With a $900 million annual IT budget spread across 14 business units, Nationwide Financial Services cannot afford a lot of duplication and misguided spending. However, the Columbus, Ohio-based insurance giant also needs to encourage and fund cutting-edge technology deployments to maintain its market leadership.Over the years, insurance companies have made many attempts to rein in the growth of their information systems. To promote standardized architectures, IT executives have attempted to centralize purchasing, restrict hardware purchases, or prevent "rogue" software purchases and installations that don't fit in with the master plan.

Even the best and most carefully laid plans quickly fall out of step in a fast-moving industry, however. More often than not, chaos has been the norm.

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