First Union CorporationReturn to Success Story List
The nine-member Distributed Object Integration Team, called DO IT, at the Charlotte, N.C., bank acts like an independent software vendor that develops and "sells" CORBA-based components to application developers in the company's business units, said Bill Barnett, distributed application technology manager.
The components use CORBA to allow incompatible programs or objects to run and interact across a disparate enterprise. Because it charges licensing and other fees, the DO IT team has a bottom-line incentive to develop components that are reusable and easy for internal customers to integrate.
Meanwhile, the team's financially based performance benchmarks could give First Union a better sense of its return on investment (ROI) in object technology. "Companies have long struggled to calculate their ROI from reusable objects, but First Union's approach could finally show it, said Karen Boucher, an analyst at The Standish Group International, Inc. in Dennis, Mass.
To determine its own value, the team will compare how much money its components have saved First Union with what the company has invested in the team. It also will weigh its licensing, support and other revenue against its costs. "The program is too young for results to be tallied," Barnett said. "First Union's entrepreneurial approach is rare but not unheard of," Boucher said. BankAmerica Corp. and Thompson Publishing Group also have created market-oriented internal development units. Part of the reasoning behind First Union's formation of the DO IT group was to encourage wider use of components. Thus, part of the team's job is to make the process less risky for business units.
"The DO IT group buffers corporate developers from the server-side plumbing. That way, the team can make new uses of component technology easier to stomach," Barnett said. DO IT recently inked its first deal for the reuse of a component, Barnett said. The product, called Customer Central, lets salespeople in First Union's insurance division -- and soon in the commercial banking division -- access and update customer records on a mainframe through their Windows 95 or Windows NT PCs. "The component was designed to operate so transparently that users don't have to know that they are working with a mainframe through CORBA," Barnett adds. The component also was designed to run around the clock at the company's 6,000-user retail banking call center. That reuse deal hasn't closed yet, however.
The CORBA component was built with Inprise Corp.'s Visibroker. One version uses the CORBA to Microsoft Corp. Component Object Model bridge, named Object Bridge, by Visual Edge Software Ltd. in St. Laurent, Quebec.
"Over time," Barnett said,"the team will develop many examples to demonstrate the value of reuse."
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