IT Workforce Transformation Shakes Up Insurance Firm For The Better

U.K.-based Norwich Union called on IBM to help define job roles and assess the skills, talents, and training needed to reshape the company's IT organization.
A few years ago, Norwich Union, one of the largest insurance companies in the United Kingdom, suffered from IT staff fatigue and malaise.

The company, which is owned by Aviva, had gone through several acquisitions, each time combining the IT organization of the acquired company.

But, "harsh [financial] market conditions took our eyes off the IT ball," said Kevin Moss, director of operations at Norwich Union. "It wasn't valued by the rest of the company."

So, about 2-1/2 years ago, the company decided to refocus its IT mission -- with an emphasis on adding value to the business but also on motivating its IT workforce.

One of the first steps Norwich Union took was offshoring its software development and maintenance work, which also meant cutting about 500 jobs, or about one-third of its IT workforce.

Of course, in doing that, tech worker morale was initially shaken, not improved. "Any changes in programs can impact morale. People are wary, especially of offshoring," said Moss.

But with that work moved offshore, the company then began transforming its IT organization, with a focus on longer-term career development, improved alignment of skills with the business' needs, and improved customer service.

"Before, there was one relationship, task to task, day to day," said Moss.

Now, each IT person has four relationships, including day-to-day work, to get a task done; and one with a professional development manager, who provides performance appraisals and helps the employee to look "further up in the horizon," said Moss.

Other relationships include a resource deployment manager, which helps coordinates employee skills, long-term goals, and project assignments; and a practice relationship, which could include being a member of the IT architecture, business analysis, or project management practices.

The company now tracks its IT people resources via a database or "resource pool" that keep tabs on experience and skills, via a person's self evaluation and input from their managers and the various practices.

Managers can assemble teams for projects and other IT initiatives by using the resource pool to see, for instance, which people in the organization are available with the needed mix of skills and experience.

"Now you own your own career," said Moss. And for the company, the goal is "more customer focus to get outcomes," he said. "The transformation wasn't overnight, it was hard work that took place over 2-1/2 years. But there's been a marked improvement in IT."

Norwich enlisted assistance from IBM in its IT workforce transformation, helping Norwich Union in rolling out the IT practice model, define job roles, and assess the skills, talents, and training needed to reshape the company's IT organization.

With one-third of Norwich Union's IT staff gone after the offshoring, "we wanted to drive productivity with the other two-thirds," said Alan Hewitt, IBM IT Workforce Transformation Solutions leader who worked with Norwich Union on the reorganization.

Since the IT workforce transformation, Norwich Union surveys are showing increased scores on measures such as IT employee job satisfaction, customer satisfaction, and staying within the IT budget.

For IBM, its work with Norwich Union is now translating into a new array of IBM IT Workforce Transformation services that the company is now making available to others.

Those IBM service components include helping customers set up "competency-based" communities or practices; dedicated career managers; skills frameworks and career paths; workforce sourcing strategy and capacity planning; targeted talent recruitment and retention planning; and contractor rationalization.

Pricing for those services are based on many customer variables, said an IBM spokeswoman.