Guidewire"s CIO: Eyes on the cloud and more

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Guidewire

One of the first initiatives Chet Mandair focused on when he became chief information officer at Guidewire Software was migrating operations to the cloud. He considers it time well spent.

“We are [now] a 100% cloud-based infrastructure. That is a journey we took in the first 12 months of my role,” said Mandair (pictured). “It’s a great accomplishment for us as a team.”

Mandair, CIO since July 2019, conducts his job at a global company with approximately 3,200 employees spread through North America, Europe and Asia (and headquarters in the Bay Area in California). Most recently, he served at Salesforce on a strategic advisory team where he helped customer transformations by creating modern digital experiences.

At Guidewire, Mandair said the company’s internal CIO department views its mission as being focused on business technology.

“The idea behind that is we’re empowering our business and … employee experience,” Mandair said. “Part of my role and scope includes making sure we have the right tools and systems to provide a delightful employee, customer and partner experience.”

That includes working with a chief information security officer to make sure Guidewire has safe and secure work and customer environments. In addition, there’s a focus on having adequate infrastructure and operations to support the company globally, including its product engineering team.

The cloud and more

The cloud initiative was a key early advance that Mandair said helped the company because Guidewire’s ecosystem, tools and everything it uses are all cloud/SaaS based now.

“It empowers innovation [and is] easy to scale,” Mandair said.

Another early accomplishment under Mandair’s tenure was helping Guidewire to embrace a data-driven culture that leverages data and related insights to support its decisions.

“That is quite a transformation from about three years ago,” Mandair said. “When I came here, we basically had spreadsheets. We evolved from spreadsheets to dashboards and today we use LiveBoards …. live data to help us inform and make decisions.”

Guidewire has also shifted its mindset about technology since Mandair came on board, he said.

“We [used] a traditional waterfall approach in our methodology and how we did things and today we are an agile product-driven organization, very similar to engineering groups,” Mandair said.

The waterfall approach looks at a project in terms of linear progression, from start to finish. With product-driven development, a company seeks to solve a problem and develop a product/solution to address it, involving some anticipation of possible market needs.

Constant evolution

The technology revamps under Mandair’s leadership as CIO come close to 21 years after Guidewire’s 2001 debut. In life, but in particular with technology, adaptation and change are quite necessary, Mandair said.

“Things always evolve, right? Today, hybrid [work] is a thing to stay. Three years ago, it wasn’t a priority … things always evolve,” Mandair said. “The role of technology is to help deliver those experiences that make it simpler and automated, and so this is just a natural progression … at the end of the day, you want to provide a seamless employee user engagement and provide the right tools so [they] can be successful in doing their role.”

Mandair said that employees have been receptive to the changes and improvements.

“Employees are a key part of our transformation and they have been awesome,” Mandair said. “They have been giving us insights and input … We adapt, and change. We are agile.”

It is hard to pinpoint specific technology tools employees need to be successful, Mandair said, but he zeroed in on a few key options: having a cloud platform, analytics and data, and a technology ecosystem to support the other two things. These ingredients allow for versatility and growth, he argued.

Scale and hybrid work

For future initiatives, Mandair is focusing as CIO on helping Guidewire support growth and scale. There will also be continued investment in and leveraging of data.

Hybrid work is perhaps a more immediate future focus, however – the idea of perfecting the work-from-home and work-in-the-office blends that have become normal after the coronavirus pandemic.

The digital tools such as Zoom that are used today for hybrid work are fine, but they’re not enough to create longer-term seamless hybrid work experiences, Mandair said.

“We have great collections of digital tools [but] I get too fatigued at the end of the day, ideating on the whiteboard, me sitting on a Zoom call – it is really difficult to follow that conversation,” Mandair said. “The idea is making the experience frictionless and seamless so that you can work from anywhere and you don’t get fatigued by tools and just have that focus on the experience.”

With that in mind, Mandair said, Guidewire sees enormous potential.

“We are all trying to figure out what that experience is and how we design for that,” Mandair said.

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