The concept of adaptive enterprise architecture is being extended outside of Nationwide Financial's vast IT structure. As part of the process, IT executives at Columbus, Ohio-based Nationwide are involved in corporate merger and acquisition decisions."We don't play a deal-breaking role in acquisitions, but we're a significant voice at the table," explains Srinivas Koushik, vice president and chief technology officer for Nationwide Financial Services. "We'll report on whether we can integrate the other company's systems."

This philosophy was put to the test at the end of 2002 with Nationwide's acquisition of Provident Mutual Life Insurance Co., Berwyn, Pa. "Once the acquisition went through, the CIO of Provident and other technical executives were immediately plugged into the architecture review board and technology standards board," says Koushik. "They immediately got a voice in what happens within the enterprise."

Currently, Koushik is working with Nationwide Provident to standardize the new subsidiary's application development and enterprise portal environments.

Such standardization and flexibility is vital to the information-intensive insurance industry, industry experts concur. "Insurance's only natural resource is information," says Jamie Bisker, research director for TowerGroup.

"You have a service contract, for potential service at a future date depending on conditions, of casualty, life, and market. It's all information, nothing else," says Bisker.

For that reason, for example, IT needs to play a key role in exercising due diligence around assessing the impact of a merger or acquisition, he adds. "Do they have a better policy processing system than we have? How many policies do they have? Can our systems physically handle it? The merger between Nationwide and Provident Mutual was more of a bit transfer than an atom transfer. There is no such thing as IT separate from business. You can't do business today without IT."

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