What is the biggest leadership challenge you
face in IT and how do you deal with it?
OUELLETTE: Talent management, which includes both
creating the best experience for and results from our current
employees, along with finding and attracting excellent new
talent. As we say here, having the right people in the right
positions, doing the right things is top of mind. I believe we
need to expend at least as much if not more energy on people
management as we do on technology management. Anyone can
buy great technology; very few can attract and maintain great
employees and teams. Management by walking around is a key
success factor for us.
What technologies do you feel are under-used in
the insurance industry today?
OUELLETTE: While much growth is happening around
data driven analytics, I believe there are still far too few
companies with mature analytical programs. With the expansion of SaaS, I see analytics as a service becoming more
prevalent for organizations that traditionally couldn’t afford
the software and personnel to develop effective in-house
analysis programs. An organization without data-driven
decision-making in today’s business climate risks missing
emerging risks, won’t catch emerging trends, and thus will
lose out on valuable opportunities.
How satisfied are you with your relationship
with the business side and how could it be im-
OUELLETTE: I’m very satisfied. It all stems from a philosophical change we made a few years back when we put a big part of
the discretionary IT budget back into the business unit’s control.
From there we empowered the business to have an active voice
in what areas IT expends its energies. Think of it as “real-time
executive steering committee.” It is effective and very responsive to changing business needs.
What are your
greatest concerns for the future and how can
OUELLETTE: Staying relevant in a changing consumer insurance marketplace is my greatest concern. The very nature of
insurance demands we create seamless, easy transactional experiences for our users and consumers. But the real winners will
be those who combine that with truly educating the consumer
on the products, thus empowering the consumer through
knowledge, not the fluffy stuff we see on prime time television,
but truly educating the consumer so their expectations are directly in line with their eventual experiences. Technology is the
perfect platform to serve this up in a very cost-effective manner
7x24x365 in many forms to meet many different consumer
What changes do you see taking place in IT
over the course of the next five years?
OUELLETTE: Clouds on the horizon. The biggest change I see
is we will no longer own hardware. By that I mean we as an industry will no longer buy, lease or rent IT hardware beyond the
absolute minimum required to access the Internet. Beyond that,
SaaS and other Internet-based services will be the de facto standard
across the insurance space. I see our people as becoming much
more focused on vendor and relationship management along with
technology integration. Lastly, as I tell my team, we will need to
be consultants and subject-matter experts on how technology
can improve the experience and results for the business and their
clients. It will be so much more than the traditional model of help
desk and networking administration. Much more enabling and
architecting with deep understanding of technology application to
real world business opportunities. ITA
Electronic Chat: Gary H. Ouellette
The Electronic Chat is a regular feature of ITA Pro magazine and the
ITApro.org website. We send a series of questions to an insurance IT
leader and look for thought-provoking responses on important issues
facing the insurance industry.
This month we chat with Gary H. Ouellette, senior
vice president, operations, Union Mutual of Vermont
Companies. He is the executive with responsibility for
operations, information technology, enterprise risk
management, and corporate strategic planning.