SOURCE: X by 2

August 02, 2011 07:15 ET

Generalists Must Go Above Specialists in Insurance Technology Transformation Projects, X by 2's Sundaram Writes in I&T

FARMINGTON HILLS, MI--(Marketwire - Aug 2, 2011) - Relying exclusively on narrow subject experts has ruined many insurers' technology transformation projects, resulting in long delays and huge expenditures, K. Ram Sundaram, a senior principal of X by 2, writes in Insurance & Technology's blog.

"When tackling major technology upgrades, most insurers rely heavily on subject-matter experts -- fine-grained specialists," he writes. "But when specialists are asked to assume generalist and even leadership roles in major initiatives, they often don't have the broad vision needed."

Relying on specialists is like putting up a building without a lead architect, Sundaram points out. His Farmington Hills, Mich., consulting firm ( specializes in enterprise and solution architecture for the insurance industry.

Insurance executives often assume that the more product and technical specialists they have on their teams, the better the overall outcome. But the opposite is true, he asserts.

For big projects, "focus on using 'coarse-grained' generalists who bring a more holistic and enterprise view of the initiative to the table," Sundaram writes.

"Fine-grained specialists are often uniquely qualified to support and maintain the carrier's status quo platforms. Unfortunately, they are also just as uniquely unqualified to manage and execute a major upgrade or change to those platforms," he writes.

The lack of big-picture leadership leads to poor team integration and effectiveness, ineffective communication, individual priorities that compete with those of the team, and a decided lack of ownership and accountability. "You could call it negative synergy."

Look to form smaller teams of coarse-grained people who are complemented by a limited number of product and technical specialists, he advises.

It's like building an NBA basketball team. You need both leaders who do many things well and role players, he writes.

"CIOs should seek out these coarse-grained generalists, and place them at the center of their most strategic and impactful initiatives. The results are often exponentially better than otherwise, and such approaches tend to open the doors in organizations for much more agile and responsive development and team-building approaches," he writes.

The full story is online at

X by 2 provides architecture design, planning, oversight, and turnaround services on transformative enterprise-scale business technology initiatives. Clients include national and regional life, health and property-casualty insurers, and healthcare organizations.

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