CIOs" universal challenge: delivering value to business

Von Sandra Rossi

Delivering value to the business, is easier said than done. But that is the universal challenge facing every CIO and IT executive today, according to the Commonwealth Bank of Australia"s (CBA) IT manager Peter Reynolds.

Talking about his role in the newly formed CIO Executive Council launched this month, Reynolds said there is a great story in business transformation and the unique role of the IT executive in achieving that change.

Pointing to the CBA"s A$1.5 billion (US$1.2 billion) transformation project which began in September 2002 as an example, he said the council has a central role to play in helping IT executives meet the transformation challenge.

"It"s not just about the technology, it"s about embedding the technology and processes into the business," Reynolds said.

"When the council meets we realize "lo and behold our challenges are not so unique," but that doesn"t stop them from being challenges."

Reynolds said the bank"s massive transformation project involves the implementation of a customer service platform that can deliver one single version of the truth.

"This isn"t just about CRM, but an entire platform; customers wonder why they get new forms all the time when they are already a customer. They know we already have that information and ask why can"t we reuse the data?," he said.

"But over the years in IT we have built up so many systems, one for home loans, another for credit cards and when you involve call centres and branches it gets even more complicated.

"Someone in the branch may only have access to two screens and the call centres have access to other screens, so the challenge going forward is to create a single interface to the customer."

Reynolds said the first step in the process was to convince the board to spend $250 million on new technology.

"But why even get this new technology or Web services if we are going to implement it the same way as the old technology," he said.

Once signoff was achieved on the current project, Reynolds spent a year gathering requirements for the project and in that time the market changed. "We"re making promises for two years ahead which is risky business," he said.

"Another issue that comes up is methodology. There are currently more than a 1000 project methodologies in the market. "These are just a few of the challenges we are discussing within the council."

Reynold"s said the transformation project is on time and within budget.

"We have just completed imaging 100 million pages of paper across the organization, that"s the weight of three blue whales or 74 times the height of Centrepoint Tower; we are halfway through the number of branches for full system rollout," he said.

Which IT?

CBA chief David Murray last week announced a A$4 billion annual profit pointing to the bank"s IT initiatives as a major contributor to its record results.

Murray said the bank"s decision to invest in its customers is paying off with net profit after tax up 55 percent on the previous year. He said the bank"s new customer service system, CommSee, which aims to provide a single view of the customer, is generating more benefits than originally anticipated.

For such a massive IT undertaking, the preliminary results are promising. Murray also pointed to the bank"s continuous process improvement program CommWay.

He said CommWay has completed 41 projects over the year averaging a 49 percent improvement in turnaround times. "Customers are already receiving quicker credit decisions," he said. Murray leaves the bank next month and will be replaced by former Air NZ chief Ralph Norris.

The stellar result means Murray leaves the bank on a high note.