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Bank of America: Investing in Six Sigma

Bank of America’s quality drive is paying off.

By Thomas Hoffman
October 30, 2006 12:00 PM ET

Computerworld - Two years ago, when Barbara J. Desoer was named global technology, service and fulfillment executive at Bank of America Corp., she immediately began applying to its IT and fulfillment practices the Six Sigma quality management expertise she had developed as chief of the bank’s consumer products group.

The investment is already paying off in more efficient processes, better alignment with business and even increased sales.

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Bank of America is the nation’s third-largest bank in terms of assets, and its IT organization had been applying multiple software development processes across its numerous businesses. Not only was this inefficient, but the divergent approaches also made it difficult for IT staffers to rotate among business units, says Desoer, a 29-year company veteran who has also had stints as the bank’s top marketing executive and as president of its Northern California banking group.

Better Development

Desoer assigned a team leader to use Six Sigma techniques to create a single application development methodology. That standard has been introduced to the consumer and small-business banking units and is being rolled out to Bank of America’s capital markets and wholesale banking businesses, with its wealth management and investment management groups to follow.

Desoer is optimistic that the standardized methodology will reduce development time and help make developers and project team members more transferable across business units in coming years. That could be crucial if an exodus of retiring baby boomer technologists and a widely anticipated shortage of entry-level IT workers make it tougher for the bank to find and recruit people with the skills it needs, Desoer says. “We are going to be increasingly challenged to find highly qualified technology associates five to 10 years out,” she adds.

Bank of America
Location: Charlotte, N.C.
Business: Financial products and services
2005 Revenue: $56.9 billion
2005 Earnings: $16.5 billion
Market capitalization: $246.7 billion, as of Oct. 9, 2006
Employees: 202,000
IT employees: 33,000*

* Estimate by TowerGroup Inc., Needham, Mass.


Jim Eckenrode, an analyst at Tower¿Group Inc. in Needham, Mass., applauds this effort. As financial institutions modernize their IT portfolios, the need to attract people with cutting-edge technology and business skills will become more acute than ever, particularly as banks find themselves competing for IT talent with “sexier” firms such as Google Inc., says Eckenrode. “Providing people with exposure to a lot of areas while keeping their skills fresh is a good strategy,” he says.


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