Integrating new IT strategies

What prompts financial services firms to integrate new (to them, at least) IT strategies?

“Efficiency and process optimization for specific services represent only one facet of IT. The real potential lies in IT’s ability to facilitate innovation and net-centric collaboration between widely dispersed departments, branches and third-party organizations.” That quote was attributed to Bob Giffords, European director of Research and Consulting for Financial Insights in an announcement of a series of presentations in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE) organized by IDC and Financial Insights.

Catching up with — and potentially leaping past — the rest of the world is the motivation for the CEE-based financial industry with its “dramatic opportunities for economic and monetary transformation,” to quote IDC again.

A more global perspective comes from Anne Songtao Lu, senior analyst for IDC’s Worldwide Vertical Market program. “The challenge faced by many financial institutions is that their customer and product information is stored across a number of disparate databases as well as ERP, content management, and document management systems,” she notes. “Financial institutions need a platform that integrates these various repositories of information and enables the standardization and simplification of access to information and improved business processes.”

Closer to home, Meredith Whalen, vice-president of IDC’s U.S. Vertical Market Research program, cites “systems optimization, new technologies and compliance” as among the key drivers.

Having just listened to several services firms’ recount their experiences of IT implementations, I also view as relevant here in Canada the advice of IDC’s Giffords to “take a holistic view of IT and its connection to business processes and trading partners…look to the future, to where people are going, rather than to the past, for role models.”

So what’s in store? Well, let’s check out the work of 2004 innovators heralded in the May 24 issue of InfoWorld (U.S.). E-mail encryption. Better network leak and intrusion detection. Easier large file sharing. More mobile computing. Narrowed gap between Linux and Windows. Simplified Web-based form design. Security as an immune system. Encrypted storage. Better detection of fraud and money laundering.

InfoWorld also gives us a glimpse of what’s coming: accessible high-performance computing; vulnerability assessment at an enterprise level, free Internet-based telephony virtualized datacentre infrastructure.

And where are people going? Online to a considerable degree. The Canadian Bankers Association reports there were 192 million online banking transactions completed in 2003 for the big six banks, compared to 47.2 million in 2000.

They’re also going wireless. It’s already been half a year since the Canadian Wireless Telecommunications Association (CWTA) announced that Canadians send more than one million wireless text messages per day, tripling the monthly usage over the previous 18 months. CWTA predicts that by 2005, more than half of all Canadians will be mobile phone customers.

Tracking what’s new with customers is as vital as knowing what’s new in IT. Customers’ needs are surely a bottom line IT motivation.

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