Real estate firm mixes IT management

Lend Lease Corp. plans to go live Sept. 1 with an IT overhaul

Lend Lease Corp., a global construction management and real estate investment firm based in Australia, plans to go live Sept. 1 with an IT overhaul that will combine its worldwide network, systems and security management operations at a data center in Atlanta.

Lend Lease is overhauling 40 core management processes, installing 16 software products from six vendors and doing nearly all the integration work in-house, according to John Miles, the company's chief security officer. The company is replacing some off-the-shelf management tools, but much of the software that's being installed will add all-new functionality, Miles said last week.

The yearlong project, which was dubbed HighRISE, was prompted by several hard realities, including a 30% reduction in Lend Lease's IT staff during recent years, said Miles. Lend Lease has also made a series of acquisitions and divestitures that have left the company with an overly complex IT infrastructure, Miles said.

In addition, Lend Lease consolidated seven North American data centers into its Atlanta IT facility two years ago -- a move that wasn't accompanied by an upgrade of its technology management capabilities.

From a business standpoint, security, network and systems management are being converged now partly because Lend Lease wants to be sure it can handle competing corporate goals: opening up online processing of bids for construction projects in order to stay competitive in that market, while making sure that financial data from its investment business is secure. The $7 billion company's presence in the financial services market also requires it to be prepared for internal and external audits of its IT security capabilities and financial records, Miles said.

Miles and Lend Lease CIO Jay Skibinski, both of whom are based at the company's Shared Technology Center in Atlanta, wouldn't divulge the cost of the project. But industry analysts said the scope is very large, with the software costs alone perhaps amounting to more than $1 million.

John Miles, CSO at Lend Lease Corp.
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John Miles, CSO at Lend Lease Corp.
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The project timeline also is ambitious. Lend Lease developed a blueprint last November, chose its vendors in February and started the software implementation work in March. "One principle we agreed upon at the start was the need to fire once and do it right," Skibinski said.

Lend Lease is installing management tools from BMC Software Inc.'s Remedy subsidiary, NetIQ Corp., ManageSoft Corp. and M-Tech Information Technology Inc., as well as underlying technology from Microsoft Corp. and Oracle Corp.

Integrating the tools will let network operations engineers and help desk staffers use one primary system based on Remedy's software to "monitor all critical events and respond to them more efficiently," Miles said. Global monitoring of the company's systems and networks will be done around the clock at the Atlanta facility.

Such information should help Lend Lease determine the cause of problems affecting its systems and network components, said Michael Disabato, an analyst at Burton Group in Midvale, Utah. He noted that network faults, such as an outage stemming from a backhoe cutting a fiber cable, require much different responses than denial-of-service attacks and other security incidents.

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Jay Skibinski, CIO at Lend Lease Corp.
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Jay Skibinski, CIO at Lend Lease Corp.
"There is so much going on in a global network with many locations that you need some method of sorting it all out and making sense of it," Disabato said.

Scott Crawford, an analyst at Enterprise Management Associates Inc. in Boulder, Colo., has talked with Miles about the project and said he views it as "a very advanced endeavor in implementing management architecture." Crawford added that the Lend Lease project is part of an emerging trend toward converged systems and network and security management, partly driven by the reality of IT job cuts -- as is the case at Lend Lease.

The expanding capabilities of management tools also are a factor, Crawford said. Until recently, management software couldn't identify security problems as the root cause of network issues. "Increasingly, security management will be less of a product or a service in its own right and more of an aspect of management software as a whole," he predicted.

One of the biggest challenges of the project was getting the different vendors to work together to integrate their products, Skibinski said. The vendors saw risks in the process, he added, but were willing to write additional code "so they can demonstrate to other customers that they can work with other products."

Copyright © 2004 IDG Communications, Inc.

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