CBA IT staff relish life after Murray

Technology staff at the Commonwealth Bank (CBA) are ushering in the dawn of a new era in IT with the departure of their former CEO David Murray, Australia's harshest critic of technology's failings.

Murray, the man who infamously declared IT's promise fails to deliver, has clocked off for the last time, $14 million richer, after holding the CEO title at CBA for 13 years.

"David, four years ago, made a few comments. It was difficult," concedes CBA chief technology officer Sarv Girn of Murray's tenure.

Girn was selling the success of the CBA's $1.5 billion "Which New Bank?" process and technology re-engineering project to a crowded room of his banking IT peers at a conference in Sydney last week.

Core aspects of the project are due for completion by the end of this financial year and Girn maintains the CBA is making the project deliver on its silo-busting promises and primary deliverables of a singular customer identity in a single repository, which are delivering a less fragmented view over multiple products with the CommSee CRM project bedded down and working.

However, he is more reserved about some of Which New Bank's more ambitious goals, especially the capability of the bank to reuse code quickly and easily and create applications on the fly, which forms part of the service oriented architecture (SOA) promise.

In terms of tangible results, Girn points to being able to halt the proliferation of disparate point solutions across various divisions of the bank, noting wealth management systems have been pruned from "11 to seven systems".

Even so, he maintains strategy, process and execution discipline must be strictly maintained to prevent scope and budget going sideways - especially the capability of being able to "capture and represent the implementation process".

"It avoided a lot of the infighting you tend to see. It limited the scope, so it didn't go to other areas," Girn said.

Girn's presentation offers a clear affirmation of the bank's internal IT capability to deliver, a capability he frankly concedes was lost in the deal that CBA made with EDS nearly a decade ago.

"Our history in outsourcing [meant] that we had very little IT capability. We had a hybrid-satellite model. But there was agreement [across the bank] of what had to be done: don't worry about the small fights," Girn says.

Just where this leaves EDS and the CBA over the 10 years, Girn will not say.

But the post-Murray era has arrived; and the CBA's IT team knows it too.

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