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
"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."