As CIO and Chief Innovation Officer, Ben Allen of Mash & McLennan strives to drive collaboration and synergies across four multi-billion dollar operating companies.
Ben Allen has had an unusual path to his current role as chief information officer and chief innovation officer at Marsh & McLennan. He rose to the role of president and chief executive officer of Kroll, Inc., which was an operating company within Marsh & McLennan until it was sold by that company to Altegrity, Inc. in August 2010. Soon after the divestiture, Allen re-joined Marsh & McLennan with the first of his CIO titles, that of chief innovation officer. He was the first person to hold that title in the company. A large portion of his responsibilities were centered on facilitating greater collaboration and value creation from across the company. Interestingly enough, that is a role the best chief information officers play, as they have reason to collaborate with leaders of each business unit and division of a company often in ways that those leaders do not with each other. These similarities were not lost on Allen, who assumed his second CIO role, that of chief information officer, less than a year after his return to Marsh & McLennan.
(This is the seventh in the CIO-plus series. To read the prior six interviews with the CIO-pluses from Waste Management, McKesson, Merck, Red Robin Gourmet Burgers, Ameristar Casinos, and Owens Corning, please click this link. To receive notice about future interviews in the series with CIO-pluses of ADP, the San Francisco Giants, and P&G, please click visit the column’s page. in the weeks to come. To listen to a podcast interview I recently conducted with Ben Allen, please visit this link.)
Ben, let’s begin with your path to the CIO-squared role that you have, as chief information officer and chief innovation officer. You used to be the CEO of one of Marsh & McLennan’s operating companies, Kroll. After that business was divested, you rejoined Marsh & McLennan as chief innovation officer first, and then as chief information officer second. Now that you provide services to your former peers, what advantages have you seen by having walked a mile in their shoes?
It’s always easier to be successful serving a customer/client when you’ve walked in their shoes. You more fully appreciate what they are trying to accomplish and the difficult trade-off decisions that need to be made. The Marsh & McLennan business leaders know that I’ve run a global P&L and carried the pressures associated with that responsibility. We speak the same language and want the same outcome, and there is no doubt that makes a big difference.
Frankly, I also was a tough customer of the IT function when I was on the other side of the fence. I recall what I liked about it, and where I saw room for improvement. That has given me different perspective and rationale in approaching the second of my CIO roles, that of chief information officer.
Additional topics covered in the article include:
- As the role of CIO was your first formal role in IT in your career, how have you gone about becoming more tech savvy?
- You were the first ever chief innovation officer of Marsh & McLennan. What was the rationale in establishing this role?
- What was the rationale in having you undertake on the chief information officer role in addition to your responsibilities as chief innovation officer?
- What factor best determines the structure that a company’s innovation should take?