Aviva is a global life and general insurance services company .Over the past few years Aviva has been on an acquisition spree which has turned it into the world’s fifth largest insurance company but as a result had left behind a mix of IT systems and corporate cultures. On 29 April, 2008 Aviva announced its intention to unite business under global brand (Aviva, 2008). It was a part of a shift in strategy to grow and transform the business to compete on a global scale as well as to drive the company to an even higher level of performance.
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“In October 2007 group chief executive, Andrew Moss, set out his vision to maximise the company’s full potential as a global group, summarised as “One Aviva, twice the value”. It signalled a period of transformation for Aviva, bringing together relatively autonomous business units to create ‘One Aviva’ with a clear growth agenda in an increasingly global and competitive marketplace.” (Aviva, 2008)
The Case Study
In order to examine the role of IT governance in today’s organizations I will use the case study of the ‘Aviva World’ project implemented by Aviva plc in collaboration with Microsoft Corp in 2008-09. Aviva is the fifth-largest insurance group worldwide. It provides savings, investments, and insurance, and has been operating since 1696. The company’s 54,000 employees serve more than 50 million people in 28 countries.
This case study is available at www.onwindows.com as “one brand, twice the value” dated 12 April 2010. This site is supported and guided by Microsoft Corporation to focus on enterprise business-level use of the Microsoft Windows operating system, Windows Server System and associated software from partner companies that deliver solutions and applications on the Windows platform.
2. Project Inception
The IT Challenge
In order to integrate the organization at a global level, Aviva needed a platform to be able to communicate with all employees and to allow its employees to be able to share best practices. Aviva wanted to encourage its employees to be innovative and to allow them to communicate with each other in order to improve consistency and efficiency.
In the first quarter of 2008 Toby Redshaw was hired as the global Chief Information Officer 2008.The management felt the need for a global intranet that was easy to use and manage, and would help change the culture of the company. Secondly, They wanted a knowledge and collaboration environment to help people retain the institutional memory of the company, capture the knowledge that often leaves when people move on, and work in teams faster, better, and cheaper. The new intranet was required to have excellent search capabilities (Microsoft Services, 2008).
Another goal Redshaw had was to reduce the delivery cycle time from concept to solution. He felt the need for a system that gave the management the ability to reach everyone in the organization quickly and easily. The new system was also needed to be locally independent while utilizing the same technology globally.
Global IT Services Director at Aviva, Matt Fahy was asked by Redshaw to lead the project and deliver it in a quick timeframe and to do it in an innovative way. The solution chosen was a Microsoft Office SharePoint Online based system and it provided an enterprise content management system including document management, web records and a powerful search capability. It is also secure due its rights management capability that allows restricted access to resources. SharePoint Online also allows users to create blogs and wikis, and can help enhance business intelligence by sharing these sources of information among colleagues.
3. IT Governance Model
What Is IT Governance?
According to the Information Systems Audit and Control Association (ISACA), IT Governance can be defined as:
“‘The structure, oversight and management processes which ensure the delivery of the expected benefits of IT in a controlled way to help enhance the long term sustainable success of the enterprise.”
IT Governance is often misunderstood as governance risk and compliance (the GRC acronym). It is a part of the company’s Corporate Governance strategy, its primary goal is to assure that the investments in IT generate business value, and to minimize the risks that are associated with IT.
“IT governance includes the following sub domains.
Business continuity and disaster recovery
Information governance and information security
IT Service Management
Knowledge Management, including Intellectual Capital
Risk management.” (IT Governance Ltd, 2003)
Relevance to Case Study
The Aviva world project in the case study is concerned with Information governance and information security, Knowledge Management and IT Service Management sub domains of IT Governance. Redshaw says: “The solution brought Aviva a communications portal, a modern collaboration environment, a knowledge platform using new tools, and a foundation for us to use as a launch pad for further applications.” (Microsoft Services, 2008)
The Aviva world project uses a hybrid governance model i.e. the enterprise wide system is controlled centrally, but the local IT management is responsible for managing some parts of the system. The system has a Service Oriented Architecture that allows access applications and information globally and hence reduces duplication and reworking of similar issues. It also allows iterative development. Different users can have different roles and responsibilities based on the application. This gives the system great flexibility.
An example of the governance structure can be seen in the following image:
The Global intranet has had a dramatic impact on the way the employees use IT to improve productivity and efficiency. It has become a communication channel and has changed the organisational culture. These statements given by high level executives at Aviva give the true picture:
“Since June 2009, Aviva’s intranet has continued to become an important communications channel for the global corporation. Four people at group level work exclusively on the intranet overseeing management of forums, editorial, group news and co-ordination of content flow which is managed regionally. The introduction of employee forums has helped to create an open culture while building communities. Colleagues are given the freedom to write posts on anything they like.This popular area of the intranet is viewed by over 60% of users, partly helped by the fact that articles contain questions or threads, automatically created for employees to comment on.
The forums are also saving time when it comes to answering customer questions – colleagues are able to conduct a simple forum search to get people the answers they need quickly.” Lynne Gray, Internal Communications Director at Aviva (Penton, 2010)
“Recently, Aviva held a 24-hour online session-using the Aviva World intranet-with all its businesses across the world. The event marked a milestone in our move to a global brand, and we wanted to celebrate the future of the organisation. This type of global event would never have been possible without Microsoft portal technology. A year ago, we couldn’t imagine hosting a 24-hour global event.” – Matt Fahy, Global IT Services Director at Aviva (Microsoft Services, 2008)
4. Critical Evaluation
This case study clearly demonstrates the impact IT can have on an organization. The Aviva world project has fundamentally changed the way in which the entire organization uses IT in its day to day operations. The intranet is by default set as the homepage of every browser. An image of the homepage is sown below:
As can be seen in the image, the home page contains an update feed that keeps users informed about important news. The page also has easy access to the most talked about topics in the forums. Aviva has created a social network to engage its employees to use the system (Penton, 2010). This is in line with strategy to foster an environment of innovation and sharing. It must be noted that this approach is different from what most organizations use today. The management should be lauded for taking such a bold step. And it has generated business value for the organization. “The forums are also saving time when it comes to answering customer questions – colleagues are able to conduct a simple forum search to get people the answers they need quickly.” (Penton, 2010) Clearly shows that. Its impact on encouraging innovation is debatable tough. While on one end if its employees are not busy solving problems that others have solved they will have more time to innovate, but it could also lead to a situation where its employees get used to searching solutions rather than innovating them. The impact of the intranet on this aspect can only be assessed in the long run. I would therefore say that the system is only a partial success in terms of encouraging knowledge sharing and encouraging innovation.
The intranet has clearly had an impact on the culture of the organization.
‘ The success of these forums has been a bit of a surprise for Gray, Internal Communications Director at Aviva.He said “I didn’t realise how much they would be used,” she added “No publicity, no training, everyone just started using them.” ‘ (Penton, 2010)
The project can be considered a success in this aspect.
But the same cannot be said for accessibility of the site, since there may be some features of the site that the users are not yet utilizing effectively since they have not received training for the system. Therefore the system can be only considered to be partially successful in being completely accessible to the user and in ensuring that the system is used achieve maximum performance for the system.
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Also it must be noted that while the case study does say performance can be monitored using indicator dashboard, it does not mention anything about compliance with frameworks such as Control Objectives for Information and Related Technology (COBIT) or Sarbanes Oxley act (SOX). Assuming that standards are followed considering Aviva is registered at the New York Stock Exchange (NYSE) and at the London FTSE, it must comply with the NYSE corporate governance rules and Combined Code on Corporate Governance, the fact that this project was implemented in only 142 days is commendable. And can be considered a complete success in terms of implementation. But if it does not comply with regulations then it is only partially complete.
The case study states that Aviva has opted for software plus services model for the intranet from Microsoft and have a 3 yr license is again questionable. While on one hand it ensures that the system will stay updated and the employees will be able to benefit from the advancement of technology, the system will require significant reinvestment every few years, which in actual terms should be reduced from the benefits observed in order to assess the true value of the system. An alternative to this would have been open source systems such as Alfresco, Mindquarry and Liferay Social Office. But considering the project was to be implemented in only 150 days, that could have played a part in selection of the software too since Microsoft could have been the only vendor willing to take on the challenge.
Another goal for the project was to reduce the solution application delivery time from concept to solution. In this aspect the system has been quite successful. The case study mentions the case of the human resource feedback application. They implemented the solution in one tenth of the cost anticipated so the project can be rated a success in this aspect too.
It was desired that the new system had first class search capabilities. The case of employees being able to search solutions to resolve customer issues b0y searching that gives credence to that fact. Again this can be considered a success.
I my opinion the implementation of this project was almost a complete success. Aviva’s Top management along with the Microsoft implementation team must be lauded for implementing the solution successfully 8 days before the deadline shows the presence of good IT governance in the organization.
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