Interview with Sajjad Ahmed

CIO Assistance Business Line, International SOS
Sajjad Ahmed

Jun 20, 2021

What do you see as the CIO’s top priority? 

​Our priorities are many, but first and foremost it is critical we continually enable a quality, always available service to all our clients and their employees, revenue growth and improve customer satisfaction. Driving digital transformation throughout our organization is key to enabling our priorities. ​

How have you helped move the business forward? 

​We take great pride in improving the digital experience for our clients, improving reporting and documentation, and enabling more flexible working for key operational staff, especially during the pandemic. We have grown during the pandemic due to being proactive in giving employees and their associates the tools to work remotely, provided an improved digital experience for clients, improved client reporting, and enabled flexible working for key operational teams. Along with that, we have created a data architecture and governance that enable tangible business intelligence and reporting, key benchmarks identifying areas of improvement, and actionable intelligence that can lead to business growth. ​

What is your experience with digital transformation? 

​We have aligned all stakeholders on the meaning of digital, established a digital plan and governance structure, and delivered key MVP items. We have upskilled our teams, launched the digital strategy, and moved up the IT maturity curve.​

Where do you see the industry heading in the next three to five years? 

​We will see a dramatic increase in the adoption of digital solutions, especially on the Internet of Things, artificial intelligence, and machine learning. The pandemic proved that we could enable our associates to work from anywhere and collaborate across different businesses. This technology opens the doors to a self-service work environment. ​

What’s your strategic plan for your current IT organization for one year, three years and five years out? 

​Technical innovation is consistently high on our agenda. We combine long term plans with shorter term response to sometimes rapidly changing client needs. For instance, we are currently working on solutions including vaccine management programmes. These provide easy access to vital reports and information. Key in the current situation, it has been essential to dedicate time and resource. This agility is also required for many of our longer-term projects. We are enhancing delivery of our assistance center services. This will offer better connectivity for our clients and their employees to reach us, including omni channel access to our advice and support. ​Our infrastructure and systems are also undergoing a digital transformation. These projects are designed to be able to maximize on new technology as it becomes available. What we think is innovative today may not be the best solution in three or five years, so we have long term plans and keep our fingers on the pulse to deliver best in class.​

How do you stay current on innovations and trends? 

​This is difficult for an always-on global business. I read, I have close friends in senior leadership positions, and we discuss innovations and direction IT is taking. I sit on various thought leadership groups and, importantly, I make sure I employ intelligent people so we as a team are on top of the agenda.​

How do you engage and get buy-in from your diverse groups of stakeholders? 

​This can be hard to start, but there are some key elements. we present the IT investment priorities against business plans and risks. Approved investment is therefore fully aligned with the business. IT project management office is hand-in-hand with the business, so monthly reviews with the business stakeholders align precisely with the reviews with different business lines. This remains a work-in-progress, but now our IT projects are business-driven. Each project has very clear governance that includes business stakeholders – our IT projects are now not IT projects but business projects.​

How do you retain employees? 

​Have the human touch with employees, encourage self-development, recognize talent, listen to employees, recognize their contribution, and remunerate well. ​

How do you upskill your employees? 

​Collaboration across multiple global teams, each team made to feel important. All new projects are presented clearly to each team member, the impact on their role is clear, the opportunity is given for them to contribute to the project. This encourages staff to learn themselves in addition to the standard courses we provide as part of their jobs.​

How do you support collaboration across departments? ​

​We join other departments at the IT planning stage, so all departments have a say in the IT strategy.​