Doug Pontious is not your typical IT leader—he is a car guy who studied management science in college and went on to earn his MBA. For sure, the greater Detroit native is a car guy who spent nearly 20 years working for Ford Motor Co. and then running GM’s Customer and Relationship Services business unit. Following that, Pontius served as the global chief technical officer of Sitel then served CIO stints at StarTek and Lifestyle Lift before assuming his role at Amerisure Insurance to develop the insurance company’s BI strategy. Doug also serves as an Advisory Board Member for Midsize Enterprise Summit.
The Midsize Enterprise Strategies team caught up with Pontious to discuss the challenges facing CIOs along with his take on some key market trends.
Midsize Enterprise Strategies: What is the biggest challenge you are facing in your role as an IT leader in a midmarket organization?
Pontious: In my years as a CIO with several very diverse companies, I quickly learned that the majority of macro challenges facing IT leaders are fairly common regardless of the size of the organization. Experience also illustrated that when it comes to IT teams, larger firms often employ more highly specialized technical talent while smaller firms have to resort to a more generalized technical mix. In my current role at Amerisure, clearly a midmarket organization, I inherently depend much more on external partners and suppliers to assist with complex technical initiatives. While this dependency typically presents itself as a challenge, it also often results in an opportunity for our team to accelerate their technical growth by working along-side industry experts.
MES: What advice would you share with other midmarket CIOs and IT leaders?
Pontious: Throughout my CIO career, I listened very closely to a number of industry leaders that served as mentors as I realized that the transition from a technical orientation to an IT leader often required very different skills depending upon the myriad of new challenges. The most valuable advice I received involved concentrating on becoming the best leader possible, at both the IT team and executive levels, to maximize the overall positive impact to our company and industry.
Also, I recommend staying very engaged in the ongoing evolution that is occurring within our IT industry as the accelerating transformation is unlike any I have witnessed in the span of my career. Embrace change, and know how to lead and manage it. And perhaps my favorite advice, find what you enjoy, and enjoy what you find.
MES: Hybrid cloud has been such a hot topic lately. What is your company’s approach to hybrid, private and public cloud?
Pontious: While a fairly conservative company, Amerisure has implemented all three primary cloud architectures designed to deliver optimal value to our business. The default architecture for new Amerisure applications and/or IT services is cloud based.
MES: Can you discuss some of the key projects you are current working on?
Pontious: Our key strategic IT projects spanning the next few years include advanced analytics, cloud migration, digital business, as well as application and platform enhancement. As with most companies, security is a very important ongoing initiative that is forecasted to be active well beyond our current planning horizon.
MES: What key technologies are you keeping an eye on for future consideration?
Pontious: For a midsize organization, it is often difficult to find the time and resources to maintain a myopic focus on emerging technologies. At Amerisure, each IT department champions promising technology that promotes our value contribution back to the company. Much of our research and piloting of emerging technologies takes place in a collaborative manner with our technology partners. Perhaps one of our more interesting emerging technology views is in the advanced analytics space where we are making impressive progress via platforms such as predictive and prescriptive analytics.
You can read additional CIO interviews by clicking on the following links below:
MES Q&A With Prince George’s County Government CIO Vennard Wright Insight from leading public sector CIO
MES Q&A With Continental Mills CIO Tammy Barr Insight from CIO of major consumer goods company