In the long term, we're all dead. John Maynard Keynes' warning may have been directed at overly theoretical economists, but his words hardly offer a pep talk for thinking beyond the next fiscal quarter. And with the pressures of the recent business cycle, it's no wonder that terms like "short-term payoff" and "near-term deliverables" are so often the driving force behind business technology strategy.
But long-term projects - and even good, old-fashioned mega projects - haven't completely vanished in this short-term world.
On page 28, we examine A.G. Edwards' latest and biggest step toward completing a $186 million multiyear project that involves transforming the company's securities-processing and IT platforms. The firm's lofty goals are to cut costs, lower risk and prepare the organization for a future of straight-through processing and (possibly) shorter trade-settlement times. The project even comes with a name - the "Gateway Initiative" - that, in St. Louis, where A.G. Edwards is headquartered, leaves no doubt about its scope or ambition.
Perhaps most remarkable is what CIO John Parker says about the recent, major technology step in the project - signing up for Thomson's BETAHost back-office processing platform. Parker says this step could be a cost-neutral proposition - or that it could even raise costs in the short term as A.G. Edwards transitions from well-established legacy systems. However, it's part of a longer-term effort to improve the company's operating cost position, and the system and strategy this move allows is what's seen as needed to move A.G. Edwards forward. The entire project is slated for completion in early 2006.
The same kind of plan-for-the-future thinking is at the core of our cover story (page 14), in which business and IT managers are investing time working with IT services vendors and consultants to explore ways to reinvent their reference-data strategies. There's an element of risk even in exploring a shared-services approach, given that past efforts at industry collaboration haven't necessarily gone well. And there's a great deal of doubt over what form this kind of cooperation will eventually take, or even whether it will ever get off the ground. Nevertheless, a few companies are exploring the possibility, with the thinking that this is one long-standing idea whose time just may have arrived.
Chris Murphy is editor of InformationWeek and co-chair of the InformationWeek Conference. He has been covering technology leadership and CIO strategy issues for InformationWeek since 1999. Before that, he was editor of the Budapest Business Journal, a business newspaper in ... View Full Bio