Financial services company Aviva Australia has revealed it is in the midst of an extensive back office technology consolidation project, with Oracle software taking centre stage as a number of other platforms are eliminated.
The company is part of the global Aviva group, which claims to be the world's sixth-largest insurer. Aviva Australia has more than 300,000 customers Down Under, buying among other things insurance and funds management services.
"Right now my key focus is on the rationalisation of our internal administration systems," the group's local chief information officer, Sharam Hekmat, told ZDNet Australia via telephone late last week.
"Like most other businesses of this nature, we've got legacy systems, and a mix of systems built with various technologies and databases. We've recognised that we need to rationalise these, if you're serious about introducing further efficiencies."
The project has been under way for around a year and is meeting internal targets, but has another couple of years still to go, according to Hekmat. The rationalisation is taking place on two fronts: at the database and application layers.
"We really want to consolidate and rationalise these databases, some of which really overlap quite a lot, into one database," Hekmat said. "By that I mean one logical database. And our product of choice is Oracle; we want to standardise around Oracle because that will really simplify our infrastructure."
The CIO said savings would come from running less database systems, for example less software licensing fees.
"Also, having a consolidated database puts us in a much better and a much stronger position to build better applications," he said.
The number of platforms at the application layer will also be cut down as much as possible, with Hekmat citing the need to come up with a technology model that emphasised the customer's needs.
"More and more, we've put effort into providing our customers with a view of our business and systems that makes sense to them," he said.
One example would be in billing systems, with customers preferring to receive consolidated periodic reports despite buying several different products from Aviva.
The application purge is also being driven by the need to migrate from "out of fashion" programming languages for which support can be hard to find.
That HP contract
While Aviva may be reducing the number of its back office platforms, it is going the opposite way in respect to its ICT services contracts, recently breaking up a large outsourcing deal with Hewlett-Packard to hand smaller chunks to Getronics and Data#3.
Hekmat said Aviva had changed quite a bit in terms of strategy and leadership since the original HP deal was signed three years ago. Consequently, he said, HP was no longer "a good cultural fit" for Aviva.
"We felt that HP was probably too big a company for us to deal with," said Hekmat, adding groups the size of Coles-Myer or the Commonwealth Bank would do better with HP.
"We felt that our needs would be better addressed by dealing with service providers that have a similar size, a similar mindset and a similar culture."