Outsourcing adventures

Mike Redeker thinks his position at IBM is unlike any other and he would not have it any other way.

Redeker is a partnership executive with IBM Corp.’s Global Services in Edmonton and helps manage the outsourced services IBM provides Edmonton-based ATB Financial. ATB is a full-service financial institution with $14.3 billion in assets.

Working with seven other IBM employees, Redeker manages ATB’s application support, desktops, servers and mainframes.

What makes Redeker’s job unique is that he manages these outsourced services right at ATB Financial and not out of an IBM office. In fact, Redeker said ATB does not see him as an IBM employee but as an essential member of ATB’s management team.

His job is to help ATB effectively use the company’s infrastructure and technology to supply financial services and support to ATB’s 600,000 Alberta customers.

“The vice-president of computing operations here likes to say our role here is ‘Light Blue,’” said Redeker, in reference to IBM’s common Big Blue moniker. “We are part of ATB’s team and that is very positive. I’m not there to sell hardware or software, but to make sure their operations are as cost effective and customer friendly as possible.”

The relationship even has its comical side, such as when Redeker applied for a mortgage. The ATB loan officer was going to give Redeker the ATB staff mortgage rate. It was only when he showed the loan officer his IBM employee badge that the officer realized Redeker actually was not an ATB employee; the officer just assumed he was.

By working at the ATB offices, Redeker believes he provides more effective support by making the outsourcing relationship more collaborative. For instance, he is able to tell ATB managers what technical support or infrastructure issues need to be addressed by their internal IT team in order to help better meet ATB’s customer and business objectives.

“When you live and breathe with your customer, you see everything you do as a way to contribute to the bank’s success,” Redecker wrote in a subsequent e-mail. “Working at the customer site, you are able to be much more flexible and have a better understanding of what the IBM team needs to do to help support the ATB team. While ATB has a very talented team within their IT department, it is great when IBM can come to the table in a timely and cost effective manner to supplement the ATB team.”

Redeker believes this collaborative approach has helped him grow in his career – one that began with IBM nine years ago and for the last five years has been with ATB. The work has given him a better understanding of how IT is more effective when it can better support and facilitate business objectives and growth.

“I’ve been able to gain significant business knowledge on how the bank runs and how ATB’s operations tie into the bigger financial services community,” he said. “From a technical perspective, ATB has some of the most advanced applications either running or being developed and I am proud to say I have had a part in these efforts.”

Stephen Smith, client delivery executive with EDS Canada in Toronto agrees that working directly with a client in an outsourcing relationship is a unique opportunity to gain new skills and expertise.

“The experience [of working] directly with the customer allows you to better understand their business and you do pick (up) skills,” Smith said in e-mail. “You also have the benefit of learning about their…business processes, which helps expand your skills and knowledge.”

Smith, with a team of 70 from EDS Canada, supplies and manages outsourced services for Mississauga, Ont.-based Xerox Canada. He has been with the Xerox account for eight years. The services Xerox Canada Ltd. has decided to outsource from EDS are infrastructure support, application support, mainframe and application servers and telecom infrastructure.

Smith said his team’s job can be summed up rather simply: they are there to keep things running so Xerox Canada can do its job and not worry about the IT side of things.

“Xerox Canada is basically a sales and marketing organization and a service organization,” he said. “So I support the applications and infrastructure that support them, like the applications that help Xerox Canada take orders and create invoices, track orders and show that payments have been made.”

On the telecom side, Smith and his team ensure the communications infrastructure connecting Xerox Canada’s offices are maintained both in Canada and the U.S., and he works with suppliers like Bell Canada and Telus to make sure Xerox Canada gets the services and technologies it needs to get its work done.

Because EDS is a global company, Smith finds he has the enviable advantage of being able to tap into EDS’ Canadian and global resources to help Xerox Canada if the need arises.

“One of the unique things is that EDS supports Xerox worldwide so we can leverage experiences from a wide array of areas and from experiences with other customers,” Smith added.

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