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Business Transformation in Action

Joe McKendrick

Shared Services in Action at Nationwide

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The goal and vision behind service oriented architecture is that of shared services, in which multiple business units inside and outside the firewall can access functions and applications needed to complete business processes. Getting everyone across the enterprise in sync with the program is a challenge within itself.  Often, it takes a major business event to shake folks out of their complacency.

At Nationwide Insurance, the drive for greater streamlining of multiple business silos was fueled in 2006, following a spate of claims arising from a stormy year among many policyholders.  The insurance company's management recognized a need to streamline and optimize its data reporting, said Christine John, systems engineer with Nationwide. 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.

John, along with Leon Dailey, infrastructure leader at Nationwide, outlined how this need evolved into an enterprise-wide shared services strategy at Teradata's annual Partners conference, held last week in San Diego.

Nationwide's IT team was 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, John said. 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 adds.

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. As John pointed out, "just because you've completed your task on time, you still may end up waiting for another team to complete their task."

In this blog (formerly known as "SOA in Action"), Joe McKendrick examines how BPM and related business and IT approaches can promote business transformation.

Joe McKendrick

Joe McKendrick is an author and independent analyst who tracks the impact of information technology on management and markets. View more

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