Cigna: Recipe for pivoting towards digital-first business

Cigna’s Carmen Casagranda spoke at the CIO Leadership Forum 2019

According to IDC’s 2018 State of Digital Business Transformation report, 89% of organizations worldwide have adopted or have plans to adopt a digital-first strategy.  An array of digital technologies has been implemented by organizations or on their radar. Yet, only 19% have implemented a workforce strategy to adapt their workforce to the digital-first environment.

“Successful digital transformation will also require equal attention to change management and workforce strategy for the entire organization. CIOs and top IT executives will play a central role on both fronts,” said IDC in the report.

At the recent CIO Leadership Forum 2019 organized by Questex Media, Carmen Casagranda, regional CIO for Asia Pacific at Cigna International, shared what she called a “recipe” (C-suite strategy) for helping organizations pivot towards a digital-first business.

“If you want to change an organization, it’s about an organization of people—every person at every level and in every business unit. You need to bring them along the journey,” she said.  

Seven ingredients

Casagranda took the lead in moving Cigna New Zealand into a digital organization. Her recipe contains seven ingredients—purpose, principles, prioritization, people, process, performance, and passion.

“As a C-level executive, you have to define your purpose, set principles and priorities, empower people, measure performance, and have passion,” she said. “These will allow your delivery team to start taking those levels of what you’ve set and actually start to deliver. These will start to transform your team,” she said.

According to her, purpose is fundamental for starting to change a business model. C-level executives have to define their purpose. “What’s the customer experience that you try to deliver? What’s your definition of success? What’s the result you’re trying to get?”

After a purpose is defined, C-level executives then have to set some guiding principles of how to achieve the purpose. “If you want to be customer-driven and focus on this value change, you start to look at how to do that,” she said.

Once the purpose and principles are defined, executives have to make a prioritization list of activities. Agility as the single focus is what Casagranda has suggested. She made reference to the Scaled Agile Framework (SAFe) to emphasize the importance of people collaboration as one team one business, as well as the technical agility in delivering solutions or services.

SAFe is a set of scaling agile principles and practices, which facilitate alignment, collaboration, and delivery in an organization.

With a prioritization list of activities on hand, C-level executives need to have good people to make things happen. Culture is an underpinning key to empower people to make a difference within their organization. Casagranda used an objective tool Human Synergistics Circumplex to better understand individual and collective human behavior, and their impact on business and organizational performance. This framework provides a way for her to see, measure, and change the thinking and behavioral styles at every level in an organization to drive performance and enrich culture.

“We want to be humanistic-encouraging (sensitive to people’s needs), minimize avoidance, and maximize achievements,” she said. She brought this framework into Cigna and leveraged it into every conversation with staff, performance reviews, and KPIs of people. “We started to have a tangible, quantitative shift in people’s behavior. And it becomes explicit, and explicit does serve to change behavior.”

During a product development process, agile software development and minimum viable product (MVP) are the key concepts, according to Casagranda. MVP is a product with sufficient features to satisfy early adopters who will then provide feedback for future product development.

“When you start to take an agile approach, you can make a product and get it into the market in four months. So you need three months to do it, and in month fourth you start to earn revenue from it,” she said.

Last but not least, passion enables business leaders to fulfil their missions. “If we work hard for something we love, it’s called passion,” she said. “Do what you enjoy and love, and bring them for your team.”

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