The rebirth of re-engineering

Once again, it's all about business processes. But this time around, IT is leading the charge.

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But DigitalGlobe's next big customer wanted images that could be segmented for presentation on its own website. Hicar's team responded by building a so-called "tiling engine" that enabled it to chop up the images into smaller images that the customer could present online as customized maps.

"We processed 45 billion tiles for that customer," he says. At the same time, DigitalGlobe IT re-engineered itself and the content of its cloud-based image repository in a way that could serve other customers down the road.

"We're constantly re-engineering to create value for our customers," Hicar says.

Fail Fast, Move Forward

To do that successfully, speed and agility are absolute musts, CIOs say.

That's the main reason so many projects are short in duration, and it's behind the emphasis on "failing fast and moving forward." The idea is to try new and innovative ways of creating business value and, if they don't work, to move on -- quickly.

Agile and iterative development methods are the best way to do this, CIOs say.

"You have to apply lean practices and agile methods," says Helen Cousins, CIO at Lincoln Trust in Denver. "The faster you know you're going the wrong way, the quicker you can fix it."

Cousins, who was involved in major, ERP-intensive re-engineering projects at various companies during the 1990s and 2000s, considers the need for speed to be one of the greatest lessons CIOs learned from earlier re-engineering efforts.

Big ERP projects usually turned out poorly because they cost a lot and took a long time to deliver any real efficiency, she says. "The CIO's role now is more about how to drive revenue to the bottom line as opposed to constantly cutting costs," Cousins notes, adding that "you have to deliver incremental benefits to the business every six to eight weeks."

At Capital One Financial, the company's online and mobile channels are the primary drivers of this need for speed, says CIO Rob Alexander.

"We see rising expectations from business customers all the way through to end customers for what we do in IT," he says. "They want to interact how they choose, and they want products and services when they want them."

What's more, Alexander says, "customers' expectations aren't being driven just by their experiences with competing banks. They're being shaped by Amazon and Google and the best companies out there at delivering online experience."

What's notable is that the process re-engineering effort at Capital One is being led by IT "and will then have a ripple effect out to the lines of business," according to Alexander.

Last year, Capital One launched a major transformation effort in IT, committing to deliver all software through agile development methods. Alexander says it helped that when Capital One acquired ING Direct last year, it also acquired "a 100% agile IT shop, so we got a critical mass of tremendous agile talent."

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