THE CHALLENGE: Industry consolidation, new computing standards and a move to horizontal business structures have IT architects' plates full. To build a cohesive strategy, they need to leverage architectures across an organization, bust down technology silos and meld newly acquired units.
Labor day weekend is supposed to be about end-of-summer getaways and back-to-school planning. For Cindy Buckler and her IT team, it was about hitting a key milestone at the start of one of their biggest integration projects to date: rolling customers of recently acquired Prudential Securities into the Wachovia Securities fold.
Planning has been under way since the Wachovia-Prudential deal was announced last year, and the process will run through year's end. As part of the integration, Wachovia is rolling out a new financial-adviser desktop and moving Prudential customers onto the Wachovia platform, which includes a data warehouse that allows customer information to be shared across the organization. "We try to build our platforms so that any functionality we build for one channel, we offer for another," says Buckler, Wachovia managing director and IT director.
Like Buckler, many IT managers - particularly financial institutions in acquisition mode or those trying to connect global business initiatives - are breaking down traditional operating silos to build IT architectures that leverage systems across departments.
Wachovia has distinct groups - including a private client group/retail brokerage, an investment services group and a correspondent clearing business - that each runs as a separate business. Yet, the businesses depend on a common backbone: a back-end processing system called Beta from Thomson Financial. As Wachovia Securities acquires companies, the new operations are brought onto the existing platform . " We don't want to be stuck with a bunch of systems desperately trying to get into your same architecture," Buckler says.
Wachovia's guiding principle in integrating acquisitions and adding new technology is whether the architecture will be able to grow with the company. "When doing a lot of acquisitions, you have to make sure that you are making choices that are scalable in the future from an architecture perspective," Buckler explains. "We try to do our homework and make sure that anything we are building today has the ability to leverage and scale tomorrow."
A two-tier organization helps Wachovia do that. Buckler has an architectural team as part of her staff that sets standards and determines the "rules of the road." That team functions as part of a larger enterprise architecture group that sets architecture standards across Wachovia Corp. As Buckler's team planned the Prudential integration, the plans faced review from the enterprisewide architecture group. It's a popular strategy for large organizations that are trying to break down IT silos and develop common IT architectures across business units.
RBC Financial Group relies on an architecture review committee to guide the IT framework for key business lines, including investment, banking and insurance units. "RBC is really looking at the huge benefits and advantages to having an enterprise architecture group," says Sadru Teja, VP of IT architecture . It's become critical, as RBC recently acquired a number of firms, including Dain Rauscher and Centura Bank. "The technology is all over the map," Teja says. "There are lots of brick-and-mortar and legacy technology that you can't get rid of overnight."
Some of the first areas Teja targets for leveraging infrastructure across the company - whether existing or acquired business units - are communication networks, such as common e-mail and Internet systems. The bank also has a common desktop across RBC, and its five business units share human resources, accounting and datawarehouse systems, through which staff can identify high-net-worth customers across businesses. RBC also has some common architecture around records management and information security . When RBC's architect review committee develops guidelines for a broad policy, such as the use of J2EE or Microsoft's .NET, it gets feedback from IT personnel across the organization until it reaches agreement.