As recently reported here at INN, Chartis, the flagship property/casualty insurance arm of American International Group (AIG), has had some tough times lately, and continues to restructure its operations in efforts to streamline and boost profitability.
Part of this restructuring has been an overhaul of the company's IT infrastructure—always a source of potential expenses that could be a potential revenue driver. In fact, Abe Naguib, director of global performance architecture and infrastructure engineering at AIG-Chartis, estimates that streamlining and enhancing IT operations already underway has helped the company recoup about $127 million in infrastructure savings so far. How did they do it? Naguib recently sat down with Dana Gardner, president and principal analyst at Interarbor Solutions, for a revealing discussion on his strategy for more efficient delivery of IT services.
Naguib recognized at the outset that too many issues were cropping up in applications after they were released into production, resulting in countless hours, or even days, of revisions and delays. Plus, there was a wall between the business and IT professionals that inhibited communications about technology needs and priorities.
When things did go wrong, the problem was compounded by an abundance of finger-pointing and organizational inertia. That's because too many people were involved in the process, which slowed down everything from development to operations.
“We realized that the faster we resolved issues, the faster to market, the faster we can address things, the less disruption to the delivery practices,” Naguib says. “In normal firefighting mode, architecture is involved, development is involved and infrastructure is involved. What ends up happening is there are too many people involved. We're all scrambling, pointing fingers and looking at logs. So, we figured that the faster we get to resolution, the better for everyone to continue the train on the track.”
Naguib formed a response team, consisting of architects and DBAs, who could quickly drop in and resolve issues. “We're currently a one-army team, like paratroopers. We're multi-skilled, from architecture, to performance, to support, and we drive resolution in the organization.”
Along with more nimble and agile teams, Naguib has worked to build better working relationships between IT teams and business managers. The result is what he calls "escalator messages”: in 60 seconds or less, “talk to a CIO, CTO, COO or CFO about our strategy and how we can help them shift from the firefighting mode to more of an architecture mode."
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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