by CIO Executive Council

New Value From Commercial Innovation

May 30, 20123 mins

Aon's eSolutions subsidiary is creating internal benefits with products developed for external customers

CIO Executive Council Editorial Manager Diane Frank discusses innovation with Aon eSolutions CEO Kathy Burns, and CIO and Managing Director Paul Holden.

Kathy Burns We have two sets of customers–external risk and insurance clients, and all the Aon agents. Our initial goal was to create technology solely for those external clients, but with Paul in place, it’s been a natural evolution to take our unique technology product development focus and bring our tools to our internal users so they can also create value.

One such tool is our Total Cost of Risk assessment, which lets our clients track and manage all their risk, insurance policies and related fees. That same tool is also valuable to many people within Aon.

Paul Holden My role in the organization is to figure out how we achieve efficiencies and scale across the organization with the technologies and products that we’re developing. That gives me a broader perspective than a traditional CIO that’s managing just internal IT. We’re kind of like Aon’s own little research organization, as we look at how to apply the large amount of data we get in developing a commercial product to solve Aon’s problems internally. Our hosted community solution, RIScloud, is now distributed across the globe to 200,000 internal and external users.

Burns In my first year and a half here, we were getting our heads around the potential for this business and the technology we had. Paul came in as a leader who could bring day-to-day experience in delivering large-scale enterprise solutions. But he is also somebody who brought the skill set to balance our external focus with the rest of Aon.

Holden With other organizations, my focus was mostly on cost management. The biggest change for me now is having a revenue stream associated with technology. It enables me to think more innovatively. Dealing with our external customers directly, not just our internal finance or HR departments, broadened my perspective on how we can use technology to really drive business value.

Burns No one at Aon is expecting us to replace the internal IT function; they’re looking for us to bring new ideas. Aon and our customers are managing highly sensitive and regulated data, and we’ve got the experience with the security and protocols and verification needed to manage that. CEOs should be thinking about how to position IT for this kind of monetization, and to make it happen, CIOs have to be sitting at the table helping define the planning strategies of the company.

Holden I’m looking at the next three, four years along with the company, and determining how to evolve our products and solutions for the entire risk and insurance industry.