Stanley Mwangi Chege has had a 27-year-long professional career as a technology leader, recently becoming group CIO of Jubilee Insurance after leaving a similar position at Madison Group Kenya. Jubilee is based in Kenya, with offices in Uganda, Tanzania, Burundi and Mauritius. In this interview, Chege discusses plans to tap emerging technology including robotic process automation (RPA), machine learning, and the internet of things (IoT) to optimize business processes and fuel growth. Edited excerpts:
What does your digital transformation agenda for 2021 look like?
We shall upgrade from digital optimization projects to digital transformation projects. We intend on leveraging mobility, AI, robotics, cloud, analytics and IoT — not only to reduce costs and to increase revenue, and speed up processes, but to also transform the business model in order to leapfrog the competition.
How are you accelerating the development of digital tech capabilities within your organisation?
We are leveraging accelerating technologies, namely IoT and artificial intelligence, machine learning and robotic process automation to drive revenues up and ensure operational excellence. Omnichannel data servicing will integrate and synchronize all channels through seamlessly shared information, highly automated processes, well-designed technology environments, unified data, as well as advanced tools for analytics. Greater proliferation of sensor-based technology, increased automation and AI will enable us to develop a much stronger understanding of the overall insurable landscape. IoT and automation are no longer considered as an innovation but have now emerged as the core components of the insurer’s survival and growth toolkit. Using embedded telematics devices will help us track customer behaviour and offer commensurate insurance premiums.
How do ensure that your digital transformation strategy is aligned with business priorities? How agile is your approach?
Our goal is to leverage best practices in IT governance to help align the business with IT. We shall align the main committee objectives with the ICT committee objectives. We’ll leverage the COBIT (Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology), scrum, agile and the Project Management Body of Knowledge (PMBOK), IT Infrastructure Library (ITIL) frameworks to help improve the effectiveness and efficiency of our IT processes.
How are you working with people from across the business to develop and maintain strong information security practices?
The board has taken responsibility for information security. This imperative has trickled down to the IT organization and all the employees. The human is the weakest link in the chain of protecting the data assets. We must keep training our employees on how to protect the company data. Security awareness training is critical for success in this area. The new data protection act (DPA) holds CEOs responsible and accountable for the privacy of the customer data. The CEOs have provided the adequate resources to protect that customer data. We are also leveraging and rolling out the risk management standards namely ISO 27001 for information security and ISO 22301 for business continuity.
What is your top trend to watch out for in 2021?
The top trend is how artificial intelligence and big data will impact our society and business. The areas to be impacted are:
- Process and workflow automation;
- Management and governance of information assets to help maintain accuracy and integrity;
- Tracking, mining, and reporting capabilities;
- Ability to rapidly and securely make the right data available anywhere and anytime.
What’s the biggest challenge you’ve faced Integrating legacy applications and old-school ERP, CRM, and other legacy enterprise systems with modern customer-facing apps?
We did not have a holistic enterprise architecture (EA) framework. We had Salesforce MuleSoft as the enterprise service bus (ESB), but this was only able to glue a few applications as it is just a tool. The best practice is to start with the EA framework. There is the value of enterprise architecture frameworks, strategy, maturity models, and continuous assessment in the real world.
Are there types of data you have placed in third-party cloud infrastructures and how do you ensure that data is not compromised?
We have placed email data in the Azure cloud infrastructure as we leverage Microsoft Office 365. We also leverage disaster recovery as a service (DRAAS). Azure leverages best practices on data security and we enforce SLA for data confidentiality, integrity and availability. We also request for an independent auditor’s report of the facility.
Who or what are your key resources inside and outside of IT for execution of technology strategy?
The key resources are the employees with the following skills and roles: solution architects, devops, full stack developers, data scientist (machine learning), learning engineers, business analysts, product owners, project managers, and cybersecurity experts. Business continuity, cloud, ERP, CRM, and core systems partners are also very resourceful.
What lessons have you learned during the current crisis that may help you respond with speed and flexibility if faced with another global crisis that disrupts your business operations?
The COVID-19 pandemic taught us and reminded us that we live and must deal with volatility, uncertainty, complexity and ambiguity (VUCA) to survive and thrive. Remote working became the new normal. We had to set up secure Internet tunnels to the office using virtual desktop infrastructure (VDI) solutions and enabling bring-your-own-device securely. Remote working contributed to the reported 600% spike in data breaches in the first three months of global lockdowns. We acknowledge the need to boost our defences.
Managing a distributed workforce has a multitude of challenges. From an IT perspective, why do you think remote work thrives in some companies and fails in others?
Remote work is aligned to the mindsets and culture of the organisation. Remote work is also connected with the demographics. Millennial and Gen Z embrace remote work because they are digital natives who do not like to be chained to “brick and mortar” offices. Gen X and older staff have an attachment to the physical offices and feel secure in traditional offices. We must consider the cybersecurity risks when we roll out remote and work from home platforms. The companies that have many digital native employees thrive in remote work environments.