Mission-critical Web

Bank One Corp. made front-page news last week with its startling announcement of plans to hire 600 IT professionals in the next two years. But it wasn't the number of jobs that was so encouraging during these dark days for the national economy. It was the loud-and-clear leadership signal the Chicago-based bank sent about Web infrastructure development as the next wave of mission-critical IT.

CIO Austin Adams is using his US$2 billion annual budget to dramatically reset the bank's IT priorities so that it regains control of what matters most and translates in-house expertise into better customer service. Instead of relying on 800 to 900 contract IT workers and a half-dozen service providers, Bank One will gradually replace the outsiders with its own IT project managers, senior engineers, systems architects and Web developers. The goal is to pull six deposit and online banking platforms in-house, building a single platform that will give customers a consolidated view of their business with the bank.

The lousy economy is lending a hand to Bank One's efforts by serving up the best employer's market for IT talent in the past decade. And by virtue of who signs their paychecks, these new IT employees will have the bank's future at the top of their priority lists. They'll have a greater motivation to truly understand the business. They'll have a deeper understanding of their own IT infrastructure and how well it integrates with the Web. And these skill sets aren't commodities. They can't be checked off the requirements list in an outsourcing contract.

We recently evaluated the hottest job skills and it was obvious that the business universe is increasingly Web-centric. Companies need IT people who know Web development tools, XML, Java and C++. Demand remains highest for skills in TCP/IP networking, security, business continuity, and a host of Web technologies.

Yet for the past few years, many companies have considered it a no-brainer to hand off all manner of Web work to outsourcers, service providers and consulting firms. The e-business side of the house was considered high-potential but not quite mission-critical. That's changing. Right now. Right quick. Is your company ready?

Maryfran Johnson is editor in chief of Computerworld U.S. You can contact her at maryfran_johnson@computerworld.com.

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