Yes, there is a light at the end of the silo.
At Teradata's annual Partners conference this week, Christine John, systems engineer and Leon Dailey, infrastructure leader with Nationwide Insurance, explained how they were able to build out a shared services infrastructure across the enterprise, and enable five different business lines to tap into common data services supported by a data warehouse.
The initiative came about in 2006, following a spate of claims arising from a stormy year among many policyholders, in which management recognized a need to streamline and optimize its data reporting, John said. The company's P&C, loan, specialized insurance, financial services and consulting previously ran their own operational applications and data, including financials, HR and CRM.
The shared services initiative brought together these functional areas into a single enterprise realm. “Shared services takes the vertical and makes it horizontal,” said John. Additionally, she said her unit provides support for the underlying technical components of the shared services, including tactical operations, including meeting service level agreements, and partnering with networking, backup and data management specialists to address issues that come up.
One of the most popular interfaces among internal business clients, John says, is a “heat map” her unit provides that shows spikes in activities across a given month. The infrastructure is now supported by two development, two test and two production systems, Dailey says.
Getting five different business organizations to come together and agree to a shared services infrastructure is not without its challenges, of course. Aligning and syncing development and resources meant considerable collaboration and communication between these businesses. “Just because you've completed your task on time, you still may end up waiting for another team to complete their task,” John says.
Kudos to the presenters for what was a highly engaging session as well. Knowing it was an end-of-the-day session, they charged things up by presenting in Ohio State University (where else, right?) football jerseys, and throwing out random trivia questions to the audience. Winners had a complimentary Nationwide foam football tossed their way. Yes, they love their football in Ohio.
Joe McKendrick is an author, consultant, blogger and frequent INN contributor specializing in information technology.
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