ING Insurance claims most vendors have been unable to understand its service oriented architecture (SOA) transformation and are instead pushing systems that quickly become legacy.
The insurer is three years into its services transformation strategy following a recent growth phase where it bought around 20 companies in two years. ING has since been figuring out how to link the disparate systems it acquired.
Regional head of IT applications and architecture for ING Insurance Asia Pacific, Shannon Murphy, said its cause hasn't been helped by vendors who are yet to understand the SOA concept.
"No vendor of these administrative engines will ever tell you that what you're doing is a good idea, because they're going to lose money," he said. "Until they figure out the paradigm shift and they actually start helping you integrate. Then they'll start making money again from you."
Most vendors in the SOA market were using business process management (BPM) as a sales pitch for another system, according to Murphy.
"If you buy a system to do process, you'll end up with a system that does process and in about five years you'll have the new legacy. In fact I've seen systems that the moment you put them in place they're legacy," he said.
Murphy, who oversees the transformation in the Asia Pacific region, particularly took issue with the skills of systems integrators (SI). None could handle the insurer's SOA requirements, he said.
ING has been searching for an SI to help with the transformation. "I've been looking for three years ... they all sort of come up short," Murphy said. No SI had a consistent skillset across all its international divisions, he added.
Despite its hassles, ING has settled on three key vendors for its SOA transformation. The company uses Informatica for data integration, IBM Websphere for services and Tibco for process integration. Most ING systems run on the IBM AS/400.
A legacy replacement program would have been too impractical with the amount of systems in place [following the acqusitions], according to Murphy.
"We had to come up with a way to say, 'how do we let this stuff stay where it is but still start getting new capabilities? How can I take claims, how can I take customer management out of these systems?'," he said.
"The expensive part about these systems is not necessarily product, it's process. So you go through the services transformation strategy and say 'what services exist on this system that must be there?'"
Murphy said ING standardised on BPM tools, enterprise service bus/SOA tools, messaging, security etc. All these helped define the services and data required within the business.
"Once you've got those things and you've got a way of moving data around, and you've got a way of moving processes around, 90 percent of your battle is done," he said.