Master portal framework produces benefits

The wholesale banking division of Wells Fargo & Co. had so much success with its customer-focused Internet efforts, it decided to replicate the infrastructure internally. “We realized we should be doing for ourselves what we’re doing for our customers,” says Danny Peltz, executive vice-president of wholesale Internet solutions at Wells Fargo.

The San Francisco bank’s wholesale banking division includes asset-based lending, capital markets and commercial banking, for example, and accounts for about 20 per cent of the bank’s US$6 billion net income, according to Peltz.

Last year, the division decided to clean up its internal systems architecture. The main issue was a proliferation of Web applications and portals put up by different departments, often to expose one function or data source, without any reference to an overall enterprise architecture.

The wholesale banking division set out to create a master portal framework that would let multiple applications draw on shared resources — such as access and authentication services — and minimize duplicative development and maintenance efforts. Peltz also wanted to establish a common interface to key customer and employee applications.

To accomplish this, the commercial banking division decided to pare back the number of applications it was running and build a common infrastructure platform with BEA Systems Inc.’s WebLogic Portal 8.1 software, Documentum content management software and a customized version of Netegrity Inc.’s single sign-on software. The division hatched its plan last summer and deployed a pilot project in December. Today, the portal-based framework is up and running, and content- and application-rationalization work continues.

The wholesale banking division modeled its internal overhaul on its commercial electronic office (CEO) portal, which launched in 2000. About 75,000 users from more than 17,000 corporate Wells Fargo clients use CEO and its 35-plus applications and services to view account information and execute money transfers, for example. The financial services portal processed almost US$6 trillion in electronic payments in 2003 and yielded a 54 per cent gain in revenue growth through the Internet vs. 2002 figures, Peltz says.

A key attribute of CEO is that it uses common infrastructure services while letting different departments maintain control of certain distributed processes, Peltz says. This also frees departments from dealing with technology issues such as security, single sign-on and content management.

Peltz applied the same philosophy in the design of the internal iteration of CEO, called iCEO, which provides single sign-on access to the divisions’ applications. In addition to reducing application maintenance burdens, iCEO will improve data quality. Peltz wants to consolidate data entry in the iCEO portal framework, and then push data to the multiple systems of record to ensure consistency and eliminate the need to continually re-key data.

The process of moving content to a single content management system already is triggering some maintenance benefits. One business unit reduced the number of Web pages it maintained from 10,000 to 2,000 as it considered which content was useful and which was obsolete, Peltz says.

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