Bank Programmers Getting Help

Cost constraints have forced bank operations executives to focus on getting more work from their programmers, resulting in growing purchases of specialized software that aids systems development.

Within the past year, practically every big bank has either begun to experiment with or is building systems with these software tools and techniques, according to the Gartner Group, a research and consulting company in Stamford, Conn.

The software aids, called computer-aided software engineering and usually referred to as Case, can cut the time it takes to develop a system. That speed can enable corporations to bring products to market faster - because the support systems will be completed faster - and can cut the development costs for a computer system.

40% Gain in Production

Aided by Case, which helps generate programming code, a programmer can do 40% more work.

Because Case tools are still relatively new, the Gartner Group estimates corporations have used the software aids to build one or two systems a year. In the next five years, 20% of a corporation's systems will be written using Case. Annual sales over that time are expected to rise from $1.4 billion last year to $4.4 billion.

"In the last year, people have come to believe that if they don't do this, they won't be competitive anymore," said Albert F. Case Jr., a manager with the Gartner Group. During that time, the use of Case software has moved from the experimental phase to be a regular part of systems development.

Technology executives said raising the productivity of programmers has become their highest priority in 1991, according to a recent survey by CSC Index, a Cambridge, Mass.-based management consulting company.

The two other major concerns, according to the survey, are the ability to develop software that supports the corporation's strategy, and the ability to rapidly deploy systems. Taken together, the top three priorities are evidence that senior management wants to get more of its investment in technology. Case software is seen as a way to address those concerns.

Society Corp. in Cleveland is one of the growing number of believers that Case can spur the faster development of systems and increase the productivity of programmers. "The cost of people is going up dramatically - if you can find people to hire," said Ralph L. Bernard, senior vice president. "The key is to enable people to do more, so you can do more with your existing base of resources."

Shift by Cleveland Bank

Society plans to use Case as part of a major shift in its data processing methods. The Cleveland banking company has been using Case for five years. But Mr. Bernard recently began experimenting with enhanced software that helps speed programmers through all phases of systems development, from planning through code generation.

This integrated software, from Seer Technologies Inc., in New York has a unique feature: it generates computer code that can run on personal computers or mainframes.

That flexibility is critical as Society and other banks move to what may be a less expensive method of data processing, called cooperative processing, whereby computer tasks are shared by PCs and mainframes.

Cooperative Processing

Technologists consider the move to cooperative processing to be necessary. Many big banks, including Banc One Corp. and Bank of Boston have taken steps in this direction.

About 45% of big banks are using integrated Case tools, such as the Seer product, said Mr. Case, who is in charge of the software engineering practice of the Gartner Group.

An equal number of banks are approaching Case by following the guidelines of International Business Machines Corp., which allows banks to create an integrated Case software by assembling Case products from a variety of software companies.

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