Perhaps taking a cue from banks, even outsourcing firms now are looking for outside assistance.
Alltel Information Services, which ranks among the top five sellers of core processing and telecommunications services to banks, has forged an alliance with four software companies to package a loan origination system.
The venture is unusual for Alltel, which for many years has positioned itself as a one-stop technology provider, industry observers said.
Company executives said their strategy is to focus on the businesses for which Alltel is well-known - telecommunications, systems integration, and item processing - and to bring in other companies to fill in the gaps.
"We didn't want to reinvent the wheel," said Rebecca Rickenbach, sales support consultant at Little Rock-based Alltel. "We're getting better at working with strategic partners."
Indeed, faced with rising costs of developing technologies and products, bank service vendors that may once have considered themselves rivals in a particular market niche are now cooperating more readily, experts said.
"Alltel, like everyone else, is figuring out that trying to be good at everything is getting harder to do," said Carl Faulkner, managing director at M One, a Phoenix-based bank technology consulting firm. "I think we will see a lot more of these deals."
The five companies have agreed to develop and market Originate, a Windows-based computerized loan system. Alltel will act as chief negotiator with new bank clients and offer integration and support services, said Ms. Rickenbach.
Baker Hill, Carmel, Ind., is to supply business development and risk management expertise. Bankers Systems, St. Cloud, Minn., is to provide the loan compliance and document preparation component.
The Alternatives Group, Dallas, is to bring fair-lending software, and Fair, Isaac, San Rafael, Calif., will add credit evaluation and scoring software.
Alltel is programming the system so that the software components can exchange data.
Financial terms of the arrangement were not disclosed. However, executives involved in the deal said each company would collect its own licensing fees directly from the client.
Originate is designed to eliminate multiple data entry by "seamlessly" moving a loan from application to closing, including credit reporting, collateral tracking, and compliance, said Ms. Rickenbach.
John Sparks, president of the Alternatives Group, said Microsoft Windows technology is key to the project. "It gives us a common set of tools and standards so we can build a partnership," he said.
Consultants said the system, if it performs soup-to-nuts loan origination as Alltel is claiming, shows promise.
"It's a product that needs to exist," said Mr. Faulkner of M One. "Everyone says they sell one, but no one actually does."