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How Hartford led an ecosystem transformation

Updated: Apr 25

May 29, 2023 | The Hartford | Transformation | CIO | MIT CIO Summit | By Kapil Nagpal and Priyanka Nagpal

Hartford, a multinational insurance and financial services company
Hartford, a multinational insurance and financial services company

Hartford is a multinational insurance and financial services company providing support and protection to people and businesses for over 213 years. Deepa Soni, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer at Hartford exemplified the modern transformative CIO role in action. Under Deepa's tech leadership, Hartford broke new ground in organizational change.



The challenge

In an era marked by disruption and rapid change, there was a pressing need for Hartford to adapt and evolve. The transformation program required breaking new ground and revolutionizing the entire ecosystem. Deepa Soni had to overcome resistance to change, navigate complex relationships, and foster a digital mindset across the organization.


Managing a landscape with complex and deeply entrenched legacy systems

While at Hartford every business is inherently digital, every business also has a decades-long legacy that needs to be managed. Hartford has to support products for long durations, sometimes over decades or until no one alive is subscribed to that product. Insurance companies typically have complex and deeply entrenched legacy systems that have evolved over many years. These systems can be outdated, inflexible, and not easily adaptable to change. Introducing new technologies and processes requires significant investments and extensive integration efforts. To be agile in a complex landscape with legacy businesses is challenging. Deepa had to not only introduce new technologies and ways of working but effect a culture of change in the organization that was not used to being agile.


Maintaining the momentum of change while adhering to strict regulatory compliance across the various states

The insurance industry is heavily regulated, with strict compliance requirements imposed by government authorities. Every state has its own regulations. Implementing change at scale while ensuring compliance with various regulations is often a complex and time-consuming process for Hartford. Compliance considerations can have an impact on the speed and agility with which changes can be implemented.


Navigating organizational structure, culture, and risk aversion

Hartford is a multinational insurance and financial services company providing support and protection to people and businesses for over 211 years. With a complex organizational structure and hierarchical decision-making processes, decision-making can be often slow, there is resistance to change, and difficulty in aligning different business units or departments toward a common goal. Change initiatives require strong leadership, effective communication, and a culture that embraces innovation and agility.


Being an insurance company Hartford deals with large volumes of sensitive customer data and financial transactions, making it more challenging to adopt new technologies and processes that may introduce potential risks. This risk aversion due to the nature of their business can slow down the pace of change implementation.


Prioritizing customer centricity and service for differentiation

Customers today have higher expectations when it comes to insurance services. They expect digital interactions, personalized experiences, and quick responses to their queries and claims. Meeting these expectations requires Hartford to adopt new technologies, invest in digital capabilities, and redesign processes. Implementing changes at scale to meet evolving customer demands is a significant challenge.


Entire ecosystem transformation is the solution

Overcoming these challenges required a comprehensive change management strategy that addressed technical, regulatory, cultural, and organizational aspects. It required clear communication, stakeholder engagement, effective training, and a phased approach to implementation. Deepa successfully prioritized innovation, invested in modern technologies, and fostered a culture that embraces change and continuous improvement to successfully implement change at scale.

"It's no longer enough for the CIO to be tech-savvy; they must also possess the leadership skills necessary to inspire change and foster a culture of digital dexterity.", - panelists at the MIT CIO summit

Comprehensive transformation program that encompassed the entire network of companies, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders.

Deepa Soni spearheaded a comprehensive transformation program that went beyond internal changes and encompassed the entire network of companies, suppliers, partners, and stakeholders.

The program integrated digital transformation, innovation, and cultural change across the portfolio of companies for over 350 projects, aiming to create a digital mindset and revolutionize the entire ecosystem.

She ensured that digital technologies and initiatives were seamlessly integrated into various business processes, systems, and operations to maximize their impact and create a cohesive digital ecosystem.


Deepa created an agile eco-system, focusing on and rewarding efficient systems and ways of working. Hartford used AI technologies to streamline their claims processing. The use of AI helped them quickly analyze claim information, verify policy details, and identify potential fraudulent activities, improving the efficiency and accuracy of claims settlements. She promoted a culture of innovation, agility, and continuous learning, encouraging employees to embrace new technologies, adapt to digital ways of working, and explore innovative solutions to better serve customers.


MIT CIO Symposium 2023
MIT CIO Symposium 2023

Fostering a culture of Change and a digital mindset

Through strategic initiatives and innovative approaches, Deepa instilled a culture of digital transformation, encouraging employees to embrace change and adopt new technologies. The program focused on driving innovation, cultivating collaboration, and fostering a forward-thinking mindset.

Deepa Soni, EVP & CIO at The Hartford
"I always talk about change being the core competency of a technology organization. Today it's cloud, tomorrow it could be the moon, stars, whatever. We have to be able to adapt as an organization. In the larger organizations, there is more friction to change, so we have to build change management as a core competency"
"I think you have to show by rewards and by carrot, what behaviors, you will be rewarding in the organization, reward people that are adopting and adapting." - Deepa Soni, EVP & CIO at The Hartford

Deepa disrupted the existing norms and worked closely with the C-suite executives to initiate a digital transformation that encompassed all aspects of their organization. Hartford adopted agile approaches and emphasized scalability, resulting in the successful execution of an impressive 350 projects in parallel. These endeavors resulted in exceptional value to customers and improved internal processes.


Driving mission clarity and business orientation

Deepa Soni fostered collaboration and engagement with stakeholders, including suppliers, partners, and employees, to drive the digital transformation agenda. She recognized the importance of involving all relevant parties in the journey and creating a shared understanding and commitment to change.

"Connecting technology initiatives to business outcomes is a powerful concept and helps in scaling transformation efforts. " - Deepa Soni, CIO at Hartford.

Deepa spent a lot of her time building the right talent in the organization. She realized that regardless of the business outcome or the technology, building the right talent will be key to delivering success. Without the right talent, no matter how much she invested in technology, she won't be able to drive a successful transformation. She focused on talent and culture - rewarding the behaviors that helped the organization move forward.

"I think it's very important for everybody to feel the purpose of what they are connected to. What are they delivering, and how are they connected to the business outcomes in their daily lives?" - Deepa Soni, CIO at Hartford.

Deepa adopted various strategies to drive Objective Key Results (OKRs) and get the talent at all levels in the organization engaged in digital transformation.

"We have to amplify the purpose", - Deepa Soni, CIO at Hartford

Creating more strategic roadmaps while investing in innovation

Deepa oversaw the implementation and execution of various digital technologies and initiatives at Hartford. This included leveraging AI, data analytics, and digital platforms to enhance customer experiences, streamline operations, improve underwriting processes, and strengthen risk management. She focused on creating more strategic roadmaps, as opposed to just responding the what happens in the market.


New products were launched faster than ever before. AI-powered algorithms and machine learning techniques have allowed Hartford to automate and optimize their underwriting processes. By analyzing large volumes of data, these AI-based products can assess risk factors, evaluate claims, and make data-driven decisions with greater speed and accuracy.


Recognizing the CIO's efforts

The 20th annual MIT Sloan CIO Symposium nominated Deepa Soni, Executive Vice President & Chief Information Officer at Hartford for the Annual MIT Sloan CIO Leadership Award.

Deepa Soni, EVP & CIO at The Hartford

Under Deepa's leadership, Hartford's run rate of cost savings is over 100 million dollars for the last two and half years.

"Embrace end-to-end digitization and agile methodologies to enhance internal processes and implement customer-centric projects focused on delivering exceptional value." - Deepa Soni, CIO at Hartford.

Deepa accelerated Hartford's digital transformation by fostering an innovative and agile culture, implementing customer-centric technology solutions, and aligning business goals with technology-driven strategies. This resulted in faster product launches, streamlined operations, enhanced underwriting products, and the adoption of customer-centric AI and personalization. Overall, Deepa's efforts have paved the way for a promising future for Hartford.


Conclusion

Deepa Soni played a pivotal role in championing digital transformation at Hartford, aligning business objectives with technology-driven solutions, and driving a culture of innovation and agility throughout the organization. Her leadership and strategic vision have been instrumental in positioning Hartford for long-term success in the digital era. She demonstrated the power of embracing change and leveraging technology to reshape industries. As these visionary leaders navigate uncharted territories, their stories urge other CIOs to embrace innovation, forge new paths, and lead the way to a brighter future.


References

MIT CIO Summit Panel Discussion - "CIO as Chief Transformation Officer: Strengthening Digital Dexterity across the Entire Organization" - https://mitcio.com/


Panel: CIO as Chief Transformation Officer: Strengthening digital dexterity across the entire organization



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