At Huntington Bank, innovation means reimagining an enterprise in which IT resources efficiently flow exactly where needed most, as if driven by strategic gravity. In this case, the gravity's called shared services, and the director of shared services, Steve George, recently discussed the bank's plans.
BTN: What are the duties of your new position?
George: We're transforming the technology and operations group from a siloed model in which tech was delivered-from analysis to design to implementation-entirely on an individual line of business basis. Now, were changing that to find opportunity to share technology projects and development tasks.
How will IT development work under the new system?
We will be doing tech development, testing and product support on a shared service basis-not just up to deployment, but in supporting the project after deployment. It's a model that can scale to support where the business lines are headed in a particular time.
What can the shortcomings of siloed IT management be?
As the market changes, work volume ebbs and flows between different groups. So retail might get the lions share of the IT work in one quarter, but commercial might get the lions share of the IT work in another. And you might have teams in these silos [with expertise] in areas that can be of use in another business line, such as JAVA or .Net.
If you have a siloed approach to tech development, you can't move resources to accommodate that shift in workflow. Another issue is the synergy of moving across business lines for testing. We may have developed two projects in two different business lines for testing that can be packaged and tested together in a shared services environment.
How do you decide what job category is a shared service as opposed to product-specific knowledge?
We realize there is a fair amount of subject matter expertise that should remain in a silo. That's particularly true at the beginning of the software development lifecycle. That's where we'll keep [subject] experts who can help develop ideas [for business line tech projects] that can be handed off to a build team.
At the same time, there are also functions that can be executed in projects across departments, such as developer, testers, production and support. These are common areas that are used by all business lines.
How does this strategic change impact the actual technology?
We are figuring out ways to share the actual technology. There was a time when retail may have been a large enough line of business to have ownership of a sales platform. But now, we may want to cross sell products and interact with customers [consistently]. So that platform is a system that would be shared.
How has your background [head of retail architecture at JPMorgan Chase and FI tech roles with Accenture] prepared your for your new job?
My background has allowed me to see both models, the siloed and shared service, as well as hybrids of the two. It's not a case in which one always works and the other always doesn't. It's about having the right system at the right time. At this point at Huntington, which is looking to grow, it needs to change its organization model to shared services to support those strategic needs.
Does this strategic shift also include a parallel project management shift in cross department software development to newer methods such as 'agile' (development via cross functional teams) and 'lean' (redefining workflow to eliminate project bloat)?
It's not specific to the move to shared services, but we are looking at many different options for software development projects. In the silo mode, teams may have developed software in a more customized manner.
We want to make sure that we producing software in a way that would work across the enterprise, and that would include looking different paths to build software to see what works. And that includes 'agile' and other different methods from the normal waterfall approach to projects [chronological development from conception to maintenance.]