Our transformation journey and unleashing the power of AI and automation – Interview with Sheila Anderson of Aflac

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Today’s interview is with Sheila Anderson, the Chief Information Officer (CIO) at Aflac, a Fortune 500 company that provides insurance and financial protection to millions of policyholders and customers through its subsidiaries in the U.S. and Japan.

I met Sheila as part of a recent trip to Pegaworld iNspire held in Las Vegas. Sheila delivered one of the keynotes on the main stage and was talking about Aflac’s journey and how they have unleashed the power of Pega AI and automation.

After her keynote, I sat down with Sheila for a quick chat for the podcast.

By the way, you can watch Sheila’s keynote and all of the talks from Pegaworld on-demand here.

This interview follows on from my recent interview – The messy middle of customer service revisited – Interview with Michael Ramsey of ServiceNow – and is number 473 in the series of interviews with authors and business leaders that are doing great things, providing valuable insights, helping businesses innovate and delivering great service and experience to both their customers and their employees.

Here are the highlights of my chat with Sheila:

  • I’ve actually only been at Aflac 10 months (at the time of recording in June 2023).
  • I spent the first six months doing a lot of learning and listening to the organization to understand what’s important and some of the opportunities we have to improve the company.
  • Many companies over the years have created a lot of what we call technical debt, and this poses challenges when it comes to adopting some of the newer technologies.
  • Our programme started back in 2019 and we still have some legacy challenges that we are still working on. We haven’t finished rewriting or reengineering all of that yet.
  • It’s a continuous journey for us.
  • People talk about transformation but actually it never ends.
  • Our initial focus was truly on understanding customer processes and conducting end-to-end mapping. That allowed us to identify opportunities to make that better.
  • One of the things that we absolutely focus on is how do we shrink the different process steps down to make it as small as possible.
  • A low-code platform really helps with that, as it democratizes access to things.
  • Make it easier for people to collaborate and innovate and create things. That’s part of what our focus has been on…. creating a learning environment so that we can encourage creativity and innovation and then extend that out to our business.
  • One of the things that we’ll most likely have to finish and mature is a citizen developer program inside of the organization. We’re not there yet, but that will be the next level of maturity.
  • Hackathons are a great approach. Putting challenges out that align with corporate objectives and initiatives, that’s always a great thing to do.
  • One of the key initiatives that I have started for the next two years (we’ve actually started rather late) is our full journey to the cloud.
  • We’ve already migrated our very largest enrollment capability to the cloud and are seeing the benefit from that move already.
  • Subsequent to that, we’ll start down the path of looking at full replacement of the mainframe. That will be a huge undertaking. So, we’ll be doing all of that while still delivering added value to our business.
  • You have to be able to balance some of these big initiatives but also figure out how do we peel the onion to make it more palatable.
  • If you don’t have an equal focus on data and making sure you have data that’s clean, structured and appropriate then you’re just going to run up against a lot of brick walls.
  • Be sure that any initiative that you undertake bring your customer along early on and make sure there’s an understanding of the why and the problem that you’re trying to solve for. Make it a together problem because then you’re going to be successful.
  • Make sure that you have measurements of success and incremental value that you can show along the way.
  • Sheila’s best advice if you want to improve your customer experience: Ask questions. Full stop. Understand your customer. Walk a day/mile in their shoes to really understand their experience.

About Sheila

Sheila AndersonShelia Anderson joined Aflac as CIO in July 2022. Prior to this, Anderson was Chief Information Officer (CIO) for Liberty Mutual’s Corporate Functions, responsible for applications and technologies that drive the global company’s Financial, Human Resources, Legal, and Data and Analytics Operations.

Prior to joining Liberty Mutual in 2017, Anderson served as Vice President and CIO of Property and Casualty Insurance at USAA. She previously held executive roles with several Fortune 500 Global Technology organizations, including HP and Electric Data Systems.

Anderson was recognized by Insurance Business America as a “2018 Elite Woman.” She received her Bachelor of Science in Computer Science from Louisiana Tech University and her Master of Science in Engineering Management from Southern Methodist University.

Check out Aflac, say Hi to them on Twitter @Aflac and do connect and follow Sheila on LinkedIn here.

Credit: Image by akbaranifsolo from Pixabay

Republished with author's permission from original post.

Adrian Swinscoe
Adrian Swinscoe brings over 25 years experience to focusing on helping companies large and small develop and implement customer focused, sustainable growth strategies.

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