Great American Insurance’s CIO’s Five Steps to Becoming a Successful IT Executive, article in Forbes

February 05, 2013
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Five Steps to become a successful IT Executive

by Peter High, published on


I recently caught up with Piyush Singh, the senior vice president and chief information officer of  Great American Insurance Group’s Property and Casualty Operations.  He was excited to share with me five lessons he has distilled from his almost ten years as a CIO – nearly seven of them at his current company  – that he believes are lessons to follow for CIOs to be successful.  He refers to them as “Piyush’s Big Five”.

1. CIOs can ensure that a higher percentage of IT budget is spent on development than on maintenance
Many IT departments spend too much on maintenance and not enough on developing new and innovative capabilities for the companies within which they operate.  Singh quotes the standard metric in the insurance industry of 80/20 (80% spent on maintenance and 20% spent on development).  Getting to parity in maintenance and development and driving for a higher percentage on development can be a daunting task.  He makes the point that too many CIOs wait for the business to change the agenda or expect them to concede on maintenance issues to achieve the flip.  However CIOs need to do the heavy-lifting to right-size the intellectual capital /workforce plan, optimize and eliminate redundancies and operate more efficiently.  This heavy lifting, something they prefer to avoid, is required to achieve a better balance.

A business-oriented CIO realizes that he or she needs to be a partner to support the business environment.  In fact, to wait is to wait for the issue to become even more difficult to solve.  CIOs who display creativity and ingenuity to focus on development will be respected for being responsible custodians of the limited people and financial resources that are available to them.

The remaining four of the “Big Five” are:

2. A CIO’s accessibility to other business executives is directly correlated with the degree to which he/she is integrated into the business strategy

3. Develop solutions, not just automation

4. A CIO’s longevity in his or her job (more than the average tenure) can be inversely correlated to his/her ability to develop game-changing ideas and take risks.

5. On-time and on-budget is not the only criteria for project success.  Sustainable competitive value proposition should be a critical metric.


To read the full article, please visit

To explore the Technovation Column library, please click here.

To listen to Piyush Singh’s Forum on World Class IT podcast interview, please click here.

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