Integration was raised again and again as one of the largest obstacles to creating the perfect broker-workstation environment. When wealth-management executives were interviewed for Jessica Pallay's story, "If You Build It, Will They Come?" (p.14), they were almost more concerned about integration issues than choosing the right vendor at the right cost.
Of course, vendor relationships and cost issues were priorities in the decision-making process. However, these elements alone cannot ensure a project's success. Without being able to integrate the systems and processes, it's safe to say, the project will flop.
As a result, ease of integration should be a primary concern. It is the reason that the Merrill implementation may or may not be having some trouble; it's the reason Wachovia chose Thomson, as the vendor promised to simplify integration by handling both the front and back offices; and it's one of the reasons Scott Abbey, CTO of UBS, chose to build instead of buy his firm's broker workstations.
That's one of the most interesting decisions brought to light in this story. I mean, who builds anymore? More specifically, who builds large-scale applications such as broker workstations, where there are so many vendors offering solid, off-the-shelf solutions?
It makes you wonder if UBS is clinging to the past or if the firm knows something the rest of us do not. Is the industry getting swept away by the outsourcing phenomenon without questioning its drawbacks? By outsourcing to the same vendors that competitors use, do firms lose some of their competitive edge? Are institutions underestimating what it takes to integrate vendor systems with legacy systems?
Abbey knows that large-scale projects hinge on integration. In UBS's case, Abbey knew his back-end legacy system would be difficult to integrate with a vendor solution. As a matter of fact, he initially tried to outsource the project. He first purchased a customer-relationship management system for the firm's brokers but had to rip it out when it began heading in the wrong direction.
Rather than try to solve all of the issues with the vendor's system and then work through a messy integration project, Abbey decided to take control and build the whole thing in-house.
With rumors swirling suggesting that Merrill's broker-workstation project may be having some problems, although denied by Merrill, it does make you think:
Could Abbey be on to something?