Total transformation makes IT deliver: COO

Organizations should look to rip and replace where they can

A former financial services industry chief operating officer has waved the flag for more rapid changes to IT infrastructure above smaller, incremental change, saying only the former will deliver real business processes benefits.

For nearly three years Sean Cash was the COO of the ANZ Mortgage Group where his responsibilities included governance of IT projects and implementation of business initiatives.

Speaking at this year's Gartner Symposium ITxpo in Sydney, Cash said organizations have to grapple with how to look at IT change, either incremental or transformational.

"We've always built a new system or put a new front end on [an old system]," Cash said. "The big prize is to do this in a transformational manner [and] jump out of the traditional way of doing things. The financial organization that does that will make a huge killing in revenue."

While conceding there are no "sacred cows" when it comes to IT change, Cash said at ANZ "we threw everything out and started again".

"You can't design around weak spots," he said. "We have no limitations [so] let's embrace technology. That becomes a management decision."

The "burning question" of incremental versus transformational change arises from management wanting things "faster and quicker", and the speed to market for new products combined with a "robotic approach" to compliance.

"They want transformational rewards for incremental costs," Cash said, adding barriers to transformation include longer running projects and the requirement for broad-based organizational support.

"Incremental change fails to deliver on real goals that give you the business benefit. People confuse BPM with workflow, and management still see that as the facilitation of manual work effort."

Cash said there is a tendency to think that applying a lot of incremental changes will achieve "big bold leaps".

The requirement for transformational change is no more apparent than within the mortgage industry where gaining approval and having it processed has not changed over the last 15 to 20 years.

What has changed is the proliferation of mortgage providers since the industry was deregulated, and the "centralization" of mortgage processing by third parties and retail sales.

"The mortgage industry is in a state of evolution," Cash said. "The mortgage business that used to be run prior to deregulation saw a lot of end-to-end activity in the branches which was inefficient. As deregulation ran through the industry there was a thrust to centralization and to generate economies of scale and reduce cost."

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