The Rise Of The Dual-Role CIO Redefines Digital Commitment

Cristiano Barbieri

First of three blogs about SulAmérica and part of the “Digital CIO” series

Managing one line of business comes with many responsibilities and commitments. But CIOs who are leading their enterprises through massive changes enabled by technology may soon find themselves running two. That’s what I’ve been doing for the past two years at SulAmérica, and I’d like to share my experience with you.

Since 2010, I have been immersed in building SulAmérica’s digital capabilities to keep up with the fast pace of the insurance market here in Brazil. But over time, I began to realize that my IT domain was bleeding into other areas of the businesses, especially when it came to customer relationships. My executive team agreed, and in 2016, asked me to assume the additional strategic responsibilities for customer relationships across our contact center channels.

To manage these dual roles well, I run on a full schedule and heavy load of action items. But at the same time, I feel like a kid in Disneyland every day. This challenge is always evolving, mesmerizing, and fun.

And why not? SulAmérica is in the middle of the most significant transformation in its 123-year existence, which is enabling us to deliver the digital experiences that customers expect today without compromise.

Redefining a traditional business with next-generation values

Designating a single leader for both IT and customer relationships created an opportunity to experiment and find the right mix of technology, processes, and measurement for offering an engaging customer experience. And for us, this was the start of our transformation journey.

As the fourth-largest insurance company in Brazil, SulAmérica provides a full range of insurance and investment offerings – from life, health, property, casualty, and auto insurance to asset management – to 8 million customers across 25 states. IT is a highly regarded critical area for ensuring efficient execution of our core processes. However, changing customer behavior and their use of digital technology opened up an opportunity that is helping our 30,000 brokers and 5,000 internal employees create closer relationships with every customer.

This defining realization empowered my IT team and customer relationship team to work together to develop and execute a strategic initiative based on three fundamental principles:

1. Go cloud-first in everything we do

Cloud technology serves as the foundation for every digital initiative. As we moved our applications, data, and interactions to the cloud, we replaced 20 disparate legacy systems with a companywide, connected platform. Now, teams across the business are accessing and contributing to this network of knowledge and working together as a single unit.

2. Operate with a 360-degree view of every customer

After setting up our cloud platform, we created a master data management repository and customer relationship management platform that allows our employees and brokers to tap into a 360-degree view of every customer with one click. With this insight, they can offer our customers the right products, get their concerns resolved quickly, and assure them that their claims are processed fairly without unnecessary frustration.

No matter which channel they choose to engage us, our millions of customers know that the person at the other end of the interaction knows what they need. More importantly, every experience is just as productive and simple as the last.

3. Experiment for our digital future with an innovation garage

One of the keys to running as a successful digital business is fostering a culture of continuous innovation. While running in the cloud enables this capability, we needed a dedicated space to experiment and test innovative developments with tangible and measurable results – and without spending significant money, time, and resources on it.

Creating this space, which we call our innovation garage, allows technology experts to identify new opportunities for customers, as well as further differentiate our businesses in a highly competitive marketplace. However, this team resides by themselves, not within IT nor any other business area. Each member understands how to use digital thinking, apply prototyping, and look beyond business requirements to sense and respond to the real opportunity ahead.

Heading into a digital horizon of excellence and dynamism

Some people may say that embracing and enabling each of these three capabilities means that we are well underway in our digital transformation. However, I believe that we have only just begun. From the adoption of the cloud and a well-rounded view of the customer to the enablement of an innovation space, we have the foundation our business needs to perform and deliver competitively.

In a matter of weeks or even days, we are better equipped to fund and bring to market high-potential innovations – and know when to dismiss weaker ideas and which ones to pursue. But no matter the project, everything we do is aligned with our ultimate mission of customer proximity, transparency, excellence, and dynamism.

For more insight on IT leadership, see Hack The CIO.


Cristiano Barbieri

About Cristiano Barbieri

Cristiano Barbieri is chief information officer and head of customer relationships at SulAmerica Seguros. He has been leading the digital transformation of the company, spearheading important initiatives including "Transforming the Customer Experience," which created a 360-degree view of the customer, and "A New Customer Platform," totally cloud based. "A New Digital Customer Journey" recently launched where more than 2 million calls a year were transformed into digital interactions. He has also created an experimentation lab within the company named "Innovation Garage," another important initiative where culture transformation is the main goal and drives many innovative projects.