CMOs And CIOs Tackle Technology: Q&A With Robert Mead, CMO, And Michael Mathias, CIO, At Aetna

Recently my colleague Sharyn Leaver and I had the opportunity to meet with Robert Mead and Michael Mathias, the CMO and CIO, respectively, at Aetna. They will be speaking at our upcoming CIO-CMO Forum on September 22, 2011, in Boston, so this serves as a bit of a preview to what should be an eye-opening presentation. Enjoy!

David Cooperstein: What external changes drove you to build a deeper partnership with your technology peers?

Robert Mead, senior vice president, Aetna marketing, product and communications: The US healthcare system is fragmented and well behind the curve in terms of price transparency and consumer-friendly products and services. The deep partnership between technology and marketing at Aetna lets us put leading-edge technologies and powerful tools and applications directly into the hands of people so that they can be confident consumers and informed patients. Our close collaboration with our colleagues in technology is driven by a few external factors:

  • The increasing cost of care and the corresponding changes in employer-based insurance — consumers are being asked to take more ownership of their health and wellness and their healthcare spending.
  • The introduction and rapid adoption of technology empowers consumers (and patients) to engage in the healthcare system where they are in life and in the way they want to be connected.
  • Healthcare reform aims to bring millions of previously uninsured Americans into the marketplace as consumers.

David: How have you measured the results of a tighter relationship between the two of you in terms of corporate goals and personal metrics?

Robert: Our goal is straightforward — to use our marketing and technology resources to build the best possible healthcare experience for everyone. To accomplish this, we need to create consumer technology that is fast, seamless, integrated, relevant, and flexible. I am extremely proud of the work we’ve done to date. We have significantly improved our member self-service website, launched a mobile website and health app, offer an industry-leading payment estimator, and are introducing social gaming to our members. Going forward, we’re committed to extending the Aetna brand experience far beyond the traditional.     

Sharyn Leaver: How does your working relationship with marketing compare to that with other parts of the business organization?

Michael G. Mathias, chief information officer, Aetna information services: Marketing and technology at Aetna are very closely related. It begins with strategic planning, where we jointly identify opportunities for innovation and investment. In addition, we formalized our relationship through a "strategic advisor" role that provides a single point of contact between the two organizations to coordinate end-to-end IT needs. This model has been extremely productive. Recent joint efforts have included mobile computing, member communications, and relationship management capabilities.

Sharyn: What skill sets do you look for in your IT employees to ensure that they will work well with marketing and help drive customer engagement and growth?

Michael: Clearly, it’s important that our team members have the core technical skills required for their role. In addition, our work with marketing requires that they have a number of additional skills including seeing through the eyes or our customers, visual design strength, creativity and imagination, open-mindedness, project management agility, experimental curiosity, systems thinking (in other words, the ability to remove silos and manage projects holistically), and mash-able software fluency.