a team backed up by various partners, that is concentrating on delivering innovation so that there is no pull and push between the two. The other one is that we ensure we involve all parties in our various initiatives. We have a professional team under the Transformation Management Office that brings all these initiatives together so that they are all working towards the common objective.
7. What challenges have you faced on the Jawabu programme and how did you solve them?
The first is the enormousness of the programme. It has 14 projects; involving 160+ staff; 12 Partners with 80+ consultants. It is very big with different dependencies across, yet with a common objective – delivering an era of convenience. So one of the things we did from the onset was to align with the best practice – a structured way of linking the business and the technology strategies. We adopted Enterprise Architecture approach in defining our Britam 3.0 blueprint. We have a blue-print which we are putting together and which governs every component, therefore even as we are bringing together partners and solutions, each of them knows what they need to do and how it relates to the bigger picture. So I would say that the first thing to do is have a best-practice, a structured way to deal with the problem, a professional Programme Management Office, the right resources, the right partners and solutions, executive support – very key, bold and executive sponsorship. It is not just about technology, it is about change management. Technology is only about 20 per cent of the programme, the rest is non-technology driven. It’s about culture, organization model, processes, basically moving away to a totally different way of how we do things. We do training to address that challenge. To address change so that everyone is on board, we do a lot of communication. A lot of change-management and part of the communication is that we do a weekly bulletin about what we are doing, what the project team is doing, what is coming ahead and when. We have targeted communication for the sales-force, another for the region, remember we are in seven countries. So bringing everyone on-board has been a challenge and we have addressed it that way.
8. What are the most critical factors for an IT department of a company in the region?did you solve them?
The Leadership. A well-collaborated working team with both business and technology knowledge. In fact it is almost a blend in the environment where the business and IT work so closely that they are seen almost as one. With that, the various business objectives are put across, then the IT will understand the business and on the other side the business will understand IT, there is a confluence between the two on an ongoing basis. With that, then you have proper working relationship.
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